Signed with Hope: Meet Clara Mak, Esq, Troutman Sanders LLP

October 25, 2018

Clara Mak- Troutman Sanders LLP

Clara Mak, Counsel at Troutman Sanders LLP, works in the Real Estate practice, but while working with Volunteers of Legal Service, she assisted one client on his journey to bringing his New York City pop-up business to its first brick-and-mortar storefront. Clara represented Paul and Sarah Ashey, the entrepreneurial couple behind Kings Kolache Inc. The Asheys started making kolaches, a Czech-Tex pastry, in Texas but wanted to expand their business to New York City. The Asheys were referred to VOLS by Bed-Stuy Restoration Corporation (BSRC) after participating in BSRC’s Foodworks Mentor Program. Through this community involvement, a chain of events began, leading to the Asheys ultimately being connected with Clara. VOLS Microenterprise Project senior staff attorney Arthur Kats says, “It’s hopeful to other small business owners that community involvement like the Asheys’ can bridge the gap in under-served and under-resourced communities.”

Clara is experienced in negotiating leases, an element of her law firm practice. However, Clara notes that her ability to grow as a lawyer is never-ending: “I think that working with a client who is trying to open their first brick and mortar location, and their not being well-versed in the legalities of such an endeavor, while not necessarily influencing my everyday work, allowed me to further enhance my experience and skills in interacting and dealing with such clients.” Arthur Kats praises Clara’s ability to explain every aspect of the lease so that her client knew exactly what he would be signing. Paul is immensely grateful, as well: “We had a lot of questions and she was extremely patient with us and would describe everything in really nice layman ways. It was just really amazing to have someone on the other line that was not only helping us out but teaching us as we went along.” Paul recognizes that Clara and the Troutman Sanders associates were always willing to answer any question he had, followed by an answer he could easily understand.

The success of this pro bono project has provided the Microenterprise Project with a goal of expanding their work with transactional volunteers who can do meaningful work with the skills they already have. VOLS is proud of its pro bono partnership with Troutman Sanders, a firm with a strong New York City real estate practice that is also committed to pro bono. The Microenterprise Project is encouraged by Clara’s work and looks forward to developing a stronger relationship with Troutman Sanders in the future.

Although opening a business can be anxiety inducing, connecting with community and pro bono partners can create a hopeful undercurrent in future opportunities. Paul notes, “For peace of mind, it got us to a point where when we signed [the lease], we were feeling really good about what we had just signed, which is a huge thing when you’re entering into something as massive as opening a restaurant. As far as all the unknown factors, it was really nice to not have that anxiety.” While the Asheys were able to sign with confidence, Clara is able to see a tangible outcome from her pro bono work. She says, “It is great to see a small business get up and running (and that I helped in some way), and that it is possible for such small businesses to serve the community and be appreciated in the community.” When signing a lease that determines the future, the Asheys hold more than a pen. With Clara’s help, they left behind a signature and carried with them confidence and hopefulness into the future. Thank you, Clara, for your diligence, your empowerment, and your pro bono work!