J. Kelly Hoey

Innovator Insights: Kristen Sonday, Co-founder, COO of Paladin @kristensonday

Name: Kristen Sonday Title: Co-founder, COO of Paladin Twitter: @kristensonday, @joinpaladin

Kristen Sonday is the co-founder and COO of Paladin, a pro bono marketplace that connects high quality attorneys with personalized, vetted pro bono opportunities through partner nonprofits. Prior to Paladin, she worked for the Justice Department doing international criminal work and was part of the founding team at Grouper, the Social Club (a YC alum). Kristen is also a member of Dreamers // Doers, a highly curated community of high-achieving trailblazing women who come together to support each other on their entrepreneurial paths. The community encompasses a diverse mix of female founders, women working at startups, and other female creators, change-makers, and influencers.

Me: Why are you an entrepreneur?

Kristen: I’m an entrepreneur because I like solving hard problems. I’m excited by the challenge of making things more efficient, cleaner, better, faster, and by the opportunity to have tangible impact. I also love that the entrepreneur community is filled with brilliant, passionate, and scrappy people who are all working towards developing something innovative. I’m also not great at following rules, so I appreciate the creative liberty and resourcefulness that comes with trying to figure out a messy problem and build a solution from the ground up.

Me: What problem would you like solved?

Kristen: The problem I’m working on at Paladin is the social justice gap. Unfortunately, access to justice in the U.S. is currently disaggregated and decentralized. As a result, 80% of low income individuals with legal needs don’t have those needs met. However, there are 1.3 million attorneys in the U.S. who have a professional responsibility to do 50 hours of legal pro bono every year. That’s 65 million hours that could be spent serving those in need, but only about 20% of attorneys actually hit the 50 hour requirement!

Paladin is reimagining corporate social responsibility (CSR) by building a pro bono marketplace to address this gap. We deliver personalized, vetted pro bono opportunities to high quality attorneys, connecting them to their community, current events, and causes they care about. By bringing together those in abundance with those in need, Paladin seeks to create a trusted network of professionals working to close the justice gap.

Me: Advice you’d wished you’d had or had followed?

Kristen: My husband Ben recently introduced me to the regret minimization framework, which I wish I had heard of sooner! I believe Jeff Bezos coined the phrase, but it basically promotes decision making with the goal of minimizing future regrets. It’s been life-changing; suddenly, the things that used to seem crazy or intimidating are more achievable, and even encouraged!

Me: What does success look like for you?

Kristen: Success to me is about empowerment. As a first gen college Latina, I’m lucky to have been empowered by my family, various mentors growing up, opportunities through Princeton, and the tech community. I feel a sense of duty to now empower others — particularly underrepresented groups — to allow them to achieve their full potential. So, if I can help others through Paladin and by being a good role model myself, I’ll consider that success!

Me: Who are your heroes?

Kristen: I think of them more as inspirations than heroes, but I really admire those who have paved the way for others, and those who have fought for change. For example, creative innovators like Elon Musk, brave activists like Martin Luther King, Jr, and political powerhouses like Angela Merkel.

Me: What is your best discovery?

Kristen: I recently discovered an app called Gratitude! that pings you once a day to jot down five things for which you’re grateful. It’s easy to get caught up in the hustle and bustle of startup life, so it’s great to have a friendly reminder to slow down and appreciate the little things.

Me: What would the title of your biography be?

Kristen: On the Road Again

Me: What is your biggest regret?

Kristen: I don’t have any big life regrets, thankfully, and with my new regret minimization plan, hopefully there will be even fewer in the future!

Me: Anything else we should know about?

Kristen: Paladin is now in beta, and we’re currently matching a handful of smart, talented attorneys who can give us feedback on our pro bono process. It’s pretty simple: you tell us your preferences and availability, and we’ll match you with a perfect pro bono case! It’s an easy way to contribute to your community and fulfill your 50 hour pro bono professional responsibility. All you need to do is sign up at joinpaladin.com, and we’ll follow up. And if you know of any friends who are talented attorneys, please forward this along!

This post originally appeared on Kelly Hoey’s website. Keep up to date with Kelly’s latest Insights by signing up for her Innovator Insights newsletter.


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