Free Legal Advice For Small Tech Businesses... Yes, Free

The D.C. Bar's Community Outreach Program offers pro bono counseling to small or minority-owned companies in the metro area

"The easiest way to clean out a room full of lawyers is to say pro bono," said Eric Nielsen, co-chair of the Computer Law Section of the D.C. Bar. However, 35 lawyers in the bar's 500-member section have volunteered to provide free legal assistance to small or minority-owned computer-related businesses in the greater metropolitan Washington, D.C. area.

Volunteer lawyers -- who usually charge up to $100 an hour -- provide up to two hours of free counseling on such topics as contracts, trademark and copyright usage, licensing agreements and intellectual property rights. They advise clients of opportunities as well as potential problem areas to increase the company's ability to compete in the rapidly expanding high-tech industry.

Typical clients include companies that have developed software and want to know how to go about marketing it. Their advice is also sought by companies that have developed a high-tech product and want to link up with a larger high-tech firm, said Nielsen.

Since the program began two years ago, it has assisted 65 small businesses and entrepreneurs. "We don't turn anyone away," said Nielsen.

The section publicizes the program through a brochure distributed to computer organizations and the Small Business Administration.

The public service project is an "idea in search of a way," said Neilsen, who is seeking feedback from the local high-tech community to improve its services.

For more information contact the D.C. Bar at (202) 626-3463.

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