In Its First Acquisition, Paladin Picks Up Pro Bono Net’s Pro Bono Manager, A Platform Used By Large Law Firms

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In a marriage of pro bono platforms, Paladin, a company whose platform connects lawyers with opportunities to provide free legal help, has acquired Pro Bono Manager, a product developed by Pro Bono Net to enable large law firms to manage and measure their pro bono programs.

This is the first acquisition for the nine-year-old Paladin, a company that counts billionaire Shark Tank panelist Mark Cuban among its backers. In 2022, Paladin raised $8 million in a Series A round and has raised total capital of more than $12 million.

Customers of Pro Bono Manager — almost all of whom are Am Law 100 law firms — will be eventually migrated to Paladin’s platform. Pro Bono Net will continue to support Pro Bono Manager until the transition is complete.

Mark O’Brien, cofounder and executive director of Pro Bono Net, is joining Paladin as an advisor. The two companies say they will continue to collaborate on pro bono-related thought leadership and programming, including opportunities for pro bono volunteers to use Pro Bono Net’s platforms to help the public resolve legal problems.

Same Mission, Different Platforms

While both Paladin and Pro Bono Manager are designed to facilitate pro bono, they tackle different aspects of it.

Paladin’s primary focus is on connecting legal services organizations with law firms, corporate legal departments, and bar associations to share and recruit volunteers for pro bono opportunities.

Read more about Paladin on the LawNext Legal Technology Directory.

By contrast, Pro Bono Manager, first launched in 2007, is a product designed for large law firms to manage their pro bono work. It enables firms to monitor pro bono matters and provides reporting and analytics tools for tracking data.

Read more about Pro Bono Manager on the LawNext Legal Technology Directory.

“By combining the data insights of Pro Bono Manager with Paladin’s opportunity referral and volunteer tracking tools, we’ll be able to create strong network effects that boost pro bono engagement across the board,” said Kristen Sonday, Paladin’s cofounder and CEO.

Making the Pie Bigger

In an interview with Sonday and O’Brien earlier this week, O’Brien said the sale of Pro Bono Manager had resulted from a series of conversations he and his cofounder Michael Hertz, who is chief marketing officer at White & Case, had been having with Sonday about how the companies could work together to enhance access to justice. One of the best ways they could that, they decided, “was by combining our technology forces.”

“Was there a way to make the pie bigger through the combination and create new strategic opportunities for pro bono out of that, both in terms of an ability for us to engage with the law firms in different ways than we are now, and also to allow us to refocus on some of our other access to justice strategies, invest in some of those other platforms and look through partnership to accomplish some of the things that we have been doing already,” O’Brien said.

When O’Brien refers to Pro Bono Net’s other strategies and platforms, he is talking about the variety of other digital tools it operates to help provide access to justice. They include:

  • The ProBono.net platform, which connects lawyers with pro bono opportunities in several way.
  • LawHelp Interactive to help self-represented litigants obtain  essential legal forms.
  • LawHelp.org, a network of statewide legal portals.
  • Remote Legal Connect, which helps build remote legal support programs.
  • Legal Risk Detector, a web-based legal health “check-up” tool for use by eldercare professionals.
  • Immigration Advocates Network, to develop technology solutions to increase access to justice for immigrants.
  • ¡Reclamo!, a platform to help immigrant workers fight wage theft.
  • Citizenshipworks, to help non-lawyers assist immigrants with naturalization applications.
  • LawHelpNY.org, providing legal information in New York on pro bono services, legal rights, the courts, and more.
  • TenantHelpNY.org, to help tenants who are facing eviction.

Will Integrate Into Paladin

With Paladin’s acquisition of Pro Bono Manager, it plans to integrate much of the software’s advanced reporting functionality into its own platform, Sonday said.

“We’ll be incorporating a lot of the most frequently used tools and features from Pro Bono Manager to ensure that all clients can have access to it, and then also ensuring that all of Pro Bono Manager’s clients can access the tools that we’ve already built out on Paladin to help provide those deeper insights into the programs and run them more efficiently,” she said.

O’Brien said that the sale of Pro Bono Manager is a bittersweet moment for him, in that he and Hertz first started conceptualizing the product in 2004 and its development served as both a boot camp and a springboard for many of the initiatives Pro Bono Net went on to develop. But he believes the partnership will be a success story not only for the two companies, but also for the law firms that are their customers.

“I think it really is an opportunity to take this to the next level in a way that I wasn’t sure that Pro Bono Net would be able to do at scale,” he said. “We have always been about solutions that are scalable and sustainable, and I think that this is an opportunity to drive that vision for the law firm pro bono product and for pro bono in other areas.”

“One thing that’s really exciting about this partnership,” Sonday added, “is that we both have the same mission, which is to help as many people as possible get access to legal services. And for us, the network effects of the law firms on one side of our platform and the legal services on the other are so much stronger the more organizations you have on the platform. So this is definitely a way to accelerate our network and make sure that we’re connecting as many lawyers and legal services organizations, and vice versa, as possible.”

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