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Free Legal Advice for Tech Startups

By Mikal E. Belicove

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

Entrepreneurs face many legal challenges when starting a business. From writing a business plan, to determining which corporate structure is best and scraping together enough money to file the appropriate documents, starting a business is easier said than done.With attorneys charging as much $750/hr. to set up a business, and online legal documentation services like offering so many options that it's difficult to know where to begin, what's a confused and strapped-for-cash entrepreneur to do?

Enter the Tech Law Project -- a pro bono legal services venture that aspires to help high-tech entrepreneurs answer the most basic business formation questions. Then, at no cost to the start-up, prepare and file articles of incorporation, corporate by-laws, operating agreements and more. Founded in mid-October by New York City-based attorneys Hayes Ellisen and Eli Shahmoon, TLP seeks to work with serious tech-focused entrepreneurs only (no half-baked ideas allowed), saving them as much $5,000 in initial business formation-related start-up costs.

"Technology startups are a major engine driving job growth in today's economy," says Shahmoon. "Legal costs, however, may lead founders to not seek legal advice in the critical formative stages of a company. This can cause early errors that may interfere with the company's growth and financing opportunities."

Ellisen, whose going rate is $385/hr., says he and Shahmoon have been fortunate throughout their legal careers and that now's a good time for them to give back via the Tech Law Project.

That said, it's important to note that technically, TLP is not a standalone operation. Many law firms offer pro bono legal services to a particular niche under the moniker of a "project," which is exactly what Shahmoon & Ellisen LLP have done with TLP. Upon acceptance into the project, TLP participants are actually signing a letter of engagement for pro bono services from Shahmoon & Ellisen LLP, not the Tech Law Project.

Programs like the Tech Law Project may reveal a growing trend in professional services. With the capacity to handle up to 20 entrepreneurs at a time, it seems to make sense that if TLP does a great job for its start-ups and entrepreneurs, those same businesses are going to reward Shahmoon & Ellisen LLP with their long-term legal business.

For more information visit or Shahmoon & Ellisen LLP.

Mikal E. Belicove is a market positioning, social media, and management consultant specializing in website usability and business blogging. His latest book, The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Facebook, is now available at bookstores. 

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