PITTSBURGH, April 21, 2015 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- The term pro bono legal service generally carries with it the thought of civil and criminal justice, domestic disputes and the like. Over the last year, however, Urban Innovation21's pro bono project with Reed Smith – a global law firm with 1,900 attorneys and 25 offices around the world - has focused on the very critical legal needs of seedling and growing businesses in some of Pittsburgh's most underserved areas. This project, which came together in late 2013, now has nearly 75 Reed Smith attorneys participating, who have collectively provided approximately $600,000 worth of legal services to 25 businesses. They continue to push the boundaries of what pro bono service can be.
"This project serves dual purposes. It directly addresses the fact that the Pittsburgh region has one of the highest working-age African American poverty rates in the United States. It also provides meaningful pro bono opportunities to our attorneys in their respective areas of expertise (such as corporate, intellectual property, real estate, employment and insurance law, as well as commercial litigation)," said Matt Mohn, Partner in Reed Smith's Corporate Transactional Advisory Group and new pro bono leader in its Pittsburgh Office.
Reed Smith's legal services to businesses that could not otherwise afford any legal services have been critical to the success of a number of Urban Innovation21's community based entrepreneurs. This project is unique in that each business is afforded the same kind of access, attention and counsel as Reed Smith's clients; and the impact is apparent. "Reed Smith has been amazing in creating a sustainable plan to grow my businesses," said Shimira Williams, Owner of Productivity, LLC, a company that is bringing STEM education to early learning. And Regina Bryan, Owner of Uniquea Dry Cleaning and Laundry Services said, "I want to now restate my appreciation for your faithful work on my behalf. You made tense moments more bearable just by your warm personality."
The project stretches across varying business sectors - from retail to tech, and construction to the food industry, Reed Smith's attorneys are helping to bring ideas to fruition in communities that have not historically had the access to do so. "Because of Reed Smith's dedication, this program has been an integral part of giving our companies access to expertise they otherwise would not have," said William Generett Jr., the President and CEO of Urban Innovation21.
With the success of this project in Pittsburgh, Reed Smith is now looking at the possibility of expanding the model to other cities in which it has offices.
About Urban Innovation21
Urban Innovation21 is a consortium of local anchor institutions, government, and charitable foundations committed to supporting the region's underserved communities by connecting them to innovation-driven economic growth. By providing wrap-around support services, grants, access to tax credits and/or interns to community businesses and innovation zone technology companies, Urban Innovation21 is at the forefront of economic development in the region.
For more information, visit www.urbaninnovation21.org
About Reed Smith
With more than 1,800 lawyers in 25 offices throughout the United States, Europe, the Middle East and Asia, Reed Smith represents many of the world's leading companies in complex litigation and other high-stakes disputes, cross-border and other strategic transactions, and crucial regulatory matters. Reed Smith is a proud charter signatory to the Pro Bono Institute's Law Firm Pro Bono Challenge, devoting more than three percent of its billable time to pro bono work. Reed Smith is also a founding member of Advocates for International Development and a signatory to the United Kingdom Joint Protocol for Pro Bono Work. For Urban Innovation21's businesses to qualify for pro bono legal services, they must (i) be owned or operated by low-income individual(s), (ii) not be able to otherwise afford legal services, and (iii) primarily serve low-income customers or operate in an economically disadvantaged area.
For more information, visit www.reedsmith.com
SOURCE Urban Innovation21