Office of Business Opportunity collaborates with law firms to provide free legal advice to small businesses

Small businesses impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic now have a resource for free legal advice, thanks to the Houston Small Business Legal Consultations (HSBLC) Program in collaboration with the City of Houston’s Office of Business Opportunity (OBO), Vinson & Elkins (V&E) and several private law firms.

Through a network of volunteer attorneys, HSBLC will provide participants free legal consultations, by telephone, about how to navigate loan and grant relief programs, taxes, commercial leases, contracts, employment, intellectual property and other general business issues. In addition to V&E, who with OBO, led coordination of this program, participating firms include Akin Gump, Arnold & Porter, Blank Rome, DLA Piper, Fish & Richardson, Greenberg Traurig, Hunton Andrews Kurth, Kilpatrick Townsend, Kirkland & Ellis, Latham & Watkins, Mayer Brown, Morgan Lewis, Norton Rose Fulbright, Orrick, Perkins Coie, Sidley Austin, Simpson Thacher, Weil, Gotshal & Manges, and Wilkie Farr.

To be eligible for the program, you must be self-employed, or be an owner or representative of a small business or non-profit organization. Information about how the business has been affected by the pandemic must be provided. After a screening process, the business will be matched with a volunteer attorney from one of the participating law firms, who will try to offer guidance. All consultations are confidential to the full extent permitted by law.

“We are thrilled to be collaborating with the City of Houston and so many national firms to help Houston’s small business community," said Ellyn Haikin Josef, pro bono counsel at V&E. "In these uncertain and scary times, we want to make sure these businesses have access to as many answers as we can give them.”

HSBLC is an extension of Virtual Legal Lab, a program previously created by OBO and V&E that allowed small business owners to visit OBO onsite to participate in one-on-one virtual consultations with a licensed attorney. With social distancing measures in place, HSBLC allows the no-contact continuation of these legal consultations.

“What started as Virtual Legal Lab with two entities now includes a larger network of law firms who are committed to assisting the small business community in these challenging times,” said Marsha Murray, Office of Business Opportunity director. “With small businesses facing existential threats during this pandemic, we encourage those who need this service to reach out.”

Click here to fill out an application form, call 832-393-0652 to learn more about the HSBLC program.