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Black Female-Owned Tech Startup Helps People Be their Own Lawyer

Black women are starting businesses at a faster rate than any other demographic despite the lack of capital. A 2021 report from the Harvard Business Review revealed that 17 percent are in the process of starting or running new businesses compared to 10 percent of white women, and 15 percent of white men.

CourtRoom5 founders Sonja Ebron and Debra Slone.

Black women are breaking down barriers and making waves in the finance, beauty and tech industries. To add to those numbers, two more have launched an educational platform, the first of its kind, to help civilians navigate the judicial system.

Sonja Ebron and Debra Slone have both represented themselves in court cases at separate times. Ebron has a background in artificial intelligence and holds a doctorate in electrical engineering. Her wife and co-founder, Slone, is a Ph.D. librarian, former library school professor and expert in qualitative data analysis. Even with their middle-class income, they were unable to afford a lawyer, which serves as at a disadvantage to others as well.

“It means that middle-class people end up being shut out of the process,” Ebron told Forbes.

Ebron and Sloan are among the winners of 2022 Fastcase 50, which honors “the law’s smartest, most courageous innovators, techies, visionaries, and leaders.” The idea was to develop a system that “would lower the risk and time for lawyers, enabling them to serve people who otherwise couldn’t afford a lawyer,” said Ebron.

As a result, the Durham, North Carolina entrepreneurs launched CourtRoom5 in 2017. The DIY website offers free and affordable legal aid advice to those who can’t afford traditional representation. The tech startup offers tools, resources and workshops to help individuals battle civil cases — with or without a lawyer.

For a monthly fee, litigants will have access to documents, courses and community forums about cases of debt collection, foreclosure, bankruptcy and more. There’s a free access plan listed on the site.

The Black-owned company has a five-step process to help individuals at every phase of their case. It begins with uploading case information on the site followed by viewing video-based lessons on how to write motions, trials and more. The Counts tool helps explain the various elements of the case, in addition to collecting evidence. Users will also be able to review similar cases in the past for support with their case. The final step offers instructions on how to file the necessary documents.

Since 2017, CourtRoom5 has raised nearly $1 million from supporters, pitch competitions, Google for Startups and Silicon Valley’s Precursor Ventures. The firm is one of five firms that received funding and an award from the women’s investment group SheEO in 2021.

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