Law schools teach students how to practice law. Students are trained in analysis, legal research and writing, public policy, statutes, legal remedies, and an array of other skills central to being an effective attorney. What students don’t learn, however, is how to start and run their own law practice. Being a solo or a small firm practitioner is especially important to CUNY Law grads, as many choose to return to their hometowns as solo practitioners providing affordable, critical legal services to under-served communities.
To meet the needs of CUNY Law alums setting up their own firms, CUNY Law created the first in the nation “business incubator” for lawyers in 2007. Unlike other incubator-business models, CUNY Law’s “Incubator for Justice” has a twin goal of helping lawyers learn how to run a successful business while helping them become lawyers in low-income communities that often lack access to outstanding, low-cost legal representation.
Ranked as one of the top ten law schools in the country for its clinical training, CUNY Law sends a higher share of its students, 65%, into public interest and public service law than any other law school in the nation. Many of its students specifically go to law school so they can take their skills back into their communities to provide much needed legal representation on issues ranging from immigration to housing to criminal defense.
Fred Rooney, Director of CUNY Law’s Community Legal Resource Network (CLRN), spearheaded the Incubator. A former solo practitioner himself, Rooney started CLRN twelve years ago. NowCLRNhas developed into a 24-hour online hotline for over 300 alumni in small practices, including solo practitioners, who need access to the kind of support attorneys in larger private firms have. Through its network, CLRN members quickly send questions and requests to theCLRN’s active list-serve. Within minutes they are flooded with peer support and advisement from fellow CUNY lawyers. The Incubator for Justice takes Rooney’s vision a step further, providing graduates needed post law school education to run successful practices.
Over an 18-month period, Incubator participants are trained in various aspects of creating a viable solo practice. Participants pay a low monthly rent on Fifth Avenue and 27th Street in Manhattan and are housed at the law office of a CUNY law graduate who has a small firm. At the same time, participants learn how to represent low-income individuals and families in critical areas of public interest law such has housing, community and economic development, entertainment law, small business law, and immigration. The business management and development skills help prepare them for their own practices and the lawyering skills help them to augment the skills they learned at CUNY Law. The Incubator for Justice is directed by Ben Flavin, CUNY alum and the Community Legal Resource Network’s CLRN’s Special Projects Manager.
For more information on the Incubator for Justice and the Community Legal Resource Network contact Ben Flavin or visit http://www.law.cuny.edu/clinics/JusticeInitiatives/Community.html.