The coronavirus pandemic has forced small businesses to deal with a lot of challenges they don’t normally confront.
“We have dealt with everything from HR issues, what to do when there are employee furloughs that are required, how to navigate different loan assistance programs, says Tara Malek, with the Idaho law firm Smith + Malek. “We’ve even talked to folks about contracting issues that they have with vendors. How do they negotiate or deal with vendors if there’s no revenue coming in to business?”
says Malek. “We’ve even talked to folks about contracting issues that they have with vendors. How do they negotiate or deal with vendors if there’s no revenue coming in to business?”
Malek’s firm is joining up with a national program where lawyers give free consults to small businesses to help navigate those challenges.
“Hiring an attorney is not always feasible because of the cost,” Malek says. “And so small businesses sometimes struggle with ‘when do I reach out for help?'”
Nationally, more than nine out of 10 businesses surveyed after the fact report that the consultation is helpful.
The nonprofit Lawyers for Good Government has already adapted this model in New York. It’s partnering with a local nonprofit to help frontline health care workers create advance directives and wills.
“It’s the same processes that we’ve used here with local businesses,” says Sterling Howard, who’s with Lawyers for Good Government. “There’s a local nonprofit that has the expertise to do this kind of work and to manage volunteers to do it, but maybe they don’t have the ability to run the whole program like we do.”
The national organization says the legal consultations have been popular, but the challenge is resources and time, since attorneys are volunteers.
This story was produced by the Mountain West News Bureau, a collaboration between Wyoming Public Media, Boise State Public Radio in Idaho, KUNR in Nevada, the O'Connor Center for the Rocky Mountain West in Montana, KUNC in Colorado, KUNM in New Mexico, with support from affiliate stations across the region. Funding for the Mountain West News Bureau is provided in part by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.