Paul DeCoster ’14 was part of this year’s winning team at the annual LawWithoutWalls ConPosium at the University of Miami School of Law. The program teams up students from 26 law and business schools around the world with entrepreneur, academic, and practitioner mentors to identify a problem in the legal industry and develop an actionable business plan to combat it. After three months of intense work, “Projects of Worth” are presented at the ConPosium to a multidisciplinary panel of judges.
At this year’s competition, DeCoster and his teammates tackled the issue of judgment collection. DeCoster first realized the need for more effective judgment collection when he was building homes in New Orleans with Fordham’s Disaster Relief Network. While there, he met countless victims of contractor fraud.
“The individual creditors go to court, they get a judgment against the contractor, and the court says ‘Here’s your judgment, justice is served—good luck.’ But they can’t find their debtors. They don’t know where to go,” he says. “There’s not really a good route to collect on that money that they’re legally owed.”
Many turn to lawyers and private investigators, who might charge as much as 50% of the judgment for their services. In conceiving their project, DeCoster and his teammates reasoned, “There has to be a better way.”
What they developed was Judgment Pay, an online service designed to help people collect on their judgments. Not only does the proposed website consolidate publicly-available information on judgment collection but it also optimizes searches for debtors and incentivize others to help by awarding “tippers” with 10% of successfully collected judgments.
DeCoster hopes that, with the interest his team generated among venture capitalists and investors at the ConPosium, they might be able to transform Judgment Pay from a winning idea into a reality.
“I never came to law school under the impression that I would be an entrepreneur,” DeCoster explains. “But this program motivated me and drove my interests in an area I never thought a law school education would lead to. This program has definitely been the best experience I’ve had in law school.”