#WCW: Felicity Conrad and Kristen Sonday of Paladin
This week’s Woman Crush Wednesday looks to a company dedicated to bringing justice to all. Together, Felicity Conrad and Kristen Sonday founded Paladin with a shared vision to close the justice gap. These two young entrepreneurs have ingeniously met a major need for lawyers and clients involved in pro-bono cases. During a time where immigrant families are caught up in political drama, Paladin undoubtedly has the power to change lives. This is a great example of technology being creatively used to solve a simple problem for a great cause!
A Force for Good
Palidin’s mission is to make it easier for lawyers and clients of pro-bono cases to connect. Pro-bono cases are taken without charge for low-income clients and organizations. Although the American Bar Association requires all lawyers to dedicate at least 50 hours a year to make justice equally available to all, Conrad and Sonday found that there’s little infrastructure for finding such cases. For instance, law firms often keep track of pro-bono cases on Excel sheets and Google Docs. These methods are impersonal and impractical with no room for transparency or insight.
Paladin makes its far easier to select clients, communicate with them, and fast-track often time-demanding cases. At the same time, the company makes the process as easy and friendly for low-income individuals and non-profit organizations as possible. The women behind Palidin have their own personal stories, passions, and aspirations for the company.
Felicity Conrad graduated NYU Law School in 2013 and joined renowned firm Skadden, Arps, Meagher & Flom. Beforehand, she had published articles on genocide and crimes against humanity for the UN American NGO Coalition for the International Criminal Court. But these legal practices weren’t enough to satisfy her desire to directly bring justice to those most in need.
In her first ever court case, Conrad performed a pro-bono for a Columbian man named Eduardo. Eduardo and his family came to America for protection from persecution, but their visas were about to expire. The young lawyer helped the family keep their legal status in the safety of the U.S.
Significantly, this case was Conrad’s inspiration to help those unable to afford expensive legal counseling. To fulfill her new mission, Conrad left many law grads’ dream job at Skadden to co-found Paladin. Today she runs the company as CEO alongside her partner, Kirsten Sonday.
Currently the COO of Paladin, Kristen Sonday’s personal experiences as a first-generation college Latin student heavily impacted her passion for helping others. She attained her bachelor’s degree from Princeton University, where she studied Politics with an emphasis on Latin American Studies. Socioeconomic, gender, and racial barriers were present throughout her education, but Sonday refused to let these obstacles impede on her growth.
Sonday went from working for the Department of Justice on international criminal cases in Mexico and Central America to co-founding start-up tech company Grouper. In this role, she found that the fast-paced, hands-on environment of start-ups fit her well.
In an interview with Forbes, she explained, “working at Grouper was a great way to build skills and learn about my strengths and weaknesses, but at the end of the day, I was working on someone else’s vision. At Paladin, our mission is personally and professionally well aligned with my ethos.” Paladin has been an opportunity to direct a business with her own passions.
Helping Others Made Easy
Like the most successful technology-based businesses, Paladin’s greatest strength lies in convenience. In essence, the website allows lawyers to fill out a profile comparable to a dating website. For instance, new members log their interests, languages, availability, and other information. The network then matches the lawyers with clients through non-profits. In addition, each case comes with all necessary information to get lawyers up to speed as soon as possible so that why can start making a difference.
Though just starting out, Paladin has great potential. Conrad and Sonday hope to implement the network throughout law schools, law firms, and the public sector in addition to their Fortune 500 clients. Paladin is unique in being the first network dedicated to connecting lawyers and clients in pro-bono cases. Conrad and Sonday have high hopes for their start-up company rooted in compassion, philanthropy, and liberty and justice for all.