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Pro bono legal help expanded for small businesses, nonprofits

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A Charleston pro bono organization and several law firms are expanding efforts to help business owners and nonprofits in South Carolina navigate economic and legal issues surrounding the coronavirus pandemic.

Charleston Legal Access, Nelson Mullins, and Jackson Lewis are expanding the S.C. Virtual Legal Clinic, the organizations said in a news release.

The clinic, which launched in May to help businesses and nonprofits in the Lowcountry, is part of a nationwide program through the Lawyers for Good Government Foundation. The nonprofit network has 125,000 legal advocates in 50 states.

Lana Kleiman, executive director of Charleston Legal Access, said the organization was grateful to the law firms who are committing time and resources to expand the clinic.

“Currently, many of these small businesses and nonprofits are cash-strapped and cannot afford private attorneys,” Kleiman said. “Without access to legal advice, they can make decisions that are costly or disastrous down the road. The counsel of pro bono attorneys affords them the ability to rebuild and to contribute to our economy’s growth and stability.”

Businesses and nonprofits of 25 employees or fewer can submit here to qualify for the free clinic. Qualifying organizations will receive a 45-minute phone call or virtual consultation with pro bono attorneys to answer questions and determine next steps for the companies and nonprofits.

Some of the topics the pro bono attorneys will consult on include understanding and navigating the legislative language in the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act and Paycheck Protection Program. Attorneys also can answer questions related to employment, contracts, commercial leases, insurance and insolvency issues, Charleston Legal Access said.

“In the current climate, small businesses and nonprofit groups are in need of our support,” Nelson Mullins pro bono partner Taylor Daly said in a statement. “We have come together as law firms to provide our expertise and guidance to these organizations, as well as to simply provide a sounding board for them.”

Jackson Lewis partner Stephanie E. Lewis said her firm, which has an office in the Upstate, was pleased to work with Lawyers for Good Government and the others involved in the expanded project.

“Small businesses and nonprofits are vital to South Carolina’s economy, and we are eager to work with them to overcome the challenges they face because of COVID-19,” Lewis said in a statement.

Traci Feit Love, executive director of Lawyers for Good Government, said the legal help is desperately needed by small businesses and nonprofits across the United States.

“Hundreds of thousands of small-business owners and nonprofits, many of whom already operate on very narrow margins, are still struggling with questions about how their businesses will survive the COVID-19 pandemic,” she said.

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