Since 1997, LCCRSF’s Legal Services for Entrepreneurs (LSE) Program has partnered with pro bono attorneys to provide free transactional legal services to economically marginalized individuals who want to start a business, businesses investing in economically distressed communities, and mom and pop shops located in areas where gentrification is a force for displacement. In light of the devastating impact of the global pandemic on small businesses, LCCRSF and its pro bono partners shifted quickly to help small business clients survive.
Within the first two weeks of the pandemic, the LSE team shifted all its work to continue remotely. However, the program experienced over 300% increase in requests for legal support, the majority of which involved commercial leasing. “We did everything we could to marshal our staff and volunteer resources in service of the many urgent requests from small businesses,” said Tobias Damm-Luhr, Staff Attorney – LSE. “Before the crisis hit, we had already been looking at ways to shorten client wait time for receiving legal advice, such as adding more brief legal advice clinics. The pandemic and the ensuing spike in demand required us to look at ways to mitigate and motivated us to take action, and thankfully our pro bono partners are helping us lead the way.”
We found bold and creative pro bono leadership in our partners at Perkins Coie LLP (“Perkins”). Under this pilot partnership, Perkins assembled a remarkable team of partners from their Real Estate & Land Use Law practice group to not only take on cases but also to engage attorneys outside the practice group to:
- Place a high volume of 1-hour, remote limited scope consults with volunteer attorneys across the firm;
- Provide in-house training and mentorship for attorneys; and
- Provide high quality pro bono legal services.
LSE and Perkins have brought life-changing resources to small businesses and entrepreneurs during this challenging time. Perkins has also agreed to provide many of the clients who received 1-hour consultations with additional limited scope lease negotiation assistance.
“The problems we are helping solve through our pro bono work are very real and it hits close to home; this is not legal minutia. Small businesses need legal support with make-or-break decisions and to be connected with the right resources to find a suitable arrangement,” said Alec Nicholson, an Associate at Perkins. “Playing a part in helping small businesses keep their doors open, employees on the payroll, and have a sense of confidence and hope brings a big sense of gratification and honor.”
We see the urgent and “rapid response” nature of the LSE work lasting at least a year. “This pro bono partnership embodies the kind of collaboration needed to meet the ongoing need. We continue to work with partners to build a strong pro bono pipeline,” said Elica Vafaie, LCCRSF’s Pro Bono Director. We continue to seek pro bono partners to build a long-term pro bono pipeline for commercial leasing matters. We are pleased to partner with a range of firms on commercial leasing matters: We are pleased to partner with a range of firms on commercial leasing matters: Arent Fox LLP, Orrick, Herrington & Sutcliffe LLP, Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom LLP, Winston & Strawn LLP, and more. We welcome further pro bono support!
For opportunities to get engaged in LCCR pro bono please contact Elica Vafaie at email@example.com and for opportunities to take on pro bono commercial leasing cases, please contact Tobias Damm-Luhr at firstname.lastname@example.org.