Microenterprise Project

Microenterprise Project Launches Commercial Leasing Initiative

We are thrilled to announce that VOLS' Microenterprise Project has teamed up with NYC Small Business Services and a number of law firms to launch our Commercial Leasing Initiative.  Through this initiative, we will educate entrepreneurs and small business owners across New York City about commercial leases and to empower them to make good decisions about leasing commercial real estate.  Read more and find out how your firm or corporate legal department can get involved in this great pro bono project.

Microenterprise Project Description

Winner of the 2010 Partnership Award, the Microenterprise Project leverages law firms' and legal departments' deep expertise in business law to promote economic development in New York City. Through the project, pro bono lawyers help low-income micro-entrepreneurs and small businesses with legal issues such as commercial leasing and real estate, intellectual property, and contracts so that their businesses can thrive.

In 2014, 553 attorneys, paralegals, and law students volunteered 8,005 hours to assist 531 small business owners and entrepreneurs through the project amounting to nearly $4 million in donated legal services

If your law firm or legal department would like to participate in the Microenterprise Project, please sign up here.

Who We Serve

The small business owners we serve represent the best of New York City, a place where anyone from anywhere should be able to succeed if she or he is willing to work hard. Our clients come from every corner of the world. Many have overcome tremendous adversity just to get here. Their idealism and enthusiasm is inspiring and infectious. The kinds of businesses we help are as diverse as the legal issues we resolve. We have helped business owners ranging from a bicycle parts-inventor to a gin-distiller, with issues including intellectual property, commercial real estate, contracts, and business formation.

Why Lawyers Volunteer

Many of the lawyers who volunteer through the Microenterprise Project are experts in their fields, and come from some of the world's best law firms. They report deep satisfaction from applying expertise usually reserved for large corporations to solve similar problems for tiny businesses. Some volunteers enjoy experiencing the tangible results of their efforts, such as tasting a cupcake from a bakery that just moved into its first commercial space or attending a restaurant opening. Others are moved by the incredible energy and resilience of their clients.

How it Works

The Project matches law firms and legal departments with community organizations, micro-lenders, and government agencies that help low-income entrepreneurs start, sustain, and grow their businesses.  Typically, these groups screen and assess clients, then refer them to law firm staff when appropriate. Many firms and legal departments also conduct workshops on specific issues such as commercial leases, intellectual property, and business formation, and create training materials and guides on specific topics.

We make it a priority to help people from all backgrounds to succeed in business, and therefore strive to offer our services in multiple languages, including Spanish, French, Chinese (Mandarin), and Russian. When our staff and volunteers are not fluent in a small business owner's native language, we hire Telelanguage to make sure we can provide services to the business owner.

Advisory Council

The work of the Project is informed and guided by our Microenterprise Project Advisory Council, which is comprised of experts in law, entrepreneurship, and community economic development. The Council members are:

The VOLS Microenterprise Project is supported in part by a grant from the
New York Bar Foundation.