31 Focused on What Matters It takes more than a brilliant idea and hard work to build a successful business. Legal challenges can put the dream of owning and running a business out of reach, particularly for someone who can’t afford a lawyer. Since 2003, low- and middle-income micro-entrepreneurs pursuing their dreams in and around NewYork City have turned to the Neighborhood Entrepreneur Law Project for free legal services. Launched by the City Bar Justice Center, the nonprofit organization operates monthly legal clinics around the city. In addition, it refers entrepreneurs to pro bono lawyers who can give them ongoing, individualized help to move forward with their business ideas. To help budding entrepreneurs build their businesses on a sound footing, volunteers guide them through legal matters such as incorporation and tax issues, commercial lease negotiations, copyrights, trademarks and patents, and license and permit applications. Last year, attorneys Michael Brown, Ilan Goldbard, and Alexandra Mishkin volunteered their services at the organization’s clinics in Manhattan, while attorney Christine Baker provided pro bono legal assistance to one micro-entrepreneur, Debbie Miller, on an ongoing basis. Debbie, an English teacher from Brooklyn, has a small business making organic soy candles, skin-care products, perfume oils, sachets, and vegan lip balm, and sells her products online via Etsy and her own website, www.annaspotionsandlotions.com. A longtime client of the Neighborhood Entrepreneur Law Project, Debbie knew she needed to protect her intellectual property to continue to build her business. Getting pro bono help from Christine, who does intellectual property work for clients that sell skin-care products, perfumes, and cosmetics, was perfect. Christine analyzed Debbie’s house mark and slogan, and developed an intellectual property strategy for her business. She also filed an application to register Anna’s Potions and Lotions’ business slogan, “Honest Products from Nature,” with the US Patent and Trademark Office. That application was recently approved. “Although I help clients of all sizes, I generally work with established companies,” Christine says. “It’s nice to work with a client with a business that’s just getting on its feet, especially one that doesn’t have the resources a big client does.The enthusiasm that new entrepreneurs have makes you feel like you’re really helping them and their appreciation for your assistance makes you feel great.” Working with attorneys at the program’s legal clinics or through its referrals often gives micro- entrepreneurs the momentum to get their businesses going or keep them on track, says Akira Arroyo, director of the Neighborhood Entrepreneur Law Project. “Every entrepreneur who has come to our clinics has felt better prepared to move forward,”she says. The work the attorneys do has a big impact. The help the entrepreneurs receive takes a huge burden off them. They can focus on the creative side of their businesses. Akira Arroyo Director Neighborhood Entrepreneur Law Project Success Is Sweet Free Legal Services Help Small Entrepreneurs Pursue Their Dreams