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Former state rep Dan Winslow launches effort to create free legal clinics for diverse entrepreneurs

MassHousing hopes for help from Beacon Hill; Ad firm gets bigger; Taking in the wind farms of Denmark

Dan Winslow leads the New England Legal Foundation.Chris Morris

Dan Winslow knows good legal advice can be one of the toughest things for an aspiring entrepreneur to find. It’s also one of the most important things.

So Winslow is leading the charge, as president of the New England Legal Foundation, to do something about it. He is starting to raise money and support for something he calls an “Equalizer Institute” — essentially a free legal clinic he wants to open in each of the six New England states to work with underrepresented entrepreneurs who can’t afford their own legal counsel.

“Education and free enterprise are the great equalizers of our society,” said Winslow, who joined the legal foundation last fall from a tech-sector job. “But the barriers are formidable, particularly for new Americans where there are not just language issues but cultural issues.”


The institute would be a subsidiary of the Boston-based legal foundation. And it would represent a significant expansion. The foundation has an annual budget of about $1 million, and primarily focuses on filing amicus briefs in favor of free-market causes. But Winslow wants to raise $6 million, or $1 million per state, for two fiscal years. The money would be used to hire a staff for each state, ideally four lawyers and a paralegal as well as an internship program with a local law school.

Winslow would like to bring on lawyers with different expertise: corporate law, real estate, employment, intellectual property. Each of these centers would also provide a conduit for law firms that want to offer pro bono support to entrepreneurs of color or other small-business owners from disadvantaged communities.

Winslow has had a few high-profile jobs in the public sector. He was a district court judge, a top legal counsel for then-governor Mitt Romney, and, eventually, a state representative from Norfolk. In that role, the Republican was elected twice, in 2010 and again in 2012, before leaving in 2013 to work for Rimini Street, a Las Vegas tech firm where he eventually was promoted to chief legal officer.


For the Equalizer Institute, Winslow hopes to tap into the billions in corporate and foundation pledges for racial and economic justice that have emerged in the past two years.

“We know there’s a sustainable market for this kind of effort,” Winslow said. “It’s unbelievable, the interest now in free enterprise. People get it.”

He’s not sold on the name — at least not if someone with the right-sized donation comes along with a better idea. He added: “I’m happy to call it the, ‘Whomever writes me a check for six million dollars’ Institute.”

Growing the pie and spreading it too

MassHousing executive director Chrystal Kornegay knows two of the big dilemmas facing her industry involve building more affordable housing and diversifying the ranks of the people who build it.

Soon, Kornegay might have a new tool to tackle both problems. On Monday, the leadership of the House of Representatives released a spending bill that includes $75 million to launch an “equitable developers’ financing program.” Essentially, this program would offer low-cost loans or investments to qualified developers looking to build or redevelop residential or commercial projects in urban areas, and other communities hard hit by the COVID-19 pandemic.

This represents a boost from the $50 million request that Governor Charlie Baker had originally sought to kick-start this program, which would be crafted by the quasi-public agency that Kornegay leads (full legal name: Massachusetts Housing Finance Agency). The money could go to predevelopment costs, such as permitting or engineering, or to low-interest loans or other project subsidies.


“If we want to have more developers of color helping us address some issues around affordable housing, than we’ve got to grow that capacity,” Kornegay said. “This is an investment in that . . . The barrier to entry is high. This would be a way to penetrate those barriers so we could get some more actors into that ecosystem.”

Bulking up at Colossus

The partners at ad agency Colossus like to say you don’t need to be big in size to be a colossus. But the 25-person South Boston firm keeps getting bigger regardless.

The latest addition to the management team: Allison Waters Doherty. She used to work with Colossus cofounders Travis Robertson and Greg Almeida when all three were at Arnold Worldwide. Robertson and Almeida left Arnold about seven years ago to work at MMB, where they eventually met up with future Colossus cofounder Jonathan Balck. Meanwhile, Doherty went to work with Adam Larson, another former Arnold compatriot, at Adam&Co., about five years ago, and then on her own as A&Co.

Doherty is now heading up the design group at Colossus. She also brings the agency into the potentially lucrative world of commercial real estate, a specialty of hers, after a busy year in which Colossus has provided ad and marketing support to clients ranging from wine maker Archer Roose to health IT firm athenahealth to restaurant payment company Toast.


“We can go head to head with any design firm, certainly in Boston, certainly in New England,” Balck said. “We’re a force now.”

To Denmark, just delayed a bit

The COVID-19 pandemic sure did make a mess of travel plans. Just ask Jen Benson, the president of the Alliance for Business Leadership.

The business group had a trip planned to Denmark for an up-close view of that European country’s well-established offshore wind industry when Benson, a former state representative, joined ABL in January 2020. Then COVID hit, and the trip was delayed.

That gave Benson a chance to rethink the trip, and to broaden it a bit. Her goal was to bring business leaders from a variety of sectors and corners of the state to educate them about the offshore wind industry, which is still getting started in the United States, and to hear their questions and concerns.

After a few false starts, the roughly 30-person contingent finally visited Denmark last month. The trip was largely funded by two grants, totaling more than $260,000, from the Barr Foundation. (Representative Jeff Roy, who cochairs the Legislature’s energy committee, paid his own way.) The delegation included a group of UMass Boston academics, led by Bob Chen, interim dean of the School for the Environment. And there were close to 20 businesspeople, ranging from Jeff Bussgang of Flybridge Capital Partners, to Joanne Chang of Flour Bakery, to CBT Architects president David Nagahiro, and Cape Air founder Dan Wolf.


One common theme: a desire among the contingent to ensure this new industry is much more diverse than other state-supported sectors that have grown substantially in the past decade, such as life sciences and cannabis.

Another takeaway: The offshore wind industry can be big provider of electricity and of jobs in Massachusetts, too.

“It gave me hope,” Benson said. “The beauty of it is not only that it works, but it’s good for the economy. We’re on this precipice of this really great renaissance . . . like we saw with the life sciences if we really grab hold and go big.”

Jon Chesto can be reached at jon.chesto@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @jonchesto.