Many tech companies wait until they grow into big corporations before thinking about corporate social responsibility. But MetaJure, a Seattle startup that provides software to help lawyers manage their documents and email, is starting early.
As early as the company’s Series A funding round, in fact. MetaJure is using its $2.6 million round as an opportunity for what its founder and director Marty Smith calls “social investing.” For every dollar MetaJure raises, the equivalent value (in the form of the company’s product) will go toward legal aid providers around the country.
“A ‘social investment’ is any investment that seeks to produce a financial return to the investor while also producing a social good. Usually, the social good is produced as the company grows, as might be the case by investing in an alternative energy company wherein over time, carbon dioxide emissions are increasingly reduced. We felt, however, a strong sense of urgency to make an immediate difference so we decided to bring an ‘impact investing’ component into play as well, namely where a person’s financial investment causes an immediate social impact.”
The program led to the installation of MetaJure’s technology at Georgia Legal Services, Pine Tree Legal Assistance in Maine, Colorado Legal Services, and Legal Aid Society of Orange County. MetaJure also plans to equip Arkansas Legal Services, Utah Legal Services, and the Northwest Justice Project, in Washington, with its product in the next few weeks.
In addition to the software, MetaJure provided installation and support training. MetaJure also agreed to continue licensing the software to the legal aid providers as long as they continue using it.
MetaJure always planned to give back through philanthropy once the business was fleshed out and profitable but the company’s leadership saw a more immediate need that couldn’t wait.
“Recent political events have compounded the problem by increasing the need for legal advice on hate crimes and immigration,” Smith said. “At the same time, President Trump’s proposed budget eliminates all funding for the Legal Services Corporation, the primary source of financial support for legal aid throughout the country.”
When MetaJure’s series A closes, the company will look at other ways to support legal aid providers. One option under consideration is donating the software on a law firm’s or legal department’s behalf in an amount equal to their purchase.
The company has raised about $7 million to date. Beyond supporting legal aid, MetaJure plans to use the fresh cash to bolster its sales efforts.
“MetaJure’s board believes access to justice is a foundational pillar of our democracy,” Smith said. “Not surprisingly, we felt a strong desire to see what we could do to make a difference today.”