The law firm's Initiative for Business Empowerment aims to support Black and minority entrepreneurs.

Many white entrepreneurs can rely on friends and family members who run successful businesses and hold professional expertise—Think: My uncle’s an accountant, I’ll just ask him!

To give minority business owners access to that same quality network, a new program is providing free legal services.

Vorys Sater Seymour & Pease has launched its Initiative for Business Empowerment to support businesses owned by people from minority racial and ethnic backgrounds. The firm is offering these companies free legal services, with the number of hours based on their size, needs and revenue. To apply, go to https://practices.vorys.com/vorys-initiative-for-business-empowerment.

The idea is to provide foundational legal services like help setting up an LLC, setting up operating agreements, trademark and copyright assistance, help determining if a worker is a contractor or employee, or how to set up an employee handbook, says Janay Stevens, a Vorys senior associate and the lawyer behind the project.

Stay up to date with the region’s business scene. Subscribe to Columbus CEO’s weekly newsletter.

The program, which has 20 to 25 attorneys already engaged, is meant for businesses at all stages.

“One of the things that a number of businesses have pointed out is that even though they might have been in operation for a year, five years, 15 years, 20 years, in some cases, they don’t necessarily have contracts in place for the exchange of their services, whatever those might be,” Stevens says. “They’re oftentimes emails, or handshake-type agreements. We see that as an opportunity to put pen to paper and help you protect your interests.”

Program participants are able to access Vorys’ suite of services offered to all clients, such as exclusive webinars.

The commitment to making social change has to go beyond platitudes, Stevens says.

“We have to make this more than just a moment in time,” she says. “To make true systemic change, we’ve got to get our hands dirty, we’ve got to do the work. At the end of the day, this has got to be bigger than 2020.”