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State Bar offers free legal advice for small-business owners

The State Bar of Wisconsin is offering free legal advice to small businesses harmed by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Volunteer attorneys with the State Bar’s Business Law Section are meeting with small-business owners each Friday starting Feb. 5 as part of the section’s new Small Business Assistance project.

The project, carried out in collaboration with the Marquette Volunteer Legal Clinics program, brings volunteer attorneys and law students together with pre-screened small-business owners who have legal questions related to their businesses.

The lawyers and law students are offering free, one-hour consultations by Zoom or phone for three businesses a week. Topics that may be discussed include, but are not limited to:

  • Finance and lending
  • Insurance claims and coverage
  • Commercial leases and contracts
  • Tax
  • Labor and employment
  • Real estate
  • Commercial debtor/creditor
  • Regulatory compliance, including privacy and COVID-19 related requirements

Excluded from the consultations are matters related to litigation; entity selection and formation; patents, trademarks or other intellectual property.

If a matter can’t be adequately dealt with during the session, business owners may be referred for an additional one-hour session at no charge.

Patricia J. Lane, section board member and organizer of the project, recognized a need for the service after hearing that business lawyers were receiving a lot of questions from small-business owners about compliance with COVID-19 governmental orders, force majeure clauses in contracts and government loans.

Lane said she hopes the legal advice will help local businesses endure the pandemic and thrive. Additional consultations may be added in the future, depending on demand. The project is expected to last indefinitely.

Business owners interested in scheduling a consultation can request an appointment online.

About Michaela Paukner,

Michaela Paukner is the legal reporter for the Wisconsin Law Journal. She can be reached at (414) 225-1825 or by email at

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