June 2012 Volunteer Feature: In-House Steps Out: Citigroup, Barclays and Goldman Sachs Lend a Hand to Small Business Owners through the City Bar Justice Center’s Neighborhood Entrepreneur Law Project

Thursday, June 28, 2012

  • City Bar Justice Center

 Picture of NELP ClinicOn Wednesday, May 9th, lawyers and legal professionals from Barclays, Goldman Sachs and Citigroup partnered to provide low income micro-entrepreneurs with the pro bono legal services they need to get their small businesses started on as sound a footing as possible at one of the Neighborhood Entrepreneur Law Project’s (NELP) legal clinics.

This new model, spearheaded by Barclays, brought attorneys from three powerhouse financial institutions together to assist clients who otherwise would not have been able to afford a lawyer with such matters as incorporation, commercial leases, copyrights and other intellectual property issues, tax issues and various license and permit applications.

Michael Crowl, General Counsel for Barclays in the Americas, said, “Citizenship is one of our key priorities at Barclays. Partnering with the City Bar Justice Center and the NELP program gives us a terrific opportunity to support the communities in which we live and work.” There was strong representation from all three financial services organizations, as close to 20 volunteers attended and were able to provide advice and counsel to all the clients attending the clinic.

The clients covered a wide range of backgrounds and business types, and volunteers were able to use their legal expertise and adapt it to the clients’ questions. Attorneys helped an event-planning business with its commercial leasing issues, filled out a corporate kit with the owner of a wholesale trading company, and reviewed an academic tutor’s contract to determine her obligations to her clients.

“Being able to participate in the NELP clinic with Barclays and Citi was a rewarding experience all around,” said Martin Schmelkin, Goldman Sachs Managing Director and Associate General Counsel. “Not only does it give us a chance to develop expertise in other areas of the law, but it also provides a terrific opportunity to network with our colleagues at other firms.”

“While we’ve worked with each of these legal departments individually in the past, to see them all come together to assist this group of entrepreneurs was very gratifying,” said Akira Arroyo, Director of NELP. “What was most fascinating is that none of the entrepreneurs fully realized that they were receiving free legal advice from such high-level attorneys, including the General Counsel and a Managing Director of a couple of the largest financial institutions in the city. We received positive feedback from all of the entrepreneurs as they left, and heard from at least two that after their sessions they felt better prepared to move forward with their business ideas.”