Thursday, August 18, 2011

Finding Free Legal Assistance for New and Small Businesses

As I've said before, everybody is so intent on finding "free money" that they turn up their nose at stuff that's free and may be even better than money.  For small and new business owners, that could definitely be free legal advice.  So where do you find it?  As we discussed, there are pro se clinics, where people can get help in filling out legal forms correctly and preventing crucial mistakes.  And there are legal clinics where entrepreneurs can sit down with a law student (under professional supervision) or volunteer lawyers for advice on business formation,forms and other issues (but generally NOT litigation). 

In the Toledo area, ABLE, a nonprofit group, has created the Microenterprise Legal Assistance Project to assist new and small businesses, and offers one half hour free with volunteer attorneys once a month.  For more information, call  (888) 534-1432. 

The University of Akron SEED program is pretty typical, and describes its program thusly:

"Under the supervision of a licensed attorney, second and third year law students provide non-litigation, transactional legal and business advice including business planning, employment, contract/lease, tax and entity formation information. The SEED provides advice and counsel to new or emerging businesses that would otherwise be unable to hire outside counsel and that have been in operation less than five (5) years and with gross annual revenues less than $100,000, with a special emphasis on women and minorities."

In New York, the City Bar Justice Center runs the Neighborhood Entrepreneur Law Project, runs small business legal clinics in partnership with other community institutions like the Brooklyn Public Library, the South Bronx Economic Development Corporation, and the  Queens Economic Development Corporation.  Owners of small business can speak one-on-one with attorneys.  Likewise, WIBO (Workshop in Business Opportunities) in Harlem has a small business legal clinic, too.  In the District of Columbia, the D.C. Bar Association runs its own legal clinic for small businesses six times a year.

Where can you find such clinics near you?  Here's some ways to find them: simply put the words business law clinic and the name of your town--or the nearest big town--in Google.  Or check your nearest law libary, or small business development center to find out if you have one in your town (put your zip code in the box on the right side of the page, and find all the resources in your area.)

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