Startup Corner: People Clerk

Founded in 2020 in Los Angeles, People Clerk guides self-represented litigants throughout the small claims process giving them the tools to prepare, settle, and litigate their dispute. Its investors to date include the Google Latino Founders Fund. We hear all from co-founder Camila Lopez.

How would you describe your company to a friend?

We’re like TurboTax, but instead of helping you file your taxes, we help you get small claims lawsuits started — and just like TurboTax is easier and cheaper than hiring a CPA, our tools are easier and vastly more affordable than hiring an attorney.

And if you had to describe it to a techy?

We’re a web-based platform that uses automation to streamline the more bureaucratic and confusing aspects of prepping a lawsuit like filing and serving, while also giving users info on how to navigate the process themselves.

When were you founded?

Well, we originally started People Clerk back in March of 2020, and I probably don’t have to tell you why that was complicated. The pandemic meant that all of the courts shut down and stopped having hearings, so there was nothing we could do for people who wanted to start lawsuits. We didn’t get the big launch that we wanted, but it gave us some extra time to think about the company product. Finally, in August, the courts implemented the use of virtual hearings, so we were able to actually start the business.

By who?

Me and my co-founder & CTO, Gustavo Lozano.

Who are your key managers/senior execs?

Gustavo’s background is in computer science and product management, so he oversees the development of the tools our users interact with. I’m the other half, overseeing operations, marketing, and fundraising. We’re a relatively small and agile team, so we all wear multiple hats as needs arise.

What is your growth strategy?

As I’m sure you know, there is a huge knowledge gap in the legal space. Most people feel intimidated by legal jargon and court procedure, and more or less decide that legal matters are beyond their capabilities. Our strategy is centered around creating and freely sharing comprehensive educational content that runs the gamut of consumer-facing legal issues. We’re empowering people who don’t have legal backgrounds to see that they can take the first step towards their goal — and we hope that they’ll see us as a platform that wants to help them succeed.

Have you received investment?

Yes! We’ve been able to partner with some truly incredible mission-based investors who support us as we’re growing and allow us to hone in on our own mission. Our investors include HearstLab, Inicio Ventures, and Graham & Walker, and we were also lucky to be a recipient of the Google Latino Founders Fund.

Who are your target clients?

Our clients come from all walks of life, which is kind of the point. Small claims court is supposed to be the people’s court, so we’re trying to engage with “the people,” writ large. Our primary users tend to be low-and middle-income Americans that may be closed off financially from pursuing their claim the traditional way, by which I mean paying an attorney for counsel and representation.

Have there been any key changes in direction since you were founded?

Yes, but not necessarily in the way you’d expect. Our flagship product, which is the small claims lawsuit prep and filing service, is more or less the same as when we first created it — of course, with quality-of-life improvements to make it easier and more intuitive to use. The real changes in direction have been around what people use the service for. There are so many different disputes that can be remedied in small claims court, and we discover new use cases almost every day, just by listening to our users. We’re endlessly surprised by the possibilities.

What are the key challenges you face in your market?

The key challenges for us are regulatory ones. Every startup in a highly-regulated space like legal tech needs to be careful in navigating liabilities and restrictions. For us, that really means being clear on what constitutes legal advice versus legal information. We love giving our users information on how they can best represent themselves in court, but we don’t want our content to be misconstrued as advice, which has different implications.

What are the most exciting developments you’ve seen in your market in the past year to 18 months?

It’s been really exciting and inspiring to see more resources be dedicated towards legal and justice technology — whether through the launch of new funds or dedicated sandboxes for companies solving the access-to-justice gap. This field is so ripe for innovation, and consumers stand to gain so much agency through the tools that legal tech companies create, so I’m hopeful that this trend continues.

Tell us something that people don’t already know about the company?

We’re a majority-female company, which is a little unique in the legal and technology spheres — I’m actually really proud of that, as a female founder. To briefly put on my marketing hat, though, something I think people aren’t aware of yet is the fact that you can use part of our platform for free, which again, for a legal tool, I think it’s really unique. We have an AI demand letter generator on our platform lets you get the first, and sometimes the hardest, step of the lawsuit out of the way, and it’s totally free to use.

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