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Awesome Bugs and Other Adventures in Small Business

Volunteer attorneys provide much-needed transactional legal services

Image licensed by Ingram PublishingImage licensed by Ingram Publishing

Although they are experts on spiders, aphids, and a host of other multilegged creatures, Jessica Honaker and Kristie Reddick of the Bug Chicks knew they were largely ignorant of the legal issues their small company faced.

The two entomologists have built an educational business that aims to change the way people think about insects and arachnids, turning fear into fascination through its workshops for kids and adults. The enterprise also recently produced an interactive web series, Sofa Safari, for which the scientists traveled across the country filming arthropods both bizarre and familiar. Viewers are encouraged to “get off the couch”—Honaker and Reddick are shown parked on a vintage sofa plopped down in the middle of various ecosystems—and explore America’s backyard wilderness.

“We just had the greatest hour with a lawyer that anyone can ever have.” The Bug Chicks

To help the business address its legal needs, the SBLC Pro Bono Project matched the Bug Chicks with Ryan Vanden Brink JD ’08, LL.M. ’09. A business attorney with Intelekia Law Group, Vanden Brink has volunteered as an SBLC pro bono attorney since 2012. He has helped a range of clients with contracts, the formation of limited liability corporations, nondisclosure agreements, and licensing agreements. Although his own practice focuses on complex real estate litigation, Vanden Brink particularly enjoys helping SBLC clients with issues that he doesn’t typically see in his job. “The Pro Bono Project helps me refresh my familiarity with areas of the law that I don’t usually practice. It is a fairly simple way to get back into an area of law,” he said.

Jessica Honaker and Kristie ReddickJessica Honaker and Kristie Reddick

Honaker and Reddick are very complimentary of Vanden Brink. They had not worked with an attorney before and were nervous when they arrived at the SBLC offices. But, said Reddick, “We just had the greatest hour with a lawyer that anyone can ever have.” “We were informed about what we were doing right and what we were not doing at all,” added Honaker. “And we learned that when you are the one who doesn’t limit liability, you are the one left holding the bag.”

Vanden Brink is drafting contracts the Bug Chicks will use to license its videos to school districts. The Bug Chicks’ owners feel that the agreements will put them on a more equal footing with the complex, sophisticated entities­ they hope to win over. “The contracts will provide a professional face for our products,” said Honaker.

All of the SBLC staff were very helpful, professional, courteous, and prompt. They were able to navigate me through the available options and found an ideal timeline and budget.Katie Tweed, owner of Tweed Academic Editing

Another SBLC client is Katie Tweed, owner of Tweed Academic Editing. She was paired with volunteer David Koempel ’01, an attorney with Holland & Knight.

Tweed Academic Editing helps students and scholars better communicate their ideas to academic and lay audiences alike. As her business grew, Tweed began facing legal questions regarding the optimal structure for her business. “I had done research on the advantages and disadvantages of changing my business entity,” she said, “but I needed that holistic, expert perspective. David Koempel was very willing to work through the issue with me, and he gave me a helpful framework for seeing the pros and cons more clearly.”

Koempel has volunteered with SBLC’s Pro Bono Project since 2011, working with numerous clients on contracts, lease review, entity selection, and general legal transactional questions. He said he enjoys working with SBLC clients because they often bring a lot of enthusiasm to the consultations, reminding him of the importance of law and its ability to help people. “In day-to-day life, you get involved in specific transactions and you may lose sight of the big picture. SBLC clients help me remember the big picture. They deserve a lot of credit for seeking advice at the beginning stages of their company.”

The SBLC Pro Bono Project matches low-income small and emerging businesses that need transactional legal services with attorneys who have the knowledge to help them. It is one of three programs at the SBLC. (The SBLC’s intern program, through which law students obtain practical transactional experience under the supervision of a clinical law professor, and the Fee for Service Program, which helps businesses on short deadlines, round out the offerings.) The project, which began when the SBLC opened in 2006, has grown tremendously over the years. In 2012-13 alone, it served 95 clients.

The need for quality transactional legal services for these businesses, which are commonly owned by women, minorities, and recent immigrants, continues to grow. The project is a certified Oregon State Bar pro bono program and receives free Professional Liability Fund (PLF) coverage for its volunteers. Through the SBLC, newly licensed attorneys have an opportunity to gain legal experience and form client relationships, while experienced attorneys can provide pro bono services on discrete matters within their area of expertise. The average time commitment is five to ten hours per client matter. And all pro bono attorneys earn the gratification that comes from helping dynamic, passionate small businesses that could not otherwise afford assistance. To learn more about the SBLC Pro Bono Project, please contact Julieanna Elegant at 503-768-6940.

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