April 15, 2012
When clients visit Yogi Patel (’06), they’re treated to a view of the Flatiron Building from the conference room. His office, which was complete with furniture and office equipment when he began using it, provides a nice reminder of what he calls the Incubator for Justice’s “tangible benefits.”
“When you’re starting off, you need all the help you can get, and having a nice location makes a big difference,” said Patel, who finds that clients from the Bronx, Brooklyn, and Queens can easily take the subway to the Fifth Avenue address.
Decent office space and low overhead were two practical concerns that Patel had with going solo. Then there was the isolation. No mentors to talk to in a solo practice, no partners for feedback on issues, and no one to check your work—all the things you would have in a law firm, the “intangible benefits,” as Patel calls them.
When he turned to Fred Rooney, initially to join the Community Legal Resource Network‘s (CLRN’s) e-mail subscription list, he learned about the incubator. Besides providing office space, it has given Patel a chance to work alongside CUNY Law alumni with wideranging legal concentrations, making it easy to consult with colleagues on matters as varied as landlord/tenant issues, family law, health care, education, elder law, criminal law, labor and employment, litigation, and entertainment law.
“The ties run deep. There’s comradeship with other people in the incubator going through the same thing you are, and you get the support of other attorneys in CLRN. The support system is incredible,” Patel said.
Joining the incubator allowed him to start Patel Law Firm in February 2011, serving mostly low- to moderate-income clients. (He has talked with two others in the program about starting a small practice together when their time with the incubator is over.) About 60 percent of his clients are small businesses, and individuals make up the rest.
For small businesses, Patel provides litigation and transactional services, leveraging experience he gained from jobs at a small law firm and at a construction company’s inhouse legal department.
Among his clients: a sheet metal fabrication company in Jamaica, Queens, that is acquiring another in upstate New York. Patel is helping with labor and employment matters and bank financing agreements.
As for individuals, Patel has taken on a number of clients, thanks to the incubator. He takes part in community counseling sessions in Queens, often providing pro bono legal advice on immigration to low-income constituents in several City Council member districts.
“It’s the reason I went to law school, but when I graduated I could not find employment in the immigration field,” said Patel, who once faced immigration issues himself.
“Being on my own, I finally got the opportunity to get back into that kind of work.”
– Paul Lin