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Pro Bono Services for the New Business Owner

Marissa C Meredith

Pro Bono Services for the New Business Owner
Georgijevic via iStock

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The popularity of startups has risen in the past decade. We often hear stories of new businesses failing in their early years due to financial reasons. Owners are usually worried about business success, specifically, how to make a profit fast. Due to this laser focus on profitability, new business owners don’t often seek legal advice until they need it. The goal for startups should always be to avoid costly litigation by getting legal guidance in their early stages. This is where we come in. Attorneys. Those who are seasoned and those who are brand new to the field. In the words of Steve Jobs, “Great things in business are never done by one person. They’re done by a team of people.”

If you want to provide pro bono services to a new business owner, you may not know where to begin. If you are a new attorney wishing to get your feet wet or a more seasoned attorney wanting to learn a new practice area, below are several ways to get involved.

Local/Regional Bar Associations

First, consult your regional and local bar associations. Many bar associations offer pro bono services geared specifically toward startups. The services offered tend to serve either low-income communities or those who do not have the financial means to seek legal advice. For instance, the North Carolina Bar Foundation Lawyers for Entrepreneurs Assistance Program provides pro bono services to small business owners throughout North Carolina. Attorney volunteers provide services such as establishing business structures with the Secretary of State and drafting contracts to protect startups’ intellectual property. This is a golden opportunity to gain a wealth of knowledge and hone skills in this specific area of law. Most bar associations provide their attorney volunteers with resources, training, and CLEs to help them more efficiently represent the startups that seek assistance through their programs.

Coworking Spaces

If you are a more experienced attorney, consider connecting with area coworking spaces. A coworking space is a shared space that startups use to work independently or collaboratively on different projects. In the United States, there are more than 5,000 coworking spaces. These facilities have become very popular with startups because they provide cheaper office spaces, networking opportunities, and educational workshops. Managers of coworking spaces seek out legal professionals to sit on panels and give their clients workshops regarding the importance of avoiding legal pitfalls like inadequate contracts, intellectual property matters, and failure to update their registered agents.

Coworking spaces appeal to various types of businesses and thus draw a broad array of workers. Therefore, an attorney providing pro bono activities in a coworking space has a unique opportunity to work with different types of service providers from those with whom they’ve previously worked.

Nonprofit Organizations

Attorneys can get involved with organizations that aid in the early development of startups. One of these organizations is the Service Corps of Retired Executives (SCORE). SCORE allows attorneys and business executives to provide free and confidential mentorship to new and established business owners. This mentorship can range from discussing the different available business structures to discussing the importance of insurance coverage.

This is an excellent opportunity for attorneys seeking to assist startups in a nontraditional way. In this role, the attorney can better understand the business’s pros and cons in its development stage, allowing them to give more tailored legal suggestions to the client.

The activities listed above are only a snapshot of the various pro bono activities available for attorneys to get involved with startups. There are activities for attorneys, no matter your skill set. By providing pro bono services to new businesses, attorneys cannot only do what they do best—give legal advice—but also offer a service to a community that needs it.