- Recently launched practice founded by Dallas partner Carlos White
- Team helps minority-owned business clients as they grow
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(Reuters) - Husch Blackwell's recently formed practice group devoted to advising minority-owned businesses in growth mode stands out as unusual in a crowded field of law firm diversity and social justice efforts.
The 10-person economic development impact team was founded by Carlos White, a Dallas-based partner who joined the firm in November 2020. He is also part of the firm's franchise and distribution practice.
White spoke to Reuters about how he believes the 800-attorney firm's new practice can help change the economic trajectory of minority communities.
The conversation has been edited for clarity and length.
REUTERS: Are there any other law firm practices out there focused on serving minority business owners?
WHITE: Of course, there are smaller minority law firms and things of that nature, but at this scale, I don't think so. From an AmLaw 100 or AmLaw 200, I don't see that and I think, honestly and unfortunately, a lot of that is due to lack of diversity. You're not having partners or attorneys that recognize these particular opportunities.
We've recognized at Husch Blackwell that there's a vital next step to the goal of reducing the racial wealth gap for society at large. In addition to it being the right thing to do, it just makes business sense given the growing number of minority enterprises which are essential for the U.S. to continue to grow, as well as the ever-increasing buying power of minorities.
REUTERS: It seems that the education of clients is a big part of this practice group as opposed to just advising them.
WHITE: That's perfect – precisely. We have a survey that we've created and we have clients fill out, and we can tell them about tax credits that they might be eligible for, tax breaks, how to structure their business and what some of the issues are.
And to your point, it’s reducing that information deficit. There are a lot of great consultants out there, other professional advisors, but at the end of the day the best advisor that a small business can have initially is a lawyer. That's because not only do you get attorney-client privilege, but you get to put together deals, and that experience is priceless with respect to educating clients, and moving forward on the types of objectives they set forth.
REUTERS: What are rates like for clients working with this team?
WHITE: We meet the clients where they are. We do have a certain threshold of pro bono hours, discounted fee structures as well as fixed-fee rates.
I've recognized, in my experience, that there are too many “do it yourself” people and a lot of that is because they just don't think that legal services are attainable.
You can use our practice group's discounted general counsel offering to get five hours’ worth of services for around $1,500. With the sophistication of our law firm and our networks, you just can't beat that type of pricing with respect to just generally hammering out tactics to help a business achieve its objectives. So, it depends on the revenues and resources a company has. It's a different pricing scale, but we have something for everyone.
REUTERS: What are the specific tools that you give to your clients?
WHITE: I represent a large African-American franchisor called Williams Chicken – it's one of the largest Black-owned franchisors. One of the things that they were looking at was how to create more economic opportunities for managers.
I worked with the company, which was not really familiar with utilizing private offerings, micro-type offerings, in order to get capital for their managers to be able to purchase franchises and scale their businesses.
REUTERS: Is Husch Blackwell looking to expand the team?
WHITE: Yes, the EDI is in growth mode. Currently, we are working internally to provide opportunities for existing attorneys to build their relationships and originations. We are always looking for enterprising attorneys that are interested in being a part of this group as we move forward and build out the infrastructure.
Chinekwu Osakwe covers legal industry news with a focus on midsize law firms. Reach her at Chinekwu.email@example.com.