Business Legal Assistance Program

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The Business Legal Assistance Program at Arizona State University’s Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law assists small business owners and entrepreneurs with their legal needs. Law students can answer questions for small businessmen free of charge. Shane Ross, the director of marketing for the program, will tell us more.

Ted Simons: The business legal assistance program at ASU's Sandra Day O'Connor college of law is designed to help small business owners and entrepreneurs with a variety of legal needs, free of charge. Shane Ross is with the legal assistance program and joins us now. Welcome to "Arizona Horizon."

Shane Ross: Thanks for having me.

Ted Simons: Give me a better definition. Business legal assistance program. What are we talking about?

Shane Ross: This as pro-bono group, Sandra day O'Connor -- the goal of the program, small business owners, entrepreneurs, looking to start a business, business legal question they may not know how to answer without paying an attorney, to get those questions answered. We try to help people starting a business with those questions.

Ted Simons: These are students here. Are attorneys involved as well? Oversight going on? How does that work?

Shane Ross: Absolutely. We have a couple of different ways it factors in. Overall, we do have volunteer attorneys that work with the group. A small business owner thinking about starting a business maybe doesn't know how to incorporate, whether to choose an LLC or an S corporation, for example. They will get in touch with our group. Best way to do that is via the web site. They will fill out a form, get in touch with us, and give us information, and we will set up a meeting with the small business owner where they can come down to the Tempe campus and meet with a few students, as well as a volunteer attorney. That way we can get the questions addressed and answered for them.

Ted Simons: As far as qualifying for this, I imagine, is it any business with a question? What kind of business qualifies?

Shane Ross: Honestly, if there are small business owners, we say small business because generally businesses that are more established may be have been around for a little bit longer, you know, have more members employees, don't necessarily have introductory legal questions that they may already have an attorney on staff. Small business owners that live within this area, if you have been established for quite some time, you can still get in touch with our group. We don't want to discount anybody at this point in time. We are trying to just help the business community with these type of questions.

Ted Simons: Again, we're talking trademarks, contracts, copyright, partnership, employment law, everything?

Shane Ross: Definitely. It could be any of those issues. We give the opportunity to work as, you know, when this client does come down to our conference room. We will sit down, one on one with volunteer attorney, and those type of questions will be answered. And we will try to help them out and anything above and beyond that, let's say it may evolve into a lease issue where they have some questions about, you know, how to calculate square footage or some legal issues behind a lease they might be signing, that is where we can either partner with a volunteer attorney or we can give them information about how to get in contact with a attorney for their needs.

Ted Simons: How often do the meetings happen?

Shane Ross: As soon as somebody contacts the group, we get in touch with that person within a day or two. We set up a meeting. We can have meetings every week. We can have them a few times a week. It depends on the schedules of the students, law students that are around the volunteer attorneys that are also available to meet with these people. It just depends. We have the capacity to continue to service these people as they come through.

Ted Simons: Is there a time frame? After awhile, do you say, okay, I think we've helped you about as much as we can. People can abuse things -- I'm not suggesting that could be abused, but there has to be a certain parameter.

Shane Ross: You obviously don't want to take advantage of a service. These are smart people overall. They are starting businesses. Want to get established. Want to start making a living or providing for their families. Everyone who is involved with the meeting starts to sense they might be overstepping what might be at stake, let's say they do have more advanced legal questions that they want to have answered, that's where the volunteer attorney could say well, you know, we can talk about this. We can make an appointment or I can help you. I have an associate who might be able to help you a little bit better with this issue. But the first introductory step of some of these basic legal questions, business-related is what we want to address.

Ted Simons: The idea that we have helped you as much as we probably can. It is time to move on a little bit probably would occur.

Shane Ross: Right. But that doesn't happen as much as you would think.

Ted Simons: I would not think so. Correct me if I am wrong, did this program stall in recent years? Has it been revised? We may have done a show on this in the past and now it is back up in operation.

Shane Ross: That's true. We had an establishment within the college of law campus for quite some time, over 10 years. Past couple of years, attendance, participation of the students, volunteer attorneys has decreased. We are trying to get our name out there a little bit more within the greater Phoenix area. This year, we are making a massive push to broaden the reach of our program. Let people know that we're out there, here to help, and we want to partner with volunteer attorneys who might be interested in helping our group out as well.

Ted Simons: Last question. What do students get out of the program?

Shane Ross: Great question. Students at the law school, they may have an interest in corporate law. They may have an interest in business law. But this is a pro Bono group which means that it is public service that they're working with an attorney. They're working with clients. They're kind of shadowing what an attorney does on a day-to-day basis. They are fostering the relationships as well as building up their expertise as working one on one with clients and understanding how that process works. They're learning, doing the research to help attorneys if they can factor that in, as well as they get the experience from being in the group.

Ted Simons: Win-win action going on there.

Shane Ross: Absolutely.

Ted Simons: Thank you for joining us.

Shane Ross: Thanks for having me. Appreciate it.

Shane Ross:Director of Marketing, Business Legal Assistance Program at Arizona State University's Sandra Day O'Connor College of Law;

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