CBA Record January-February 2020

Chicago Bar Foundation Report

The CBF Justice Entrepreneurs Project Seeding Innovative New Firms to Serve Everyday People By Connor Henry, CBF Intern (Fall 2019)

T he legal services market for everyday people is broken. Low- and middle- income people struggle to find afford- able legal help, and lawyers trying to serve this market find it increasingly difficult to do so in a sustainable manner. All too often, low- and middle-income people are left to deal with legal problems on their own. To bridge this gap, the Chicago Bar Foun- dation’s Justice Entrepreneurs Project (JEP) has proven that lawyers can successfully serve these clients while maintaining a healthy practice. The JEP is a small business incuba- tor for lawyers starting their own socially conscious law practices that serve low- and middle-income Chicagoans.Through work- shops, access to resources, and a network of top-notch professionals donating their time, the JEP helps attorneys employ innovative entrepreneurial techniques and use market- based models to build flourishing practices. JEP attorneys practice in a range of areas, but their methods are similar. Up-front and set pricing, flexible billing agreements based on individual need, unbundled legal services, and maximized use of technology and attorney-client collaboration make their services more accessible and affordable for clients.To date, the JEP has helpedmore than 50 attorneys build sustainable and socially conscious firms, collectively providing afford- able services to more than 5,000 people each year. Three JEP attorneys are profiled below. Roya Samarghandi spent several months at externships in the juvenile division and at

a public defender’s office while in law school. This exposed her to some of the disadvantages within the legal system early on. “I knew the population I wanted to serve, but how to serve that population and be profitable was what I didn’t know,” she said. A Master of Laws program in England cemented her desire to combat the shortcomings in the U.S. legal system, and an email from the CBF promoting the JEP convinced her to quit her job as a corporate transactional attorney and create Carmel Law. “[The JEP] gives you a leg up and allows you to build a practice that reflects your personality and goals. It was a safety net I didn’t know I needed.” Roya has nowmanagedCarmel Law for over four years and is looking to grow. She said, “It gives me freedom in other areas of my life. I would do it all over again.” Another JEP alum is Keith Southam , the founder and principal attorney of Southam Law. Specializing in immigration law, Keith understands the stress of dealing with immi- gration issues. Early in his career, he witnessed how frustrated people can get when lawyers use complex jargon and breeze through con- fusing legal options.That’s why he wanted to start his own practice. By providing accurate and easy-to-understand information, Keith ensures that his clients know exactly what their legal options are and the outcomes of those options. He offers individually tailored billing plans that are discussed in advance to minimize cost barriers. “What attracted me to the JEP was the business training,” Keith

Roya Samarghandi

said. “JEP gave me a space and the business know-how to get started.” Keith works hard for his clients, and the results show. “I was hoping to see a 20% increase in profit from last year, but I greatly surpassed that mark,” he said. “I’mmoving to my own space soon, and I’m expecting my intake to double.” Fatimeh Pahlavan also graduated from the JEP program and uses her services pri- marily to help aspiring entrepreneurs grow their businesses. Her firm, Legal Intelligence to Entrepreneurs (LITE), offers traditional

The attorneys highlighted here are just three of the many impressive lawyers in the JEP network. To learn more about all of the at- torneys in the network and connect someone looking for legal help, contact

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