A new program by City Hall aims to help connect female entrepreneurs with critical legal resources to help them get their business off the ground or to clear hurdles to help them grow, the Department of Small Business Services will announce soon.
The project, called WE Legal, will host clinics for women business owners to provide them with free, one-on-one legal consultations with attorneys from some of the most prominent firms in the city, such as Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom.
“Programs that promote and provide access to legal services for women entrepreneurs help ensure the success and future of women owned businesses,” Brenna DeVaney, director of Skadden’s pro bono programs, said in a statement. “We are excited to be part of this program that is addressing a critical need in the market.”
Deputy Mayor for Housing and Economic Development Alicia Glen—a “recovering lawyer” herself—said the program is the natural outgrowth of efforts by the administration of Mayor Bill de Blasio to support and nurture women-owned small businesses. According to SBS, the city’s efforts to address gender gaps in business formation, growth and financing have seen the Women Entrepreneurs NYC Initiative deliver nearly 7,000 free educational, networking and financing services to women across the city since its start in 2015.
One of the lessons learned through this process was that women business owners are often outside the informal networks that provide early support to their male entrepreneur counterparts. In the absence of this and other factors, it became clear to those working on these efforts that it was critical to help fill the legal knowledge gap for female entrepreneurs.
WE Legal aims to do just that, focusing on many of the nuts-and-bolts legal aspects of early entrepreneurship, such as business formation, bylaws, contracts and other corporate legal matters. By partnering with law firms, the WE Legal program provides a unique pro bono opportunity for women partners in particular to “become a consigliere to these women who want to break through,” Glen said.
A number of other firms join Skadden in partnering with the program, including Baker McKenzie; Cleary Gottlieb Steen & Hamilton; Hogan Lovells; Kirkland & Ellis; Morgan, Lewis & Bockius; and Simpson Thacher & Bartlett, city officials said.