Pro Bono

Law firms team up to encourage racial equity and economic mobility in the Carolinas

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Two dozen BigLaw, regional and local law firms have joined together to form the Carolinas Social Impact Initiative, a new effort that seeks to tackle systemic racism in the region.

They intend to start by supporting minority-owned businesses and entrepreneurs, promoting educational opportunities, focusing on family stability and social justice issues, and increasing access to mentoring and career opportunities.

“We formed the Carolinas Social Impact Initiative so that we as legal leaders can help drive progress on racial equity and economic mobility,” said Tom Griffin, managing partner at Parker Poe, in a press release provided to the Charlotte Weekly. “We recognize that these are long-term challenges that require long-term solutions, and we are committing our time and resources to work for the change that we want to see.” and WFAE also have coverage.

The idea for the coalition arose after George Floyd’s death in 2020, when leaders of the Mecklenburg County Bar and other local law firm leaders began looking for ways to advance racial justice and equity in the Charlotte, North Carolina, area.

Their first pilot program is the Charlotte Legal Initiative to Mobilize Businesses, which will be led by member firms Moore & Van Allen and Robinson Bradshaw.

They will coordinate with attorneys from other member firms to provide pro bono services to small local businesses that are primarily owned by people of color, women, veterans, people with disabilities and members of the LGBTQ+ community.

“By providing access to legal services at no cost, CLIMB seeks to (1) assist clients in building and sustaining thriving businesses, (2) support commercial activity in historically under-resourced communities in the Charlotte area, and (3) foster economic mobility and opportunity, which are essential components to racial and social justice,” according to its website.

The Charlotte Legal Initiative to Mobilize Businesses is now accepting applications through its referral partners and can assist with a range of business law needs, including forming business entities, contracts and employment issues.

M. Heath Gilbert Jr., immediate past president of the Mecklenburg County Bar, told the Charlotte Weekly that lawyers “have a professional societal duty to aid in the provision of legal services for those unable to pay.”

“CLIMB provides a great outlet for lawyers to fulfill the responsibility of pro bono service in a transactional setting,” Gilbert said. “Moreover, through programs such as CLIMB, members of our bar can help to support and build a foundation for success in our community.”

For more information about how to volunteer, visit the Charlotte Legal Initiative to Mobilize Businesses website.

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