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During the course Justice Entrepreneurship, the start-up LegalCrowd sees the light of day. Alumnus Joost Jansen, together with a fellow student, founded this crowdfunding platform to make the law more accessible. 'There are about 1.4 million legal cases in the Netherlands each year, but many cases do not proceed because of the financial barrier.'

Joost Jansen recently graduated from the Private Law Master's programme at the Amsterdam Law School. He did his bachelor's in Utrecht. 'When I started the Master's, I didn't have much of a bond with the University of Amsterdam. But in the end Amsterdam has meant a lot to me.'

Joost started studying law because as a child he was already interested in society. 'The law evolves along with what society considers normal', he says. 'A hundred years ago it was very different from now, the legal system adapts to that.' His knowledge of the law enables him to help people and organisations. 'Sometimes the law turns against you. Then it's nice to have people who understand the legal system.' Joost thinks that there is a wall of inaccessibility around the law. 'It is quite complicated to understand it fully. The language is complex and the processes are often quite rigid. In the end, everyone has to abide by the law and everyone has to deal with it, but who knows exactly what the laws say? That is often only the lawyers.

Who knows exactly what the laws say? That is often only the lawyers.

Justice Entrepreneurship

Joost follows his master's in corona time, which means that most education takes place online. Until he follows the course Justice Entrepreneurship at the Amsterdam Law Hub. The subject focuses on how to improve access to the law: exactly what Joost wants. He calls the course a relief. 'With 20 people at the Amsterdam Law Hub we came up with great initiatives.' Justice Entrepreneurship is part of the Amsterdam Law Practice: the law faculty's experience-based education programme. 'The course thrives on its small scale.'

This academic year, the subject won the Gouden Zandloper award from the SDU. 'It is largely based on the Design Thinking method, in which the end user is central. Access to Justice plays a major role in this.' Together with his fellow student and current partner Gabriel Poltorak, Joost created LegalCrowd: a crowdfunding platform for legal procedures to make the law more accessible, particularly financially. 'There are about 1.4 million legal cases in the Netherlands each year, but many cases do not proceed because the financial barrier is high. It is often very expensive to start a lawsuit or to get legal advice. If someone or an organisation has enough support to collect the necessary money through donations, such a case can still be conducted.'

Reclaim wrongfully granted subsidy to the King

Joost and Gabriel are now busy putting LegalCrowd on the map. Also within the legal world, so lawyers will point people to the platform. 'The financial aspect need not be a real obstacle to starting a case if you can launch a great crowdfunding campaign for it.' At the moment, LegalCrowd is handling a case brought by De Faunabescherming (Fauna Protection) to reclaim the wrongfully granted subsidy to King Willem-Alexander for the management of the Crown Domain. 'That is a high-profile case,' says Joost. 'We are still waiting for De Faunabescherming to be declared a stakeholder and for the case to be properly argued.'

Improving the law

Joost and Gabriel have made sure that the finances on the platform are well organised. 'We are transparent and only pay out money when the goal has been reached.' With general promotion of the cause, they make sure it reaches the legal sector. Joost and Gabriel also offer tips, manuals and support, so that an organisation can reach its entire backing group, but also people outside of it. Furthermore, they tell campaign starters how to run the best social media campaign and how to reach the mainstream media.

LegalCrowd can also, as a kind of starting point, help individuals or organisations if they want to start a business. 'We have already received requests to find a suitable lawyer for someone. In such cases we look around in our network.'

However, organisations are responsible for their own campaign. 'We are a platform to improve the law. Of course we do have some conditions that have to be met. But in principle, everyone is welcome as a client, regardless of whether we agree or disagree with the campaign. I don't think it is right for us to weigh up interests in advance. King could have crowdfunded with us for the same thing. Then he would also have received tips and general promotion.'

'We believe in this'

Joost sees himself doing this for quite some time. 'There is a lot coming up this year. It will be a beautiful, full platform with multiple cases running simultaneously. With the number of cases in the Netherlands and all the stories we have heard from people who think lawsuits are so expensive, there must be enough cases for the platform. We believe in this.'