July 24, 2024

Trusted Consult Insights

The Right Strategy for Business Success

How Lahaina, other businesses can access free legal services

Attorney Gregory Kim, founder of Vantage Counsel joins producer/host Coralie Chun Matayoshi to discuss how businesses can access free legal services and forms, including consultation, representation, mentoring, and training from local volunteer business lawyers, and the creation of Lawyers for Lahaina to help those businesses recover following the devastating wildfires.

When the August 8th wildfire devastated Lahaina killing 100 people, it also destroyed businesses which affected the livelihood of those who survived.  Ninety nine percent of Hawaii’s businesses are small, and they employ 50% of our workforce so their success affects our whole economy.

Q.  As soon as the wildfire hit, you knew that Lahaina businesses would need your help, so a group of you quickly mobilized to provide free services.  Tell us about Lawyers for Lahaina.

Three days after the wildfire stuck, Business Law Corps (“BLC”), a nonprofit corporation based in Hawaii, immediately launched a “Lawyers for Lahaina” initiative and program.  Lawyers for Lahaina is led by co-founders Catherine Taschner, Kimi Ide-Foster, Nathan Wade, and Gregory Kim.  Lawyers for Lahaina offers free, pro bono legal services to the businesses of Lahaina, Kula, and other fire-damaged areas of West Maui to help them get back on their feet after the destruction caused by the wildfires that occurred on August 8, 2023.  Lawyers for Lahaina was formed on August 11, 2023, and most of the members come from the Business Law Section of the Hawaii State Bar Association.  Lawyers for Lahaina aims to offer services that are responsive to the needs of the businesses of West Maui impacted by the wildfires, which will remain a work in progress for years to come.  Although the name of the program is “Lawyers for Lahaina,” services will be available to those outside Lahaina who were impacted by the wildfires, whether or not located in West Maui or nearby communities.

Q.  What is your Mission Statement?

“The mission of Lawyers for Lahaina is to help the people of West Maui recover and get back on their feet so that they can continue or restart their lives and businesses and find gainful employment that will enable them to stay in West Maui.”

Q.  What kinds of services are you offering – is it by phone, online, in person?

Some of the services that will be offered include an online application process, a lawyer hotline, individual consultations (online and in person), seminars and webinars and pro bono legal representation.

Q.  What kinds of problems are businesses facing as a result of the wildfire?

Lawyers for Lahaina lawyers are volunteer business and transactional attorneys who are trained to review and advise clients on legal issues and documents including leases, loan agreements, insurance contracts, and other business contracts.  The program will not undertake litigation or claims, but can counsel clients generally, and as to terms of engagement of outside lawyers.  Lawyers for Lahaina lawyers will help clients as best they can, even if not within their area of expertise. The goal is to help.  Here are some examples of some of the types of services they offer:

  • Review insurance contracts
  • Review leases
  • Review loans
  • Legal entity counseling
  • Advice re: employment issues.

Q.  Is it possible that a lawyer might join Lawyers for Lahaina in order to get business for themselves?

Lawyers for Lahaina’s lawyers will not solicit any West Maui residents or businesses that are served through the program.  Lawyers for Lahaina’s policy prohibits volunteer lawyers from using the program to generate any business, and none of its volunteer lawyers will, so long as they are with Lawyers for Lahaina, make any profits from the work they do, or they must resign from Lawyers for Lahaina.  Lawyers for Lahaina is committed to this policy to assure that volunteer lawyers are offering their assistance for no personal gain.

Q.  How long will Lawyers for Lahaina continue to offer services?

Lawyers for Lahaina is built to last for the duration of the rebuilding process. 

Q.  How can business owners get more information or apply for free legal services?

For more information about Lawyers for Lahaina, or to apply for assistance, please visit www.lawyersforlahaina.org.

Q.  Other than businesses affected by the Lahaina wildfire, you actually co-founded a non-profit called Business Law Corps (“BLC”) over 12 years ago to provide new small business owners and entrepreneurs of limited means with access to the legal system.  Tell me more about BLC.  [What is the criteria to access services – how new do you have to be and how do you define limited means)?

The BLC is a legal nonprofit organization based in Hawai’i that offers pro bono legal services to Hawaii entrepreneurs aimed at spurring economic growth.  It matches qualified entrepreneurs with experienced business attorneys willing to provide their legal services on a pro bono basis.  For more information, visit BLC’s website at www.businesslawcorps.org or contact: Gregory Kim, President of the BLC, at (808) 780-2495 or [email protected].

Q.  Are there other free legal resources for someone wanting to start a business?

There are a number of valuable and free resources available to small business owners, to help them organize their businesses, including:

  • Business Law Corps (www.businesslawcorps.org), or “BLC”, which offers pro bono business law services and forms.  For example, BLC offers a weekly business attorney rotation, providing free 30 minute consultations once a week at the Patsy Mink Center for Business and Leadership and the Entrepreneurs Sandbox, which can be accessed remotely.
  • Patsy Mink Center for Business and Leadership offers a number of programs that include legal information and mentoring, as well as other small business training and mentorship.
  • The Business Action Center, part of the state Department of Commerce & Consumer Affairs (DCCA), offers weekly, free business law consultations from local business lawyers.

To learn more about this subject, tune into this video podcast.

Disclaimer:  this material is intended for informational purposes only and does not constitute legal advice.  The law varies by jurisdiction and is constantly changing.  For legal advice, you should consult a lawyer that can apply the appropriate law to the facts in your case.