IAALS, the Institute for the Advancement of the American Legal System, announced today that it is awarding Rohan Pavuluri, CEO and co-founder of Upsolve, the second annual Alli Gerkman Legal Visionary Award. The award is designed to encourage and showcase innovators, risk takers, visionaries, and emerging leaders who bring a different perspective and a reform-minded approach to the improvement of our legal system, and who are early in their legal careers.
Upsolve started by providing the first “TurboTax” for bankruptcy, which helps people navigate and complete the bankruptcy process without having a lawyer. As of February, Upsolve has helped users in the United States relieve more than $450 million in debt. In a new initiative to expand on his mission to make the legal system more accessible, Pavuluri recently brought suit in New York, arguing that the state’s prohibition on non-lawyers providing legal advice is unconstitutional and violates the First Amendment. Upsolve’s long-term vision is to use education, technology, and advocacy to help families access the legal system, so they can achieve economic mobility.
“IAALS is thrilled to present Rohan with this award, recognizing his efforts to shake up the status quo and push the boundaries of our justice system,” said David Yellen, CEO of IAALS. “Through his work, Rohan has not only shone a bright light on where our system fails the public, he has brought solutions and momentum for reform.”
“I’m very honored to receive this award,” said Pavuluri. “IAALS and I share a commitment to advancing people-focused innovations throughout our legal system. I’m proud of what Upsolve has achieved, and excited to continue working with our friends in this fight who are committed to increasing access to justice, civil rights, and human rights.”
300th Anniversary University Professor and former dean of Harvard Law School Martha Minow, who nominated Pavuluri, said, “From his time at Harvard College to now, Rohan has committed himself to deploying digital technology to address needs of marginalized communities. He exemplifies vision and service, and despite having never attended law school, Rohan is making an enormous difference in the lives of people who really need legal help.”
In a letter of support for Pavuluri’s nomination, President Emeritus of the Legal Services Corporation Jim Sandman said, “I know no one who offers more promise for improving access to justice in the United States than Rohan Pavuluri. He is young—25—but he has already had a significant impact on the justice system. Rohan is an innovator, advocate, and change agent in improving the civil justice system so it better serves the public.”
IAALS looks forward to partnering and collaborating with Pavuluri during the coming year to elevate his important work and further our common vision of increasing access to justice for everyone.
The annual Alli Gerkman Legal Visionary Award seeks nominees who envision a better justice system and who have worked to make it a reality—those who are rethinking law, reimagining the legal system, rebuilding trust with the public, or reframing the future of the legal profession.
Pavuluri will be presented with the award at IAALS’ Rebuilding Justice Award Dinner on April 28, 2022. The award was created in honor of Alli Gerkman—a leader at IAALS and in national legal education and legal profession reform—who transformed the way our nation thinks about legal education and the role lawyers play in our society. A true visionary, Gerkman helped open the door to a fundamental reframing of how lawyers enter the profession of law and how the profession itself is regulated. After she passed away from cancer in 2019, IAALS created the award to honor her—and those visionaries who follow in her footsteps, like Pavuluri.