Over 30 million low-income Americans with civil (non-criminal) legal problems can’t find legal representation each year. Unlawfully lose your apartment, your job, or custody of your kids? If you’re a low-income individual in the US, chances are you’d be out of luck: market rate for an attorney is over $250/hour, and there is no Constitutional right to an attorney outside of criminal law. Esqalate is an Orange County-based 501(c)(3) nonprofit startup that operates a pioneering web platform aimed at bridging the Access to Justice Gap – Proboknow.com. Proboknow connects low-income clients with attorneys looking to gain practical experience; the attorneys work pro bono, and are guided through their cases by more experienced attorney mentors. The idea is to allow newer attorneys and attorneys looking to transition practice areas to gain the practical experience they need while helping those in need. New attorneys are struggling to break into the profession; close to half of them can't find full-time legal employment even 10 months after graduation from law school. So their need, just like the need of the low-income clients on our platform, is also strong. But, Proboknow is also for those attorneys who have no interest in gaining practical experience and just want to give back through pro bono - for each and every attorney interested in pro bono, we provide a much more convenient and efficient way to find and connect with pro bono clients, as well as to find the help and resources needed during pro bono representation. So far, with very limited resources (all three cofounders – two attorneys and a tech cofounder - have been working full-time on an unpaid basis), Proboknow has been able to provide roughly $85,000 worth of legal services to over 40 clients. Numbers aside, this legal representation has been hugely life-impacting - on issues ranging from child custody to wrongful eviction. Proboknow launched in beta version in 2016; the optimized version of the Proboknow platform will be launching within in a month. Esqalate is currently a startup team at UC Irvine’s Wayfinder incubator. It recently beat out 41 other startup teams to win the UC Irvine Blum Center for Poverty Alleviation’s “Designing Solutions for Poverty” startup competition, and also won UC Irvine’s “Most Potential for Societal Impact” startup award.
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