Oregon Law Small Business Clinic Helps Local Businesses during a Slow Economy
The Small Business Clinic (SBC) at the University of Oregon School of Law has served 278 clients and 115 students since its creation in 2004. Each semester, third-year law students, directly supervised by a practicing business attorney, advise business owners on legal issues including entity formation, contracts, leases and other business legal issues. The legal advice is free—clients pay only for government filing fees and similar out-of-pocket expenses.
Sean Brennan, a Eugene musician and drum, guitar, and bass instructor, was a client of the Small Business Clinic in the fall of 2009. Sean taught for 15 years and had a solid reputation in the local community. However, his business was affected by the economic downturn. Fortunately, Sean was selected to work with the Clinic, which helped him found Sean’s Music Study LLC.
“The number one reason that I am surviving today as a business is because the SBC helped me form an LLC,” Brennan said. “The LLC is like a degree hanging on a doctor’s wall. It tells potential clients that I have put the effort into building my business. Instead of asking me to prove my professional status, they ask when they can sign up.”
Tsunami Vintage Motorcycles, LLC, was a client of the SBC in 2011. Its owner, Nate Beveridge, says working with the SBC made him feel for secure about his business.
“The Small Business Clinic at the UO law school gave me the ability to protect my company with an LLC,” Beveridge said. “I’m a mechanic, not a business person. Blake, the law student who worked with me, explained the benefits of forming an entity. I have a high level of liability risk in my business repairing motorcycles and now I have some protections in place.”
Eugene restaurant Off the Waffle was accepted into the clinic when it was still growing. Siblings, Omar and Dave Orian started the gourmet Liege waffle restaurant in a house they were renting, eventually expanding to multiple popular locations. The SBC explained the brothers’ legal responsibilities as business owners so they were fully prepared to operate their restaurant.
“My brother and I went to the Small Business Clinic when we had our original small shop selling Liege waffles,” Omar Orian said. “We thought we needed an operating agreement, but the SBC did more than that. They opened the door to what legal needs, obligations, and liabilities that a business owner is responsible for. This was a huge service to us, because we did not have deep pockets as a new business. Since then we have opened a very successful restaurant on Willamette and we are preparing to open a second location very soon.”
Attorney Kirk Strohman, an Oregon Law alumnus who now has a small business practice in Eugene, says the SBC provides a valuable service to Lane County.
“It’s good for the law school; it’s good for the students and really important to the community,” said Strohman.