Vol. 79, No. 2, February
At a time when entrepreneurship is
high, the State Bar Business Law Section's Business Assistance and
Nonprofit Business Assistance programs give business lawyers an
opportunity to provide pro bono service in their practice
George C. Brown,
State Bar executive director
Several years ago, I was walking with the State Bar Business Law
Section chair on our way to a meeting of the section board of directors.
The chair had a thriving business law practice as a partner in a large
law firm, working with major corporations throughout the state and the
region. As we walked, he was waxing enthusiastic about the section's
Business Assistance Program.
A few days earlier, he had met again with his pro bono clients. He
first had met the two women a couple of years before when they had been
referred to him through the Business Assistance Program. At that time
they were on public assistance, and they wanted to get off it. They felt
their best opportunity was to start their own business, but they didn't
know how to begin. The attorney met with them, got them properly
organized and registered with the Secretary of State, helped them with
business planning and financing, and watched them expand their business.
Now, they wanted to divide the business in two and each build her own
He told me he had given them far more than the two hours of pro bono
time committed to by program participants and he had enjoyed every
minute of it. "They could never afford my rates," he said.
"And, on the other hand, without this program I would never get a
chance to work with them in creating their business."
The Business Assistance Program is entering its 15th year. Lawyers
who enroll in the program offer two hours of pro bono time to new
business owners to help get them properly organized. State Bar staff
match clients with pro bono attorneys. Since the program began, nearly
5,000 business owners have received pro bono legal assistance.
The program's early success prompted the Business Law Section to
create a Nonprofit Business Assistance Program in 1998. Modeled after
its older sibling, in its eight-year existence this program has provided
free legal and business advice to more than 200 people wanting to start
At a time when entrepreneurship is high, with recent reports
indicating that as many as 50 percent of Wisconsinites want to start
their own business, these State Bar programs are excellent opportunities
for business lawyers to provide pro bono service in their practice area
to those in need.
To become a member of either pro bono panel, contact State Bar staff
liaison Salud Garcia at (800) 444-9494, ext. 6190, or org sgarcia wisbar wisbar sgarcia org.