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Black Business Law Clinic relaunched by OBA

Wednesday, May 27, 2020 @ 3:09 PM | By Amanda Jerome

The Ontario Bar Association (OBA) announced on May 27 that it has relaunched the Black Business Law Clinic, a “volunteer initiative that provides black entrepreneurs and business owners in Ontario with free legal services from black lawyers.”

According to an OBA press release, the Black Business Law Clinic was founded in October 2016 and was the “brainchild of OBA member Michelle Henry, a partner at Borden Ladner Gervais LLP, and Anthony Stephen Benjamin, of Benjamin Law.” The clinic was done in partnership with Pro Bono Ontario (PBO) but was “forced to close in 2018 when it lost its funding as a result of budget cuts at PBO.”

“Business owners and entrepreneurs face unique barriers in accessing capital, mentorship and affordable legal services,” said OBA first vice-president, Charlene Theodore, in a statement.  

“The Black Business Law Clinic is addressing these head-on by offering critical legal understanding to up-and-coming entrepreneurs on an entirely pro bono basis, paving the way for thriving black-owned enterprises,” she added.

According to the OBA, the clinic will start accepting clients on June 1 and will focus on “offering entry-level supports — in an array of corporate, employment, real estate, regulatory, contract, and licensng law matters — that will help members of the black community navigate the complexities of commercial enterprise and establish their businesses or not-for-profit organizations within a solid and sustainable legal framework.”

“That we could relaunch this initiative during this time of global economic upheaval and during the United Nations’ International Decade for People of African Descent is something I’m personally very grateful for,” said Theodore, adding that the OBA recognizes that “access to sound legal counsel is a gatekeeper to business success.”

“We are doing our part to build a foundation to enable the full participation of all Ontarians in our economy, while providing business development opportunities for black lawyers,” she added.

The OBA will be “taking the reins and carrying forward the clinic’s mission” at this time.  

“We’ve seen that when diverse owners and new ideas are given the ground-level support they need to soar, they drive economic development and innovation that can, in turn, transform communities,” said Theodore.

“With the Black Business Law Clinic, the OBA, our volunteers and partners can play a pivotal role in assisting trailblazing black entrepreneurs on their way to becoming tomorrow’s business leaders,” she added.