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Germain DeMartinis is new to the practice of law, but he is not without experience. An entrepreneur, inventor, and former intern at Philadelphia VIP, he draws on his wideranging background to help Philadelphia’s nonprofits realize their goals. Since graduating from the Temple University Beasley School of Law two years ago, he has dedicated himself to VIP’s mission, and become what Community Economic Development Coordinator Alison Merrick calls “a dream volunteer.”
It’s no surprise Germain is drawn to LawWorks, VIP’s community economic development arm. Early in his career, he and his brother jointly operated their family business, a wholesale bread bakery in Sun Valley, California. There, he gained business knowledge that informs his work as an associate in Cozen O’Connor’s Corporate Practice Group, which he joined in 2017. He also grew familiar with the highs and lows of entrepreneurship. This personal connection motivates him in his work with VIP’s clients.
“I enjoy the energy people bring to the table when starting a nonprofit. It’s exciting to be a part of that.”
Germain saw this energy at work with his most recent client, a nonprofit that offers free computer coding classes to young Philadelphians. The budding organization came to VIP for help incorporating and obtaining tax-exempt status. Germain and the client worked through these issues and, in the process, discovered areas of extra liability that needed to be addressed.
Such hidden risks are everywhere in small enterprises. “In hindsight, we made so many mistakes,” Germain says of his family’s business. “There are so many ways to trip up and set yourself back a year.” In his view, the intricacies of corporate law should not hinder Philadelphia’s small businesses and nonprofits, but too often they do.
“Understanding the law is crucial to this process, but unless you can afford to hire an attorney, you’re locked out. It’s a different language,” Germain says. As a result, pro bono work has always seemed natural to him. Having grown up with few resources, he understands the impact a volunteer can have. “I see my family and myself in my clients.”
Thanks to Germain, VIP’s clients feel this impact as well. At the conclusion of the case, the coding nonprofit he assisted walked away feeling more secure in its ability to carry out its mission. It now hosts regular workshops and has developed a robust mentoring program. And since Germain never closes a case without requesting another, Philadelphia’s nonprofits will keep benefiting from his expertise in the years to come.