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NC, SC Lawyers Group Starts Initiative To Help Underserved Business Owners

Twenty-four law firms have come together to launch the Carolinas Social Impact Initiative, an initiative aimed to support underserved communities in the Carolinas. Their goal is to create inclusivity among communities throughout the Carolinas while reducing systemic barriers to social and economic mobility. One way they plan to do this is through a pilot program called the Charlotte Legal Initiative to Mobilize Businesses, or CLIMB.

Robinson Bradshaw
Kate Maynard is a lead lawyer for CLIMB and general counsel for Robinson Bradshaw.

The goal is to connect low-income entrepreneurs and small businesses with lawyers who are working pro bono to provide business services for people who normally couldn’t access or afford a lawyer.

The program will be spearheaded by Robinson Bradshaw and Moore & Van Allen, two of the 24 law firms involved in the Carolinas Social Impact Initiative. . Kate Maynard, general counsel for Robinson Bradshaw and a lead lawyer of CLIMB, says the pilot program will give the group an opportunity to learn more about the needs of low-income entrepreneurs and business owners.

“We recognize that supporting the small business and entrepreneurs in our community and helping them grow their business is hopefully a way to support economic development in some of the under-resourced parts of our community and further economic mobility in the Charlotte region,” Maynard said.

CLIMB will provide a plethora of business services like helping owners with contractual or property matters, obtaining financing, and even advice on choosing a business structure.

Tom Griffin is a team lead for the Carolinas Social Impact Initiative. He came together with 23 other law firms to launch the initiative.
Carlos Zaragoza Koblischek
Parker Poe
Tom Griffin is a team lead for the Carolinas Social Impact Initiative.

The Carolinas Social Impact Initiative started in June 2020 after the death of George Floyd and in the midst of a summer of social unrest, when a group of lawyers felt the need to serve under-resourced communities.

Tom Griffin is the managing partner with Parker Poe Adams and Bernstein and a team leader for the initiative. He says his need to be a part of the initiative came from a conversation with his daughter during which they talked about wanting to do more than just watch what was happening. That led to a conversation with leaders of multiple law firms in the Carolinas who shared the same idea.

“We were all thinking about the same thing very passionately at the same time, which is we have these resources at our disposal,” Griffin said. “How can we use them for change in our community? And wouldn't it be cool if we could use them together? Wouldn't that be a multiplier effect to aggregate what we can do and do something really cool?”

A little over a year later and the Carolinas Social Impact Initiative is up and running and “test driving” its first official program. Because CLIMB hasn’t officially launched, the application isn’t available on the group's website. However, the initiative is accepting applications through its referral partners’ websites. For more information, visit climbNC.org.

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Gracyn Doctor is a Report for America corps member who covers race and equity for WFAE.