The protests engulfing the country over the last month have not only raised overdue awareness of the criminal justice system, but that they are just a symptom of the legacy of government policies and institutional practices that have advanced and perpetuated racial inequality. As a Baltimore-based law firm, we have reflected on ways that we can contribute to rooting out ingrained racial injustice in our local community. As a Baltimore-based business law firm, we think one way we are uniquely suited to assist is by addressing some of the drivers of economic disparity in the City’s Black community by expanding access to legal representation for new Black-owned businesses.
Starting a business is a financial risk. The risk is greater for those lacking financial safety nets to fall back upon. As 2017 report on the Racial Wealth Divide in Baltimore identified the poverty rate among “Black or African-American” Baltimoreans is 24.2%, while for “White” Baltimoreans, the rate is just 8.4%. Providing complimentary legal services to support Black entrepreneurs and their businesses can help ease the burden of the inordinate risk they face. Accordingly, we at Rosenberg Martin Greenberg are proud to announce a new initiative: Building Black-Owned Businesses in Baltimore. On July 1st, we opened submissions for Black-owned businesses in the Baltimore Metro Area to apply for complimentary legal services, which may include corporate advisory work, real estate needs, land use and zoning matters, or other assistance within our existing suite of services. Five businesses will be selected based on each applicant’s needs and the suite of services needed. Application deadline is Friday, July 31st at 11:59 pm ET.
Q1: What is the Building Black-Owned Business in Baltimore initiative?
Q2: Your firm’s statement announcing the initiative indicated that it was created in the wake of the protests engulfing the country in an attempt to address some of the drivers of economic disparity in the City’s black community. What do you see as those drivers?
Q3: And your firm’s message shared on Juneteenth touched on Baltimore’s “dubious distinction of passing the nation’s first racially restrictive zoning ordinance” and the legacy of how racial segregation and redlining persist today. So, does this relate to how this initiative was conceived? How do you see the initiative working in this space?
Q4: Do you have specific practice areas that you hope will provide service to applicants?
Q5: How has this initiative been received within the firm?
Q6: How has the response been thus far from applicants?
Q7: How will the evaluation process work?
Q8: Have you received feedback from clients, or from the community more broadly?
Q9: Where can people interested go to receive more information on RMG’s Building Black-Owned Business in Baltimore initiative?
Justin A. Williams is a partner at Rosenberg Martin Greenberg, representing developers, and commercial and industrial property owners in land use, zoning, entitlements, building construction regulation, and liquor licensing matters. He has handled hundreds of matters involving commercial, industrial and residential projects including multi-family, office, hotels, condo-hotels, retail, mixed-use and luxury residences throughout the Baltimore metropolitan region. His practice includes representation before government and regulatory organizations, and advising clients on all aspects of entitlement and permit processes, including use restrictions, off-street parking requirements, stormwater management, historic preservation, traffic mitigation, green building requirements, and inclusionary housing obligations, among others. Justin formerly served in the Administration of Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake and was appointed by the Governor in 2016 to serve on the Maryland Board for Professional Engineers. Justin’s experience allows him to provide unique professional insight in zoning and building code matters and gives him credibility with local governments.
Justin earned his law degree in 2010 from the Georgetown University Law Center, where he served as Staff Editor on the Georgetown Journal of Law and Public Policy. He graduated from Bryant University in 2005, where he received Master of Business Administration and Bachelor of Science degrees. At Bryant, Justin was a member of the varsity football team and was named to the Northeast-10 Conference Commissioner’s Honor Roll each season of his career.
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