Brian Jackson, chairman of McNees Wallace and Nurick, talks about LEAP grants for black-owned businesses

Brian Jackson, chairman of McNees Wallace and Nurick, talks about LEAP grants for black-owned businesses

McNees now has strategic affiliates such as HR Influenced, launched last year. What advantages have you seen from these offerings? 

Brett (Marcy) from Apollo Communications and Kristen Evans from HR Influenced in particular have their own network and clientele, so though they did not have established businesses, they had opportunities to refer our law side professionals to assist their contacts and in some instances their new clients. I’d say we’ve also done that the other way in a great way and I think that’s why Brett and Kristen had a desire to be part of our platform. We have the ability with our trusted advisor roles to say, hey look, you really need somebody from a PR perspective or you need someone to give you an audit from an HR perspective, and we have the ability because of our relationships with our clients to get them to consider that. Then, most importantly, we are able to effectively say, with all of our ancillary businesses you’re going to get the same degree of professionalism, responsiveness and service you get from the law side. That has allowed us to diversify our client relationships, strengthen them and have some new ones as well.  

The Legal Equity Advancement Program (LEAP) offers grants for a year’s worth of free legal services to chosen Black-owned businesses. What are some success stories you have seen from the program? 

We had a number of our clients in our first couple of classes who have really taken an idea or the beginnings of a business and, with our providing them access to top-tier professional services, have been able to grow. Maybe it’s the corporate infrastructure to be able to feel comfortable about adding people to their organization and making sure that they were a compliant business. And (for) some of those businesses, after one year where we provided them with free legal services we thought, it’s kind of unfortunate or not really effective, as they are still growing in the second year, to say okay now we’re here, do you want to use us? So what we have done, if our LEAP clients are willing, is we offer them a second year of basic legal services and our professional services at 50 percent of the cost for our clients, in order to keep them on that trajectory upward. And then some of those clients have stayed with us even after that, because we have been able to help them grow and provide them with the counseling they need and even give them access to other professionals to help them navigate through the community, and be able to see if they needed assistance with financing or accounting or something like that, to be able to put them in touch with some of our partners who could help them as well. We had a nice celebration last fall with our LEAP alumni and it was really good to see them and talk to them about their growth over the years they have been there. Being part of the growth and the success stories, that is fantastic. 

Tell us a little about your involvement in Team Pennsylvania and what you hope it will accomplish. 

With Team Pennsylvania, I’m the co-chair, and I have a much more prominent co-chair — the sitting governor of Pennsylvania — so I’ve been fortunate enough to serve initially with Governor Wolf and now with Governor Shapiro. When we talk about what it is that we do best as an organization, we start with the idea that we’re all about trying to assist and further/accelerate any sort of economic growth within the Commonwealth, but the word that comes out we use more than any other, besides “nonpartisan,” is “convener.” We are able to bring together the public sector, the private sector, labor and higher education, to bring all of those resources, all of those great intellects, all of those great ideas to a particular issue.  

We focus on what are the economic or natural resource advantages Pennsylvania has and how can we make sure we seize upon those advantages for the betterment of Pennsylvania’s economy. A couple that are very prominent for us right now are energy, of course — Pennsylvania is one of the largest exporters of energy —  agriculture and manufacturing, and bringing all those people together to think about, how can we be better? How can we assist? How can we bring even more business to the Commonwealth? The most important thing is we’re able to put people in a room and lead discussions and get all those folks to contribute and come up with action items and basically have our own portfolio of work, but with the assistance of all those folks.  

As a youth basketball coach, what keeps you going when you have to go from the workday to practice or gameday? 

It’s a labor of love, it really is. I coach kids from as young as probably 7 or 8, and this year I have a group of 16-year-olds — some of whom I’ve coached since they were 7 and 8. It’s great to see them grow as people and as young adults. I love getting a chance to watch them play high school basketball.  It’s really that development; coaching basketball is not any different than leading adults. Kids are pretty smart, and being able to accentuate the positive, get them ready for whatever challenges that they face, is a lot of fun.  

Freelancer Jennifer Botchie-Deinlein 

About Brian Jackson 

Brian Jackson, 54, joined McNees Wallace and Nurick in 1994 as an associate in its labor and employment practice group. He went on to serve as a practice group leader and vice chair of the management committee before being elected chair of the firm in 2018. He continues to represent employer clients and is also active in the community, including serving as co-chair for Team Pennsylvania, a public-private partnership that supports programs to improve Pennsylvania’s competitiveness and economic prosperity.  

Jackson earned a bachelor’s degree, with honors, from the University of Notre Dame and his juris doctorate from Dickinson School of Law, also with honors. 

He and his wife, Amy, and their youngest daughter reside in Upper Allen Township.