Marilyn Odendahl | February 22, 2018
It started with an idea, a competition and an “I can do that” attitude.
A year-and-a-half later, an entrepreneurial-inspired legal answers website, started by Notre Dame Law School students, is preparing to go live, attracting funders and still turning heads. In a few weeks, the Fighting Irish students will travel to Austin, Texas, as one of eight finalists in the South by Southwest Student Startup Madness.
Their creation is an online platform — Impowerus — designed to connect pro bono attorneys with people who need legal services. What sets this product apart from the other sites is its focus — a specific demographic, immigrant youth — and its aim to be self-sufficient, charging lawyers licensing fees rather than relying on donations.
Katelyn Ringrose, a second-year law student, began working on Impowerus shortly after she arrived at Notre Dame in 2016.
The Californian knew from her experience teaching immigrant and refugee children that today’s teenagers live online, turning to the internet for information and to converse with teachers, social workers and friends. She also understood the challenge for these students of going to an attorney’s office — having to overcome both the task of getting there and their emotional uneasiness.