May 2011 Volunteer Feature: Blank Rome LLP Empowers Low Income Microentrepreneurs through Access to Legal Counsel
In summer 2010, Blank Rome LLP came to the City Bar Justice Center (CBJC) in an effort to expand and strengthen its pro bono practice. While the firm already had a robust pro bono practice tailored to the skills and desires of its litigators, it was interested in increasing the participation of its corporate and transactional practitioners in a way that would best utilize their expertise. The Justice Center's Neighborhood Entrepreneur Law Project (NELP) was a perfect fit.
NELP, which assists moderate and low-income entrepreneurs in New York City, has trained 20 attorneys from the firm as pro bono volunteers. Since the initial training, Blank Rome has fully staffed two small business legal clinics in Harlem at the Upper Manhattan Business Solutions Center and will be staffing a third in the South Bronx later this month. At the clinics, volunteers counseled entrepreneurs one-on-one in half-hour sessions and attorneys from Blank Rome assisted 25 entrepreneurs with issues ranging from employment matters to legal structure and incorporation.
In addition to actively participating in legal clinics, two volunteers from the firm have given educational presentations for entrepreneurs at community-based organizations. Stuart Kaplan, a partner specializing in commercial real estate, presented on the topic of commercial leasing and Jay Lessler, a partner specializing in patent procurement and litigation, spoke on intellectual property issues for small businesses. 69 entrepreneurs participated in these sessions.
Legal clinics and presentations aside, Rustin Paul, an associate in mergers and acquisitions is currently engaged in an ongoing direct representation matter, working with a female sculptor to prepare business contracts.
"The Justice Center is pleased to recognize Blank Rome LLP for its exceptional pro bono work," said Carol Bockner, Director of Pro Bono Initiatives for the CBJC. "We would especially like to thank Partner Matthew Breitman for introducing the firm to NELP and for his continued enthusiasm and active participation."
The City Bar Justice Center is grateful for Blank Rome LLP's commitment to expanding access to legal counsel for microentrepreneurs and looks forward to continuing to grow the successful partnership.