Office of Business Opportunity

Small Business Legal Academy

Organizations partner to provide a free all-day legal academy providing legal counseling to small business owners throughout the City of Houston. 

February 4, 2015 -- Obtaining legal advice for small businesses can be costly and stressful. Today, the City of Houston announced a partnership with the Association of Pro Bono Counsel (APBCo), Vinson & Elkins, LLP, Texas C-Bar, and many other corporate law firms and community organizations to host the first annual, “Small Business Legal Academy” in Houston, after two successful SBLAs in New York City in 2014. The academy is a free one-day event bringing together corporate law firms, civil legal service organizations, city agencies, and other service providers to strengthen Houston’s vibrant and diverse small business community. The event will also offer workshops and one-on-one personal consultations on a wide range of legal and financial topics of concern to small business owners. The Small Business Legal Academy will take place on Tuesday, February 17, 2015 at the South Texas College of Law.  

“Small businesses face an array of legal concerns,” said Mayor Annise Parker.  “It is important that these companies have an opportunity to sit with trustworthy legal experts that can point them in the right direction. We are so pleased that Houston’s legal community is willing to step up and provide free legal advice and services that small businesses are often unable to afford.”

“We wanted to bring the SBLA to Houston to ensure that the city’s vibrant small business community would benefit from the immense legal talent here,” said Ellyn Josef, Pro Bono Counsel at Vinson & Elkins and an APBCo board member. “V&E strives to be on the cutting edge in every sector of the legal community, and pro bono is no exception.  Our lawyers, from first-year associates to very senior partners, are excited to share their experience with Houston’s business community.  Giving back in innovative ways is what makes our pro bono program so special.”

In addition to one-on-one sessions with lawyers, participants will have the opportunity to attend workshops focused on:

  • Managing Liability: Entity Selection, Insurance and Contracts
  • Employment Law: Independent Contractors v. Employees, and Employment Law Basics

The Small Business Legal Academy is brought to you by The City of Houston’s Office of Business Opportunity, APBCo in partnership with Texas C-Bar, Vinson & Elkins, METRO, the Port of Houston, SCORE-Houston, the Houston Minority Supplier Development Corporation (HMSDC), Women’s Business Enterprise Alliance (WBEA) and the Lift Fund.

For more information about the Small Business Legal Academy or to register for the event please visit

Press Conference Photo

The City of Houston’s Office of Business Opportunity (OBO) is committed to creating a competitive and diverse business environment in the City of Houston by promoting the growth and success of local and small businesses through a wide range of services from startup business assistance to certification for established businesses seeking contract opportunities with the City. Through OBO’s Houston Business Solutions Center, we provide resources that help with the start-up, sustainability, and growth of businesses. For more information about the Office of Business Opportunity and our suite of services, please visit or call 832.393.0600.


The Association of Pro Bono Counsel (APBCo) is a professional organization for attorneys and practice group managers who run a law firm pro bono practice on a full-time basis.  APBCo’s mission is to maximize access to justice through the delivery of pro bono legal services. The Small Business Legal Academy, an idea inspired by a meeting with the board of APBCo and Vice President Biden, is one of many projects developed to broaden collaboration among law firms, legal service providers and government organizations to enhance the access to justice for those who are unable to navigate complicated legal issues.


Vinson & Elkins lawyers are committed to excellence and steeped in the energy and finance industries, offering clients experience handling transactions, investments, projects and disputes worldwide. The firm’s deep bench of approximately 700 lawyers collaborating across 15 offices allows a multi-disciplinary approach and innovative strategies, whether companies need guidance on complex transactions or litigation. V&E is deeply committed to empowering its communities through pro bono work for the underserved, and by supporting local charitable, educational and cultural organizations.


Texas C-BAR provides free legal assistance to Texas nonprofits working to improve the quality of life in low-income neighborhoods. We recruit experienced transactional attorneys, who volunteer to help these organizations with their corporate, real estate, tax and employment law needs. For more information visit