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As Kevin Curnin sees it, there are two types of young attorneys on the American campus scene: the plodding many and the enterprising few. Legions of law school students matriculate, graduate and — after years of on-the-job training — finally operate. Then there are the ones like Markita S. Morris and Victor Goldfeld, both 24 years old, both in their second year at New York University School of Law, and co-chairs of a student organization called the Small Business Law Connection. Morris and Goldfeld aim to turn the Law Connection into a full-blown campus legal clinic for business law assistance to low-income and minority entrepreneurs. As any number of students, professors and even practicing lawyers would attest, creating such a clinic is no small endeavor. “We would ask for a full-time faculty member, as well as adjunct professors in areas such as taxation, property and real estate,” Morris said. “We would also need space within the NYU clinic department, administrative and technical staffing, associations with law firms and public service agencies.” Throughout the planning stage, she said the Law Connection has been guided by NYU faculty members and clinic staff. “Here [Morris and Goldfeld] are, going through law school and actively looking for ways to heighten their learning experience — and already thinking about how to parlay that into a work experience,” said Curnin, the director of pro bono projects at Stroock & Stroock & Lavan. “It’s ambitious, it’s impressive,” he said. “It’s stepping out in a socially conscious manner, and it makes sense academically.” HELPING SMALL BUSINESS Morris was born and raised in a historically African-American neighborhood of North Philadelphia. “The kind of neighborhood that is the perfect example of why this [Law Connection] is necessary,” she explained. “It’s underserved, it’s disenfranchised — any of those terms you care to apply. There are no supermarkets, and no businesses owned by the people who live there.” Goldfeld was born in Kiev, when Ukraine was part of the former Soviet Union. His family fled to Brooklyn when he was 2 years old. “I want to do something for the community, as clich�d as that may sound,” said Goldfeld. “I have an interest in business and how it operates, and I want to continue in business — but in a legal context. “Lawyers can do big deals, but they can work for community development agencies, too, and help some ice cream shop get established,” he said. “To neighborhoods with a scarcity of jobs and stores and commercial traffic, the things that secure an economic future for a neighborhood,” he added, “an ice cream shop can also be a big deal.” To accomplish their goal of a business law clinic, Morris and Goldfeld understand that they must ground their appeal in the practical. They and the other members of the Law Connection — about 30 students in all — have been working on the project since the spring of 1999. Goldfeld, for instance, has researched the few campus clinics devoted to business law. Both he and Morris have interviewed pro bono directors at private law firms, and sat in on the transactional workshops the firms have run for clients. The model they chose as the most practical for NYU is the business clinic at Columbia Law School — one of the few campus clinics around the country specializing in transactional matters. “You can’t just go and say, ‘Oh, we have an idea,’ ” as Morris put it. “ We’re working for the support of the whole faculty, and we’re establishing connections with firms and community development agencies. “When we really do approach the university, we’ll do it with a plan in hand,” she said. “And they’ll want to throw their legal resources behind us.” In addition to Goldfeld’s research during the past two years, he said the Law Connection membership has been “hammering out details” on mission, curriculum and law firm relationships. Jeffrey S. Page of Shearman & Sterling, might have advised the same. “There’s some politicking that you have to be aware of and learn,” said Page, an associate in Shearman’s real estate department. “And down the line, there is some expense. They’re going to need an office, and access to secretaries and computers.” LAW FIRM SUPPORT When Morris and Goldfeld make their ultimate pitch for the imprimatur of NYU, they will need commitments from law firms every bit as much as passion and political savvy. Supervision by practicing lawyers would allow Law Connection students the real-life experience of preparing documents and research materials, and meeting with clients. Both Curnin at Stroock and his pro bono counterpart at Shearman, Saralyn Cohen, are supportive. “I’m excited about it,” said Cohen of her firm’s already active relationship with the Law Connection. “I think it’s going to be great. “A lot of our [corporate] associates really want to do pro bono work, but they don’t have a lot of time to pull together documents and do research,” she said. “Now there’s going to be a lot of help.” Page recently made use of that help, taking up Goldfeld on his offer to assist in creating a business lease seminar for Shearman’s pro bono partner, the Brooklyn-based Business Outreach Center Network Inc. “He did research and he helped us assemble the information for the presentation,” Page said of Goldfeld. “He attended, and met with some of the clients, and took part in the question-answer session at the end. “Once they [student members of the Law Connection] get the clinic up and running, we’ll form some sort of partnership,” he added. “They have a lot of good ideas.” Adjunct Professor Kerwin Tesdell is confident of prospects for such a clinic. “They’ll have to pull together a proposal showing why this [Law Connection] is a good thing pedagogically, and a good thing for NYU,” said Tesdell, who teaches community development law at NYU. “I certainly think that’s doable.” “And I certainly think this is a needed thing in the communities that the students want to serve,” said Tesdell, who is also president of the Community Development Venture Capital Alliance, an international organization. “It’s an excellent opportunity for students going forward as business lawyers. Most of what students learn in clinics or classrooms is really geared toward litigation. There is so little opportunity for students to get that kind of transactional experience,” he said. Besides the Columbia law program, there are fewer than two dozen business law clinics in the country, according to Brian G. Glick, a professor at Fordham University School of Law and director of the year-old Community Economic Development Clinic, which operates as general counsel to non-profit agencies of upper Manhattan. Laura J. Schwartz, a senior staff attorney at the Lawyers Alliance for New York, has encouraged the Law Connection students in opening a clinic. She herself taught at Columbia law’s transactional clinic before joining the Lawyers Alliance. Columbia’s program, the Not for Profit Small Business Clinic, has operated for more than 10 years. An average of eight students per semester experience the full range of transactional matters, including interaction with clients. An administrative staff of three handles support work for all five clinics, including business. “There was always a waiting list,” Schwartz said of the clinic at Columbia law. “I would advise them [Law Connection students] to point to the successful example at Columbia, and to emphasize that this is a great way to develop legal skills — by working with real clients, and providing business law services where they’re so needed.”

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