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    Business Lawyers can provide pro bono service in their practice areas through two programs.

    Mr. George C. Brown

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    Wisconsin LawyerWisconsin Lawyer
    Vol. 79, No. 2, February 2006

    Creating Opportunities

    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 areas.

    by 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 business.

    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 nonprofit organizations.

    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.