Founder Stories

Columbia Venture Juris Wants to Make Legal Services Fair, Fast, and Affordable

America’s civil justice system isn’t working for millions of Americans. Put simply, lawyers are too expensive and courts are too slow. That’s why 78% of Americans don’t get any formal help in resolving their legal disputes.

Worldwide, the problem is far bigger. 4 billion people are excluded from the rule of law according to the U.N, which means they can’t rely on their governments to protect their legal rights.

Juris is a team of lawyers and programmers that want to change that.

“We want everyone to be able to access fair, fast, and affordable help with resolving their legal disputes. To that end, we’re building technology to allow people to resolve their legal disputes online,” said Juris Co-Founder and General Counsel Ethan Mackay ’18LAW/BUS. “Eventually our system will be able to resolve any kind of civil legal dispute, using automated settlement mechanisms, independent counselors, mediators, and arbitrators.We’ve started by offering a new solution to a very common legal problem: security deposit withholding.”

Too frequently, landlords withhold their tenants’ security deposits without good reason. Many landlords do so because they know it will be difficult and expensive for the tenants to get help from a lawyer. To solve this problem, Juris has developed a self-help web application that automates the drafting and mailing of a formal letter to the landlord. This letter recounts the facts, cites the relevant laws, and demands the immediate return of the security deposit. It can even include a draft complaint for small claims court. All the user has to do is answer a few online questions, click send, and pay a low flat fee.

“We’ve already helped tenants recover over $7,500 and we’re in the process of expanding this application to more states,” said Mackay.

If you or someone you know has this problem, or if you just want to check it out, you can use the application here.

About the Founder

Ethan Mackay, Co-Founder and General Counsel of Juris, started the company with his brother while in his final year of Columbia’s dual degree JD-MBA program. During that program, he focused his studies on entrepreneurship, startup law, and legal technology. Before Columbia, he worked at the U.S. Department of Justice and for City Year Philadelphia as an AmeriCorps member. He holds a B.A. in Creative Writing from the University of Pennsylvania. Juris is part of the 2019-2020 Columbia Startup Lab cohort.

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