Students in the Community Enterprise Clinic provide legal assistance to nonprofit organizations and small businesses that cannot pay market rates for legal services. The clinic is of special interest to those interested in community development, in learning to work with organizational clients, and in learning how to represent clients in transactions. The emphasis is on planning: Students work to understand clients' hopes and aspirations, help them anticipate and solve problems, and educate them about their responsibilities as heads of nonprofits or businesses. Interested students can also participate in special projects, such as a clinic-sponsored conference to identify and address barriers to microenterprise.
Clinic students prepare for their client work through an intensive seminar, weekly supervision meetings with the professor, and simulations, some videotaped and extensively critiqued by both students and teacher. They learn the substantive law about forming and operating nonprofit organizations and small businesses; think through the distinctive interviewing, counseling, and ethical issues that arise in representing organizations rather than individuals; and, above all, practice how to interview and counsel a group client. They also learn to draft documents, focusing on writing that is precise, economical, and comprehensible to their clients. In class and in supervision meetings, students explore many important lawyering issues through the lens of their cases: decision-making under conditions of uncertainty, the allocation of power between lawyers and clients, and the challenges in representing groups whose members disagree.
Some of the clinic's clients are young, nonprofit organizations that need help in choosing appropriate entities for the conduct of their programs, developing governance structures, securing tax exemptions, and complying with regulatory requirements. Others are more mature groups that need help addressing the legal issues arising from changes such as expansion, creation of a national program, or initiation of income-generating activities. Recent nonprofit clients have included Housing Plus Solutions, an organization that helps women leaving prison or long-term treatment programs, and UHAB Housing Development Fund Corporation, an organization that rehabilitates tax-foreclosed buildings and sells them as low-income cooperatives to tenants. Other clients have included individuals operating small businesses such as family day care, catering companies, and printing shops. These clients are primarily located in disadvantaged neighborhoods in New York City, such as Harlem, Washington Heights, and the South Bronx. They seek the clinic's assistance to form appropriate business structures, enter into contracts, and comply with regulatory requirements. Students also offer seminars and workshops for entrepreneurs on corporate and tax issues.
"I developed as a lawyer in the [Community Enterprise] Clinic more than in any of my other classes. The clinic stressed three things that have been very helpful in my current position: drafting very complex documents in straightforward terms, preparing carefully for meetings with clients, and explaining complex legal concepts in simple terms."
Sandy Santana '01
Cleary Gottlieb Steen & Hamilton
Professor Barbara Schatz joined the Law School faculty in 1985. She served as director of clinical education from 1996 to 2001. She previously served as executive director of the Council of New York Law Associates (now the Lawyers Alliance for New York), where she administered a public-interest program involving both staff lawyers and 1,800 pro bono lawyers; founded the Community Development Legal Assistance Center; and co-founded the Lawyers Committee for Human Rights and Court Appointed Special Advocates. She has represented many nonprofit organizations in corporate, tax, and real estate matters and lectured widely about nonprofit corporate and tax law. Professor Schatz has trained and consulted with law professors interested in establishing clinical programs in China, Central and Eastern Europe, and countries of the former Soviet Union.