Upsolve uses First Amendment to deal a modest but important blow to UPL. Is it the basis for a playbook? Time will tell.
Earlier this week, a federal district court in New York granted an injunction in favor of Upsolve, Inc., a nonprofit legal technology company founded by Rohan Pavuluri, a public interest entrepreneur who cut his teeth in Harvard Law’s A2J Lab, and Rev. John Udo-Okon, a pastor from the South Bronx. Both Pavuluri and Udo-Okon both were interested in providing free legal advice to individuals facing debt collection actions. See Upsolve Inc. v. James, No. 22-cv-627 (SDNY, May 24, 2022).
The predicaments faced by many New Yorkers are fairly typical of those faced but so many individuals, whether indigent or low-income by typical measures, throughout the United States — they simply cannot afford lawyers to assist them with their pressing legal problems. They are the faces of the profound access to justice crisis in the United States, putting them at omnipresent risk of losing their livelihoods, their homes, or even worse fates. Through a carefully designed initiative called the American Justice Movement, Upsolve and Rev. Udo-Okon would train a group of “justice advocates” to give targeted, limited legal advice to individuals facing debt collections.