22 February 2021

MoFo launches pro bono support programme for black-owned businesses

Black Owned Business sign on the door of a business in Portsmouth, NH

Black Venture Accelerator will provide free legal services and business-related advice

Morrison & Foerster is launching a pro bono initiative to support black founders and black business owners as part of the firm’s commitment to diversity and inclusion and its response to racial injustice.

The Black Venture Accelerator programme aims to improve financial inclusion for black business owners, providing both legal services and wider business support to help participants scale their businesses. That will include mentorship, educational resources and networking opportunities, as well as creative and practical advice on the business challenges they might face.

Dario de Martino, MoFo corporate partner and leader of the programme, said: “Black entrepreneurs have had to confront economic under-inclusion and unfair obstacles to full participation in the economy for too long. We believe access – not just to legal or professional services, but also networks – is a cornerstone of inclusion.”

De Martino will lead a steering committee comprised of MoFo partners, associates and diversity and inclusion specialists. 

He added: “Morrison & Foerster has a longstanding commitment to promoting diversity, equity, and inclusion within the firm and in our communities. The Black Venture Accelerator will build on this commitment as we work together to demonstrate the importance of shaping a culture that respects and celebrates differences.”

A number of firms have also ramped up their diversity and inclusion efforts following a wave of Black Lives Matter protests last summer.

Last month, Reed Smith launched an initiative to encourage its lawyers to carry out diversity and gender-related work by rewarding them with 50 hours of credit towards their billable time targets. That followed the launch of its Racial Equity Action Plan programme last year to promote racial equality across the firm and its local communities. The firm set a target to increase its number of black lawyers by half, improve retention rates and boost the percentage of black lawyers in leadership roles by 2024.

In December, Norton Rose Fulbright appointed Shauna Clark as its new US and global chair, making her the first woman of colour to hold either role.

And back in October, Linklaters set out a race action plan to increase black diversity across the firm, appointing a black diversity council to hold the firm to account for its progress and to train all staff members on anti-racism.

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