Equalizer Institute and Virtual Law Office called “a pivotal step in advancing civil rights by lowering the barriers for minority entrepreneurs to engage in American enterprise” by digital media focused on the Black and Brown perspective

MLK’s Daughter To Lead New Legal Institute For Minority Businesses: ‘It’s Almost Like A Free Corporate Legal Service’

by Gee NY July 8, 2024

Bernice A. King, a nationally-recognized civil rights advocate and daughter of Martin Luther King Jr., has been named the honorary chair of the Equalizer Institute, a new initiative under the New England Legal Foundation.

This innovative segment aims to bridge the gap between minority entrepreneurs and the legal expertise required to kickstart and sustain successful businesses.

The Equalizer Institute is set to become a groundbreaking tool in business law, leveraging AI to crowdsource and match minority-owned businesses with legal experts in a manner akin to dating apps.  

King sees this as a pivotal step in advancing civil rights by lowering the barriers for minority entrepreneurs to engage in American enterprise.

“Lowering barriers for entrepreneurs to participate in American enterprise is a critical step toward reducing economic and racial inequality,” King told the Boston Business Journal. “The Equalizer Institute can facilitate the social change that comes from empowering economic growth through much-needed pro-bono legal services.”

The institute is preparing for a soft launch at the end of 2024, with full operations expected in 2025. It aims to support entrepreneurs often overlooked by traditional business law organizations by utilizing AI and task-based assignments to power a virtual law clinic. This approach will match entrepreneurs with the necessary legal resources efficiently.

“Whatever the legal impediment is, we will then match that entrepreneur with the available resources,” explained Daniel Winslow, president of the New England Legal Foundation. “It’s almost like a free corporate legal services dating site that puts people together.”

The institute is designed to be cost-effective, with Winslow estimating that running one clinic would cost approximately $600,000 compared to the $3.6 million market rate for legal services.

The vision includes matching founders with lawyers, particularly young lawyers seeking to expand their client bases, up until human intervention is necessary. The Equalizer Institute will have in-house counsel to take on cases when outside legal counsel is unavailable, with a planned staff of four attorneys and two additional members.

“What I’ve described, nobody else does,” Winslow said, referring to the institute’s unique “bite-sized pro bono” approach.

The institute envisions a platform where technology and crowdsourced legal staff can handle specific questions, rewrite letters, and help grow businesses through smaller yet essential steps.

The Virtual Law Office’s project director is the only staff announced so far, and significant capital has been raised through donations from The Cummings Foundation, Rappaport Institute, and M&T Bank.

Suffolk Law is the first publicly announced partner, with plans to collaborate with third-year law students from various law schools to ensure efficient functioning. Winslow sees this as the first step in a national project to help resource-limited and disadvantaged entrepreneurs succeed, and he considers King’s involvement as a major endorsement.

King currently heads The King Center, an organization founded by her mother, Coretta Scott King, to honor the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. through education about nonviolent social change.


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