To commemorate last month’s Martin Luther King Jr. Day, the law firm Kramer Levin Naftalis & Frankel partnered with Thomson Reuters Foundation’s TrustLaw to provide a Legal Health Check to non-profit organizations committed to communities of color.
When asked how this legal clinic assisted their organizations and the communities they serve, the answers were varied. For newer organizations, like Global Black Youth, the legal assistance provided through the clinic allowed the group to assess which corporate structure would best meet its needs from the outset. “As an organization, when you are starting out you really need help in terms of how it is that you organize your governing body, your leadership structure, and your data policy,” says Nyeleti Honwana, co-founder of Global Black Youth. “This is something that we wouldn’t otherwise have access to.”
For more established organizations, like African Communities Together (ACT), the legal clinic allowed them to take a step back and review their policies to make sure those policies keep the group compliant, and its corporate structure is the right fit for the group’s goals. It’s easy to get lost in the mission of the organization, which is to assist immigrants and their families from Africa, says Amaha Kassa, Founder and Executive Director at ACT. “It was an extremely rewarding set of conversations,” he adds. “We are often so busy responding to the urgent needs of our community and our constituency and putting all of our energy into program, service and advocacy, that we struggle to take the time to make sure our organizations are healthy and legally compliant.”
During the clinic, attorneys from Kramer Levin provided guidance in a “speed dating” type setting. And the participating organizations worked with TrustLaw before the event to assess the legal areas they wanted to review, and then were assigned to relevant tables for the first and second rounds.
The event concluded with a third open round, allowing the organizations to seek either additional guidance from a table they had already visited, or to explore new topics in areas such as: Corporate Structuring & Governance; Investments & Tax; Contracts; Intellectual Property; Social Media, Technology & Data Protection; or Employee Benefits & Executive Compensation.
“This legal clinic today ensures the work we are doing is compliant with state laws across America, which supports our mission to connect the nation’s leading problem-solvers and accelerate their solutions.” Albert Kujudji, curation manager at Nation Swell.
Dan Beeby, Chief Technology Officer of Benefit Kitchen, explains that the legal clinic “helped us understand better how we use our client’s data, how we protect our client’s data and how people can ask us to delete their data.” This knowledge is especially important with the new legal restrictions in California around how data is handled and protected, he adds.
“It’s really important that we don’t expose any of our clients to any sort of data leak, and so we got a good brush up here today,” Beeby says.
The event also allowed for a time of networking and supporting each other — something smaller non-profits too often miss out on. Members from individual organizations offered each other encouragement and guidance, with many participants making plans to stay in touch after the day concluded.
As Martin Luther King Jr. said, “[t]he time is always right to do what is right.” Leaders from inspirational non-profit organizations took much needed time to reflect on their organizational structure and needs, and to create a plan for future considerations that will ensure their missions and organizations are able to reach the communities and people in need of their services.