By Sterling Williams
Throughout my legal career as a corporate attorney specializing in mergers and acquisitions — specifically private equity and independent sponsor deals — I have had the privilege of engaging in pro bono work for nonprofit organizations. Guiding these entities in establishing their non-profit statuses and facilitating their registrations with the appropriate local jurisdictions has been instrumental in enabling them to fulfill their important missions.
The United States provides numerous opportunities to diverse groups of people. However, throughout our country’s history, certain communities have been denied equal access to justice, sometimes even deliberately. This systemic discrimination costs communities in incalculable ways with effects that last for generations. By closing the justice gap, we aim to level the playing field for disenfranchised communities.
In my pro bono endeavors, I had the honor of collaborating with exceptional organizations such as Bright Star Community Outreach, devoted to youth and family anti-violence programs. Additionally, I worked closely with Peace Runners 773, which champions holistic fitness and unity on Chicago’s west side. The Phyllis Lofton-Lee Foundation, a family-led organization dedicated to sponsoring the educational aspirations of underprivileged youth, and the Dollhouse Girls Club, a mentoring program for African-American girls, were other organizations I had the privilege to assist. I supported each of these organizations in obtaining nonprofit status and registering with the Illinois Secretary of State.
Recently, I have embarked on a new venture with Edifye, which channels the energy of sports to empower its communities. Drawing on those experiences, I am also collaborating with Comfort Ahead, an organization led by a female high school student that works to aid homeless people. This is important to me because in Chicago, the homeless population is disproportionally made up of black and Latino citizens.
I have learned a great deal from working alongside these great entrepreneurs. They are all doing amazing work sacrificing their personal time to uplift others. I have seen what sacrifice can do and heard the impact their work has on their communities.
It is vital that we all pitch in to close the justice gap and help the helpers. While the inequities are large, small steps along the way can make big differences. While it may not appear on the surface that an attorney working at a large law firm can have an impact in the communities I grew up in and went to school, through pro bono legal service, we can all give back in small ways. I challenge you to do so.
Sterling Williams is an associate with Katten Muchin Rosenman LLP in Chicago where he works with private equity funds, strategic buyers, institutional investors and business owners. He a member of LSC’s Emerging Leaders Council.