ABLE helps entrepreneurs with legal assistance projectWritten by Duane Ramsey | | firstname.lastname@example.org
An attorney with Advocates for Basic Legal Equality, Inc. (ABLE) in Toledo is conducting a Microenterprise Legal Assistance Project to provide free legal services to local entrepreneurs who can’t afford an attorney.
“The project aims to help people achieve greater economic stability with their own resources. We fill in the missing pieces by providing legal counsel,” said Anneliese Gryta, an attorney with ABLE, who developed and now leads the project.
Gryta said it is the only program of its type in Ohio. It is funded by special grants from the Stranahan Foundation of Toledo, Ohio Legal Assistance Foundation and Equal Justice Works, a national organization that funds innovative legal services projects across the country.
Gryta said ABLE is working in partnership with the Griffin-Hammis Microenterprise Demonstration Project of the Ohio Rehabilitation Services Commission (ORSC). It provides business technical assistance to disabled individuals who wish to pursue self-employment.
“I learned so much from this program. It’s just priceless information. I’m taking full advantage of the free services this area has to offer,” said Teresa Jo “Tracy” Perry, a local artist and entrepreneur.
Perry recently started her own business, Renditions by ResaJo, in Toledo to sell her art and custom designed jewelry. She needed legal help with contracts, copyrights, and other issues.
Perry was referred to the project by the ORSC after developing a disability from a back injury. She retired after working 20 years in the nursing profession due to mobility issues.
The ORSC told Perry it could help her find another job or go back to school. She decided to return to college and graduated with a fine arts degree from BGSU in 2009.
“I had always created, designed, decorated and made things. Now I’m feeding my family while feeding my creative soul. It doesn’t always work in business,” Perry said.
Perry went to a legal clinic on copyrights conducted by ABLE and said it was “an exceptional clinic.” She worked directly with Gryta through the microenterprise project on legal issues for her new business.
Perry submitted a selection of her work for the 93rd Annual Toledo Area Artists Exhibition at the Toledo Museum of Art in August. One item is a lotus cup chalice Perry made with an etching from DaVinci’s “Last Supper” that was inspired by the movie, “The DaVinci Code.”
ABLE receives referrals for the project from business assistance providers, including the Small Business Development Center at the Toledo Regional Chamber of Commerce, Arts Commission of Greater Toledo, Assets Toledo, United North and the Women’s Entrepreneurial Network.
Another client, LaVerne Greene Cunningham visited one of the legal clinics seeking advice on drafting an agreement for her services.
“I had a need for a good solid contract to use with clients and employers. With the contract, people take me more seriously,” Cunningham said.
She is a work force development professional who lost her job at The Source and decided to start her own firm, Connected 4 Biz, an employment coaching and placement agency.
Cunningham received pro bono advice that “you have to know when to walk away from some business” from Brad Hubbell, an attorney at Cooper & Walinski, who helped her.
Gryta said the project has helped clients such as a dog groomer with a liability release, a mural artist
on a commission agreement, small barbeque caterer on a contract
with a sports arena, trademark guidance for a graphic artist and other legal advice for a new cleaning company and a small grocer in a central city neighborhood.
“We want to be sure that everyone who needs legal help knows that we’re out there for them,” Gryta said. “One way we provide assistance to clients is through a series of legal clinics staffed by volunteer attorneys from local law firms.”
The law firms include Cooper & Walinski; Eastman & Smith, MacMillan, Sobianski & Todd; and Shumaker, Loop & Kendrick have helped staff the clinics. Members of the Intellectual Property Committee of the Toledo Bar Association under the leadership of Dave Purdue of Purdue Law Offices are present at the clinics.
The next legal clinic will be
Aug. 17, but applicants need to pre-register for it with Gryta at ABLE at email@example.com.
Gryta leads a steering committee that is working on a micro-loan fund to provide financing for small entrepreneurs who can’t get funding from traditional sources. With the support of local businesses and economic development agencies, they hope to offer loans to entrepreneurs in the legal assistance project.
Gryta grew up in Buffalo, N.Y., trained as a classic violinist and gave lessons as an entrepreneur. She experienced many of the same issues her clients now have, such as how to protect her music compositions.
Gryta graduated from the University of Akron’s School of Law in 2008 and began working with the Equal Justice Works AmeriCorps Legal Fellowship to help small businesses with legal aid and clinics.
She attended a national job fair in Washington, D.C., where she connected with ABLE in Toledo. She now works with other attorneys who perform pro bono work.
“I believe in the economic vitality of cities like Toledo and helping people to succeed here,” Gryta said.
For more information about the microenterprise project, visit the web-site microenterprise.ablelaw.org.