Recently, I interviewed JusticeInvestor Founder and CEO Maxim Thorne, who graduated and taught at Yale Law School, for he launched a tech company to tackle social justice issues, like Spring Valley, by staffing legal cases via equity crowdfunding. JusticeInvestor's team cares about every one getting a fair shot in the courts; they will help you find the legal talent, the funding and connect you to the cases that need your suppport. Previously, Maxim held executive roles with the NAACP, Paley Media Center, and the Human Rights Campaign and HRC Foundation; he also worked on President Obama's campaign
Marquis Cabrera: JusticeInvestor is changing how legal cases are funded. Where did you get the idea of JusticeInvestor?
Maxim Thorne: JI emerged from a seminar on Philanthropy that I created at Yale. We have both massive need and opportunity to fix many of the world's most intractable problems. I had been puzzling over the confluence of hyper wealth accumulation and hyper powerlessness. Rise in online activism yet ineffective engagement and influence on solving injustice. And the opportunity to aggregate resources, time, talent and treasure to make what seemed impossible, possible.
Marquis Cabrera: What is JusticeInvestor? What pain point are you solving?
Maxim Thorne: Legal systems across the globe are broken and simply unaffordable for most people no matter the merit and seriousness of their cases.
Marquis Cabrera: Today, social justice issues--in particularly, race-related legal issues--have received national attention; from #blacklivesmatter to Mizzou. Are these your focus? Essentially, what kinds of social justice legal cases do you select and why?
Maxim Thorne: Our business crowdsources legal cases in three ways: environmental destruction, police corruption, fraud against public. Cases we take must have the ability to change the world and have a significant social impact and have a disparity in power. We would not crowdsource for Donald Trump, but someone against Donald Trump. That's how we select our cases. All of our cases must go through a very rigorous process--high likelihood that you will fail, there must be a video that would shock the conscious, like what happened in Tamir Rice and Spring Valley. Spring Valley case is actually an ideal case.
Marquis Cabrera: So - my friend at Harvard Law School asked me to inquire about Champerty laws, for she believed Champerty laws would prevent this model from taking foothold. Can you explain the legal theory that has enabled you to develop this marketplace?
Maxim Thorne: There are three legal theories--Champerty, Maintenance and Usury Laws--that have restricted people from having a financial interest and taking a share of someone's award or litigation. Each of them have been reversed. Every state has rejected Champerty or Maintenance as a valid form of law that would prevent financing. Since the 1980s countries around the global started to allow third party litigation funding. Also, the Startup Jobs Acts--section 1 and 3--allows institutional investors and regular, everyday people to invest in any-thing, which enables everyone to support these cases--it's a major transformative moment.
Marquis Cabrera: What impact are you hoping to create?
Maxim Thorne: JusticeInvestor offers the world's for Justice Financial Technology solution that may help us expand quality representation for vulnerable populations.
Marquis Cabrera: Do you think this approach could affect and/ or create change in other problem areas a la housing?
Maxim Thorne: JI is a "Justice FinTech" social enterprise. It promises to democratize access to justice, throw open courtroom doors to onlookers everywhere - through crowdfunding and social media - and speed up social change. It is a solution that could indeed work for affordable housing and other needs.
Marquis Cabrera: What has been the general sentiment of your product in the market?
Maxim Thorne: JusticeInvestor is an innovative social justice online marketplace where meritorious justice cases find funding, super lawyers, and movement organizers. Tech.co has noted that "JusticeInvestor is melding the social media-crowdfunding strategy to revolutionize such litigation." It is a Kickstarter or Kiva for cases - except that if the claimants win, a portion of the award is either donated to JusticeInvestor Foundation or returned to investors with a modest return.
Marquis Cabrera: How can someone get involved or help out?
Maxim Thorne: The latest news is that JusticeInvestor is planning the crowdfunding campaign around the highly publicized and important Tamir Rice case - with super lawyers Subodh Chanda (of Ohio), Jonathan Abady and Earl Wade (of NYC), and with Harvard Professor Charles Ogletree being of Counsel. JI is also potentially crowdfunding cases and campaigns in the UK around certain legal aid cases, educational access for children and cuts in disability benefits for workers, and some international human rights matters. JI is also looking to add key advisors and Board members, grow its talented team, and secure investment.
Marquis Cabrera: Most law students follow the traditional legal career path. What is your recommendation to budding lawyers interested in unconventional career paths?
Maxim Thorne: The biggest mistake is to think of things as conventional and unconventional--you're born straight or gay, there's no changing that. A lot of people know what they want to do. Tech has transformed how we live, think, and do. Budding lawyers must ask themselves: What is uniquely within them that they could contribute to the world. If we do what other people did, then we're not fulfilling our own self, and we're not giving to do the world what we were born to do. You must give to the world only what you can do; then you would be the best. You would be the one and only person doing what you want to do. The world is not for cowards and there is no reason to approach it in a cowardly way. Now that we have some form of universal health care, people can feel freer. When I was graduating from college and grad school-- If you got sick, you lost everything. Now you can actually have insurance and that empowers people to be creative and entrepreneurial and go out on their own. The greatest thing that healthcare gives people is the freedom to go change the world.