Hello! My name is Roland Blanding, and I am a rising senior at Brandeis University. On campus, I am the president of the Men of Color Alliance, and the issues facing communities of color are of tremendous importance to me. One of my goals is to find a way to reverse the displacement of gentrification and find innovative ways of building mixed-income residential neighborhoods. I want to break the generational pattern of poverty by giving diverse communities access to home equity. Given that mission, I pursued and began my internship at Wilson, Brock & Irby, LLC in my hometown of Atlanta under Larry Dingle, one of the most prominent black lawyers in Georgia.
Wilson, Brock & Irby, LLC is a small law firm specializing in commercial real estate. They are based in Atlanta, but operate through the entirety of the state of Georgia. Their work ranges from massive infrastructure and commercial development contracts with the city of Atlanta to volunteer representation for small business owners and homeowners that would not usually be able to afford their fees. One of the reasons that the firm initially stuck out to me was their commitment to help service organizations find venues. For example, Mr. Dingle represented the Community Food Bank in their suit to open a new facility a few miles away from my home. Much of the work consists of understanding the intersections of government and businesses. This means conferencing with commercial clients, meeting with city officials, and drafting contracts that allow both parties to benefit. The goal of these conferences is often to rezone property, for example, from residential to commercial to allow the construction of a multifamily unit within the inner city. Conversely, for some especially unique tasks, like building a cell tower in the middle of the town—which would typically violate several building height limits—the firm requests to open a lease with the city, because municipal governments are immune from their own zoning rules. Every case is fresh and brings a new set of challenges.
This summer, my goals are to prepare for the LSAT and familiarize myself with case law, especially in the state of Georgia. Wilson, Brock & Irby, LLC gives me unique access to their library of cases at the district, state, and federal level that revolve around contracts, real estate, zoning, and land use. My day to day consists of video conferencing with the partners at the firm to review case law and the cases they are actively working on. I also manage the delivery of documents to and from the offices of officials in city hall and participate in conference calls with clients. Working at a law firm during coronavirus has been unique compared to last year because a lot of the work that lawyers do is in person, face-to-face. As a result, almost all the operations in the firm are being carried out through video conferences, to maintain the health and safety of the firm as well as their clients.