Professionalism Spotlight: Kristen Sonday, Co-Founder & CEO of Paladin

kristen sonday

Our Professionalism Spotlight series highlights Illinois legal professionals who demonstrate the ideals of professionalism as they work to advance equitable, efficient, and effective justice in Illinois.

In this Professionalism Spotlight, we spoke with Kristen Sonday, the Co-Founder and CEO of Paladin, a legal technology platform that is dedicated to increasing access to justice by helping legal teams run more efficient pro bono programs.

Kristen started her career at the U.S. Department of Justice and was part of the founding team of a New York City-based tech startup, where she learned to leverage technology to build strong communities and network effects.

Through her work as a legal tech entrepreneur, Kristen says she has learned how to utilize technology to create greater access to legal services.

How have your services evolved during the last few years?

As the Paladin network has grown, we have developed deeper partnerships with legal services organizations, law firms, corporate teams, and bar associations.

We have formalized the way we do discovery calls among our stakeholder groups, which allows us to be incredibly user-centric to increase the platform’s value and usability.

In addition, we are more focused as a team than we have ever been—it is important to do one thing really well than many things halfway.

What is one technological tool you could not function without?

I live on my phone, so I can’t choose just one! I use Slack and WhatsApp to stay on top of conversations, To-Doist to keep track of my to-do list, and the Peloton app to make sure I move and meditate every day.

How do you manage your well-being?

It’s hard to find balance when you are expected to be on all the time. So, every day, I block off from 4 to 6 p.m. to catch up and reset.

Usually, that means heading to the gym—working out every day is non-negotiable for me—catching up on email, doing deep work, seeing friends, or taking my kids to the park.

How do you remain civil in tense situations?

I’ll sometimes stop a meeting to say that it’s not feeling productive and we should come back when we have clearer points to discuss. I always aim to de-escalate and walk away before a conversation becomes heated.

How can legal professionals advance diversity, equity, and inclusion in the legal profession?

Small behaviors really do add up. Seemingly simple acts like listening, providing feedback, promoting, offering raises, and inviting diverse legal professionals into important conversations all make a big difference in someone’s confidence and career path.

What is a legal professional’s role in furthering public confidence in the rule of law?

As someone who is not an attorney, I see so many simple ways we, as an industry, can further public confidence in the rule of law.

For example, minimizing legal jargon, creating clear processes online and in person for people to navigate their legal cases, demonstrating empathy for those who need help, and creating greater access to pro bono and affordable legal assistance are all ways we can make our legal system seem less intimidating and more accessible.

If you could offer one piece of advice for young lawyers, what would it be?

Get involved with pro bono! Not only will you significantly impact individuals in your community, but you will also gain valuable skills and build relationships that will boost your career.

What do you do for fun?

I love to travel, so any chance I get to take off, I’m there!

Our Professionalism Spotlight recognizes legal professionals throughout Illinois who are admired for their professionalism and civility. Check out more interviews here.

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