Pro Bono – could a start-up ever get going without it?

One of the exciting things about doing a start-up is having to turn your hand to so many different things you’ve never done before. This is all part of the ‘making it up as you go along’ aspect of trying to start your own business, especially as a sole founder. You can never get bored wearing so many different hats though you can often feel really out of your depth – going off piste as I like to think of it. This week I was pretending to be a lawyer as I drafted ‘Terms and Conditions’ and a ‘Data Privacy Policy’ to give me the necessary legal cover to get the BuddyHub small pilot up and running.  A couple of people – one a Venture Capital type no less – have advised me not to get too hung up on the legal stuff early on as the actual risks of something going wrong are pretty low: just grab a boilerplate off the internet, edit it a bit and go.  I think I’m a bit too risk conscious or averse for that and prefer to sleep easy.

In true ‘lean start-up’ fashion I read through lots of other T&C’s, of somewhat related organisations, and had a good mash up and tinker. I’ve had a chuckle or two reading T&C’s, obviously prepared in similar fashion, noting that whoever prepared them didn’t properly delete the bits that really don’t apply to their company. I took my lawyery efforts along to a pro bono clinic run by The Centre for Commercial Law Studies in Lincoln’s Inn Field.  This is my second appointment with the student advisors at Queen Mary’s University of London who offer pro bono advice via their Legal Advice Centre in Mile End as well as in Lincoln’s Inn Fields. Previously, City law firm ‘Debevoise and Plimpton’ also helped me understand the pros and cons of the various legal structures I could chose for BuddyHub via a pro bono legal clinic organised by my grant giver UnLtd.

A huge big fat thank you to everyone who offers pro bono legal help to start ups: had I had to pay for the legal advice I’ve received it would have eaten into a good chunk of the small grant I’m operating on. Instead I’m able to spend it on other things that I need to pay for. This start up wouldn’t get off the ground without pro bono help and there are already many more people to thank in that respect another day.

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