MGCC Legal Roundtable

Roundtable Discussion: Exploring & Identifying the Unmet Legal Needs of Small Businesses

In Partnership With Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights and Economic Justice and Transitions Law Clinics at Harvard Law School:


On a mission to improve the pathway for success for business owners and disadvantaged communities, MGCC along with Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights and Economic Justice and Transactional Law Clinics of Harvard Law School, held a roundtable discussion to explore concrete solutions that can help small businesses more effectively respond to an increasingly challenging business environment.

During this meeting, over 20 legal service providers and community economic development service providers discussed:

  • The challenges affecting small businesses, specifically the businesses owned by immigrants, women, minorities and veterans in underserved communities throughout the Commonwealth
  • Identifying some of the legal services available to small businesses, including: pro bono support, affordable legal services, technical assistance and educational legal services. The legal firms and organizations present at the meeting were of core focus
  • Opportunities for improving language and cultural capabilities in legal services, including ways to increase language accessibility to immigrant small businesses with legal needs
  • Opportunities for geographically expanding access to legal services beyond Greater Boston, acknowledging the programs and staff limitations to deliver these services in remote and rural markets

The following are some of the challenges and service gaps identified during the meeting:


  • Language barriers
  • Geographic coverage
  • Lack of infrastructure
  • Capacity to serve all year when working with students, as most work during the academic year
  • Lack of awareness surrounding existing pro bono and affordable legal services
  • Service is in high demand
  • Lack of literacy
  • Access to capital
  • Limited pro bono services
  • Cultural biases

Service Gaps:

  • Litigation representation
  • Court representation, arbitration, administrative and legislative hearings
  • Patent work
  • Access to technical assistance for their business cases
  • Tax guidance depending on the entity/accounting advice
  • Intellectual property
  • Financial literacy

The roundtable focused further on the following two challenges that were believed to be the most critical to small business success.

Language Barriers:

Multilingual support is crucial when serving culturally diverse business communities. Currently, some of the legal firms that were present at the roundtable possess a degree of capacity to provide multilingual client support, most often English and Spanish, and some use interpreters to communicate with immigrant business owners. Only a few organizations use equipment and hire interpreters that offer simultaneous language translation during clinics or workshops. The following solutions were suggested to address this challenge:

  • Share translator(s) with technology skills
  • Affinity bars and co-counsel
  • Find lawyers and law firms that can speak multiple languages and provide technical skills
  • Hire paralegals that can provide multilingual client service translation
  • Share a list of interpreters
  • Share references
  • Pay other legal counselors
  • Rely on technological advances such as video conference translation services
  • Use Post Office foreign language translation service
  • Create a multilingual client support line
  • Consular connections

Geographic Scope:

Legal services are prevalent in Greater Boston but show a dramatic decrease in the other regions throughout Massachusetts. This is a situation in which pro bono legal services could help out if the network is able to grow and implement law school clinics in those areas.  Other solutions include:

  • Increase promotional efforts for legal education programs to attract Western MA business owners
  • Use technology, such as video conferencing, to reach remote and rural communities when travel abilities are restricted
  • An engagement per year per organization

What’s Next?

MGCC continues to be a statewide convener for small business policies and issues and is taking the next steps to implement actions to address the unmet legal needs of small businesses. Stay tuned for further developments. To learn more about this initiative, please contact Alison Moronta at 617-337-2820 or