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It may not be long before partners at Sonnenschein Nath & Rosenthal are peddling baked goods in one of the poorest neighborhoods in Chicago. The firm is donating at least $1 million—and is even offering to help run bake sales—to establish a charter school in a downtrodden city neighborhood. Sonnenschein is celebrating its 100th anniversary, and wants to give back to the community. “There’s an enormous interest and enthusiasm amongst [the lawyers] to get involved,” said Errol Stone, a former managing partner of the firm who is overseeing the project. “They want to tutor, to run bake sales and book drives.” The Chicago Board of Education approved the firm’s charter school application on Jan. 26. Legacy Charter School is slated to open in August. Sonnenschein believes it is the first charter school established by a law firm. “Schools are the lifeblood of the community,” said Donald Lubin, a Sonnenschein corporate partner. “The creation of an educated class has a lot to do with the ability to get jobs, and for economic growth.” Lubin is a member of New Schools for Chicago, part of a civic committee of businesspeople interested in the welfare of the city. When the mayor called for businesses to help with the creation of new charter schools, Lubin pitched the idea to Sonnenschein. It worked. The school will include grades prekindergarten to eighth, in North Lawndale, a predominantly African-American neighborhood on the west side of Chicago. In its first year, the school will be open to students in kindergarten through second grade. It will add a grade every year. At full enrollment, the school will serve about 450 students. Sonnenschein chose to create the school in North Lawndale because it is “an area that we feel has a definite need for a new approach to education, which we feel is the key to breaking the circle of poverty,” Stone said. It is also the area where Sears, Roebuck and Co. originated before moving to the Sears Tower in downtown Chicago, Lubin pointed out. Sears has long been a client of Sonnenschein’s. Sonnenschein attorneys will also donate business and planning expertise, furniture, computers and supplies. “We bring a great deal to this effort besides money,” said Stone. “The start-up of a charter school is the start-up of a very complicated business, and involves all the difficulties of starting up a business, and a highly regulated one at that . . . .In many ways, the biggest commitment is the commitment of management time.”

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