Entrepreneurship May Be Obtainable With Help From Legal Aid

Many people dream of owning a business but are unable to get it off the ground because of several barriers. The Legal Aid Society of Cleveland may be able to help with its Legal Center for Entrepreneurs with Low-Income.

The Center was started in 2019 in the hopes of creating an avenue out of poverty for those with low-income. The Center focuses on addressing the issues that make it difficult to achieve entrepreneurship including:

  • Providing legal check-ups and legal services to income-eligible business owners
  • Partnering with business development incubators to connect entrepreneurs with mentoring and other supports
  • Providing education on common legal issues for entrepreneurs and self-employed people 

“Entrepreneurship and self-employment provide powerful pathways out of poverty. Not just for the business owner, but for their communities too. Small businesses are more likely to use local vendors and contractors and reinvest in their communities,” said Catherine Donnelly, a Senior Attorney in the Community Engagement group at Legal Aid. “A successful small business can therefore have a ripple effect into their communities. Unfortunately, for those with low income, starting a business poses many challenges.”

One of the first cases that The Center handled was one involving a single mother who wanted to expand her business. 

“I worked with the business owner to create standard agreements for both the business’s customers and for independent contractors taking on deliveries and projects,” Catherine recalls. “The business was able to expand during the pandemic and provide work for others in the community, while giving the business owner the flexibility she needed to be with her kids.”

Those who are interested can apply for help 24/7 by going to lasclev.org/apply-for-free-legal-aid/.  If the application is accepted, the applicant will be interviewed by Legal Aid Staff to learn more about the business and to determine if they are ready to receive legal services.

If it is determined that the business may need additional help, Legal Aid has a number of resources including referring entrepreneurs to business development partners. These partners will help mentor the entrepreneur and help them develop a business plan. Legal Aid may also offer discreet legal representation including for those being sued in court.

Legal Aid can also offer brief advice by phone, virtually or in person at our Brief Advice Clinics.  Brief Advice Clinics allows individuals and families an opportunity to sit with attorneys and volunteers to obtain legal advice in a number of areas including entrepreneurship.  These clinics are held in libraries, community centers, and other places in the community.  To find out if a Brief Clinic will be in your neighborhood, go to lasclev.org, click “Events,” then click “Clinics.”

For more information on The Legal Center for Entrepreneurs with Low-Income go to lasclev.org/get-help/community-initiatives/lowincomeentrepreneurs/.

Tonya Sams is Development & Communications Manager at The Legal Aid Society of Cleveland.

Tonya Sams

Tonya Sams, Development & Communications Manager at The Legal Aid Society of Cleveland.

Read More on City
Volume 20, Issue 4, Posted 1:44 PM, 02.21.2024