Law students launch project to support small businesses and associations
During the summer of 2020, at the height of the pandemic, Tyler McClure JD ’22, David Liao JD ’22, Justin Garfinkle JD ’22 and Guillaume Julian JD ’22 read numerous articles on closing small businesses.
McClure, who helped small businesses apply for loans through the CARES Act, realized his work could be amplified if Stanford had its own initiative to help small businesses.
âTyler was drumming that we should have an organization at Stanford Law School that can help provide low cost or free legal services to businesses,â Julian said. âOver the summer we started working on it.
The four-person team then launched the Stanford Law School’s Small Business and Entrepreneurship Pro Bono Law Project. They have partnered with Start Small Think Big, a nonprofit supporting small businesses with offices in San Jose and Oakland, to support underfunded and underrepresented businesses, such as those run by communities of color. and by women.
Small minority-owned businesses were the most at risk economically during the pandemic. In May 2020, 78% of minority-owned businesses – compared to 52% of non-minority businesses – said they were at risk of shutting down, according to the United States Chamber of Commerce.
âIt was all chaos for the organizations that were the lifeblood of our communities,â Liao said. âWe felt pretty helpless and wanted to do something. “
Nik Shiva JD ’23 and Matt Ann Cullen JD ’23 are now the current project chairs, with the original team having assumed an advisory role. Shiva previously worked with Start Small Think Big. Shiva and Cullen joined us because of their interest in gaining experience in corporate law.
Start Small Think Big clients run a variety of different businesses and come from different backgrounds. Shiva mentioned the story of a customer who provided credit repair services to majority minority customers. The clinic has entered into a customer service agreement that could protect both its clients and its business.
âIt was my first real experience of making a contract, but it was also very precious to her,â said Shiva. “She could go ahead and earn an income from a business while feeling secure in the services she provided.”
Cullen agreed with the impact of working with these clients.
âBeing able to support them while listening to their stories and seeing what they are capable of doing is so inspiring,â Cullen said.
In the beginning, the team also worked with a client who had grown up in a housing project run by a slum owner in New York City.
“She knew what it was like having trouble paying that rent bill and struggling to keep a roof over her head and that of her family,” Julian said.
As an entrepreneur, the client wanted to create an alternative model of social housing: tenants who lost their jobs or were going through a difficult period did not have to pay their rent on time; they could fulfill their lease by helping with building maintenance, deferring their rent, or other alternatives.
The team helped her negotiate leases and buy the real estate needed to launch this project.
âBeing just a small part of it was so humiliating but also rewarding,â Julian said.
Cullen and Shiva have several ideas on how they would like to expand the team’s impact.
They recently hosted a negotiation workshop so clients can be empowered to establish contracts beneficial for the growth of the business, and they are looking forward to moving on to in-person events after the pandemic.
âA long-term goal for us is to have more direct one-on-one interactions between students and clients,â Cullen said. âThese lasting relationships can be valuable to students and the organization. “