E. Smythe Gambrell, one of SGR's name partners, founded the Atlanta Legal Aid Society in 1924 and served as its president for almost two decades. SGR has continued this deep sense of commitment to the communities it serves. The ongoing tradition of providing pro bono services has never been more important than now, in the face of the current global pandemic. SGR's New York office in particular, located in the epicenter of this crisis, has responded to the need for legal services during this uncertain period.

In one initiative, coordinated by SGR's Roger Maldonado, the former president of the New York City Bar Association, and Danielle Comanducci, and overseen by Anne Pitter and Russell Wolfson, the firm participated in the City Bar Justice Center's COVID-19 Small Business Remote Legal Clinic (the "CV-19 Clinic") to offer pro bono consultations to small business owners affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. Our attorneys, who have included Victor Metsch and Hen Feder, have assisted CV-19 Clinic pro bono clients with a wide range of legal questions. Issues have included counseling local business owners on commercial leases, sick paid leave for employees, maximizing benefits under the Paycheck Protection Program enacted in March 2020, loan forgiveness, and compliance with reopening guidelines. The pro bono clients SGR was able to assist through this clinic are truly small businesses with limited resources – restaurants, coffee shops, jewelry designers and photography studios.

The firm is also participating in a second initiative through Volunteer Lawyers for the Arts in New York (VLANY), a longstanding nonprofit assisting artists with a host of legal issues. Recently, all of the matters the firm has handled have related in some way to COVID-19. SGR attorneys currently working on longer pro bono projects include Roger Maldonado, Russell Wolfson, Victor Metsch, Sasha Bau, Morgan Manley, Jonathan Roffe, Daniel Goldstein and Alexandra Davidson. The most recent projects include:

  • assisting a nonprofit artists' group in Brooklyn in negotiating a deal with the owner of the artists' studio spaces to delay a termination of their license to use those studios;
  • assisting a multidisciplinary artist in regard to her shared studio space that the owner shut due to COVID-19 but continued to charge monthly dues;
  • providing advice on whether an artist could be required to finish a commissioned work for a public space in light of COVID-19; and
  • advising a photographer on his rights with respect to a company's delay, allegedly as a result of COVID-19, in paying for images it bought and was using in advertising.