the Buzz with Darryl Maxwell of DC Bar Pro Bono Program
Previous Small Business Awards winner for the category of Small Business initiative of the year, the DC Bar Pro Bono Program helps small businesses and community-based non-profits needing legal advice as well as individuals living in poverty. Darryl Maxwell is the Staff Attorney for the DC Bar Pro Bono Program’s Community Economic Development Project. Among his duties, Darryl matches nonprofit organizations, tenant associations and small businesses with ongoing pro bono legal representation. He also manages the Small Business Brief Advice Legal Clinic, which gives entrepreneurs an opportunity to meet with volunteer attorneys to discuss their legal issues.
The DC Bar Pro Bono Program won WDCEP’s Small Business Initiative of the Year award. What were some of the benefits of being recognized for this honor? (eg, give you a lot of exposure, help market the program, etc.)
Winning the Small Business Initiative of the Year award was a fantastic honor. The recognition was helpful in gaining exposure to members of the DC City Council, the banking industry and small businesses that were not familiar with our program. It was also much easier to market and obtain registrants for our training programs. The replays of the Small Business awards on local television spurred some interest in our program as well.
Can you share with our readers some information about the initiatives the DC Bar Pro Bono Program has been working on the past two years?
Over the past two years, the DC Bar Pro Bono Program’s Small Business Initiative has been extremely active in reaching out to the small business community. We increased our small business clinics to 10 clinics each year. We have also begun Saturday morning clinics to make our program more accessible to business owners who can’t attend the clinic during week days. The Small Business Initiative has rolled out two new documents, our DC Zoning Manual for Small Businesses and Nonprofits and our template for Single Member LLC Operating Agreements. We utilize the website, www.lawhelp.org/dc, to disseminate information such as these documents to the public. This spring, we launched the inaugural Employment Law Series for Small Businesses. Lastly, we became a technical assistance partner of the DCRA Small Business Resource Center. We provide monthly technical assistance on legal issues and managing the regulatory environment to DCRA customers.
Your legal counsel advises DC businesses on several types of law including contract review, real estate, tax, and employment law. Over the past year, have you found that small business owners wanted more support in a particular legal area?
More than any other time in our program’s history, we’ve seen an upswing in individuals’ interested in starting businesses. I believe the economy and joblessness has caused some of this, but prospective entrepreneurs have been resilient and found areas in the market where they can be innovative. They reach out to us to make sure they are compliant under DC law.
After the incredible success of the past years, how does the Program hope to expand?
The DC Bar Pro Bono Program hopes to reach even more of the DC business community through our monthly small business clinics. We plan to add webinars for small business owners on critical legal issues. Lastly, our program hopes to expand collaboration opportunities with other technical assistance partners to provide more training relevant to business owners.
For more information on the DC Bar Pro Bono Program, click HERE.