A new platform, the first of its kind in Australia, hopes to bring these benefits of crowdfunding to assist legal cases that would otherwise struggle to takeoff.
Casefunder is a start-up founded by South Australian entrepreneur Andrew Montesi. The new platform brings the Kickstarter concept to legal cases, in the hope of widening access to an increasingly expensive justice system.
“I don't see it as just a crowdfunding platform,” Montesi says. “I want to help people build a campaign, a team and influence.”
“Casefunder can also play a role in shining a light on justice issues that might not otherwise receive the public exposure that they need.”
Montesi says that justice affordability is at crisis point. According to the World Justice Project, Australia scores just 48 out of 100 for justice affordability. The United States is even worse, scoring just 46.
“It is estimated only eight out of 100 people qualify for legal aid, while the wealthy can afford to litigate as much as they need,” Montesi says.
“Most of us, the “missing middle”, sit somewhere in between. We are failing.”
The crowdfunding industry generated close to $US 10 billion last year for almost every industry other than legal.
“I think many people are unaware of the true cost of justice until they are personally impacted. But when you scrape the surface and look into the problem, you quickly realise that we are in a justice affordability crisis and we should be exploring alternative funding solutions.”
Casefunder not only helps individuals raising the necessary funds but also create a campaign by ‘crowdsourcing’ a legal team and expert witnesses, and also raise awareness about the issue.
Montesti says they are focused on public interest cases at the moment, such as David v Goliath battles, human rights cases, and class or group actions.
“Many cases or causes could work, if the story can be told in a way that captures the attention of the public,” he says.
Unlike many existing crowdfunding platforms, as long as they have a lawyer backing their case, any funds raised throughout a Casefunder campaign go to the campaign owner to cover legal costs.
“At this stage there are only rewards offered, there is no financial return for funders, but we will be exploring this model.”
Casefunder’s debut case is raising funds for Anita Silverman, whose lifelong dream of opening a children’s theme park and petting zoo was allegedly destroyed due to a neighbouring abattoir’s chemical and animal waste.
“We know we’re addressing a big need, and I’m eager to let Casefunder evolve.”
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