CULI To Close as Executive Director Retires

The Connecticut Urban Legal Initiative has served more than 500 nonprofit organizations and trained more than 500 law students over 24 years.

Barbara McGrath

Professor Barbara McGrath is retiring after 24 years with the Connecticut Urban Legal Initiative. (Molly Sullivan)

The Connecticut Urban Legal Initiative, which has provided vital legal support to more than 500 nonprofit organizations and trained law students in transactional law for 24 years, will close this summer upon the retirement of Barbara S. McGrath, its executive director since 2011.

The initiative, known as CULI, has been affiliated with the UConn School of Law and has been located on the law school campus since it began. It has assisted nonprofits in Connecticut with incorporation, contracts, legal research and advice, real estate closings and a host of other non-litigation legal matters.

More than 500 UConn Law students have spent a semester or more working with and for CULI, earning course credit and gaining valuable hands-on experience in the practice of law.

“I have been extremely fortunate to be able to work for so many clients who care so deeply about their communities and the people they serve, and to work with so many students who have shown passion for their clients’ missions,” McGrath said. “I can’t imagine a more rewarding career. CULI was also exceptionally fortunate to have a dedicated Board of Directors and the remarkable services of many fellows, work study students, and assistants, including 20 years from Bambi Roberts, who has supported everything we have done.”

CULI was established in 1997, the brainchild of William R. Breetz and the late Dean Hugh Macgill. McGrath, who first served CULI as assistant director and became executive director when Breetz retired from that position, will wrap up the representation of current clients before her retirement.

“The law school community is profoundly grateful to Professors Breetz and McGrath and the Connecticut Urban Legal Initiative for the outstanding service they have provided to the nonprofits of Connecticut and to our students,” Dean Eboni S. Nelson said. The law school plans to establish a transactional clinic to continue serving the nonprofit community in Hartford and throughout the state, she said.

McGrath joined during CULI’s first semester serving students and clients. A graduate of Yale and UConn Law, she had served as a deputy commissioner of the Connecticut Department of Banking and as president of the Community Economic Development Fund, which she co-founded.

Over 24 years, CULI’s attorneys and student interns addressed many complex projects, including efforts to revitalize derelict properties and develop affordable housing. They helped establish several significant nonprofits across the state, assisting in their growth and development over the years. In addition to private nonprofit organizations, clients have included Connecticut municipalities and housing authorities.

UConn Law students who worked with CULI have gone on to serve in the nonprofit community and in government, including in Connecticut’s legislature, Office of the Attorney General and the Department of Consumer Protection, as well as the U.S. Senate.