Lending a Hand to Small Organization Owners

Catrina P. Smith

As a BU Law public provider fellow at Wager Tzedek in Los Angeles, Bria Stephens (’20) aids entrepreneurs from underrepresented communities, such as with their pandemic-specific problems.

Public Desire

As a BU Legislation public service fellow at Wager Tzedek in Los Angeles, Bria Stephens (’20) assists business people from underrepresented communities, including with their pandemic-certain concerns.

One of the initially inquiries Bria Stephens (’20) asks potential customers as the lawyer in charge of Wager Tzedek’s small business advancement job is: What is heading on?

Headshot of Bria Stephens ('20)
Bria Stephens (’20)

All through the COVID-19 pandemic, with so quite a few enterprises shut down as aspect of initiatives to prevent the spread of the virus, the responses have been emotional.

“On most of my telephone calls, another person is in tears,” Stephens states.

Guess Tzedek, a nonprofit company of no cost lawful services in Los Angeles, started its tiny business enterprise development task in 2017 in recognition of the part entrepreneurship can participate in in aiding elevate people today out of poverty. Ahead of the pandemic, the program helped about 100 consumers for each yr. In 2020, that range extra than doubled, with 250 men and women acquiring support. Most of these requests were connected to the impacts of the pandemic, such as how to accessibility aid cash, and, more just lately, how to stave off commercial eviction.

Stephens joined Guess Tzedek in Oct as the receiver of the Boston University Faculty of Law Yanan & Dan Schwartz Fellowship, just one of several fellowships that enable pupils to pursue yearlong community curiosity positions. As the only full-time employees member on Bet Tzedek’s modest business enhancement crew, her job features conducting consumption interviews, matching purchasers with professional bono attorneys who can aid them, overseeing volunteers, and assisting occur up with content material for the program’s webinars, which supply free basic business legislation classes and, in the earlier year, pandemic-specific information (Guess Tzedek’s smaller organization enhancement venture is a spouse in Los Angeles’ LA Signifies initiative, which was created to offer authorized support all through the pandemic).

For Stephens, the occupation was a great match. The Mississippi native’s fascination in small business law was impressed in part by her father, a writer who began his possess confined legal responsibility business (LLC), and her grandmother, who after pursued a patent for a car seat with a robotic arm for a baby’s bottle. Stephens examined English literature at the University of Mississippi. Her enjoy of writing—“In a different lifestyle, I would be a writer,” she says—and the thought of people today remaining ready to manage their artistic products helped encourage her path to the regulation.

“It’s crucial to be equipped to protect what you deliver,” she claims.

At BU Law, Stephens fell far more precisely in love with intellectual assets in a study course with Professor Wendy Gordon, who also supervised Stephens’ take note on the diverse repercussions of copyright violations and plagiarism. Stephens completed a concentration in IP and facts regulation and served as government editor of the Journal of Science and Technological innovation Law. In her 3rd year, she participated in the BU/MIT Startup Law Clinic, encouraging university student business owners kind LLCs, file trademark programs, defend their copyrights with acquire-down notices, and concern stock.

That knowledge established her up nicely for the little business enterprise enhancement job at Wager Tzedek.

“When I saw [the job posting], I believed, ‘This is exactly what I do,’” she recalls.

Remaining ready to convey to someone we’re going to shift forward, when I in fact get them an attorney—you can listen to the relief in their voices. Even if their difficulty doesn’t get resolved, they are likely to get assist.

Bria Stephens (’20), BU Legislation public support fellow at Bet Tzedek

Now, as a substitute of pupils, she is effective with small enterprise house owners from under-represented communities. Her purchasers operate organizations ranging from hair and nail salons to car maintenance stores, get together-organizing firms, and dining establishments. Even though the job doesn’t commonly signify men and women right (it refers clientele to lawyers who specialize in a appropriate space), Stephens assists shepherd them as a result of the lawful guidance process. She claims her time at BU Law helped put together her for the perform.

“The complete legislation faculty encounter has been helpful—with organizational and time administration techniques, creating memos, and carrying out legal research,” she says.

But her medical get the job done has been especially useful.

“When I communicate to clients and I listen to anything, I know: That’s an challenge,” she claims. “The clinic seriously served with situation recognizing.” 

One of Stephens early initiatives at Wager Tzedek was to compile a “massive memo” of all the sorts of economic relief offered to folks whose companies had been impacted by COVID-19, like federal, condition, and local grant-creating systems. Much more not long ago, she arrived up with a a few-portion webinar series on intellectual residence regulation, with subjects on the benefits and cons of patent and trade mystery security, an overview of how to use the US Patent and Trademark Office’s web site, and a guidebook for navigating the US Copyright Office web page.

“There’s a hole in the business group,” she claims. “People who come from under-represented communities might not know what it normally takes to begin a small business. The reason of my collection is to give individuals equipment to guard the matters they make.”

The work is complicated but worthwhile.

“Being capable to tell someone we’re going to shift ahead, when I actually get them an attorney—you can hear the aid in their voices,” she suggests. “Even if their dilemma doesn’t get resolved, they’re likely to get aid.”

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