MiSpringboard Offers Free Legal Expertise to Startups

By Jane Whitttington on December 21st, 2016 / Comments

Varnum Attorneys at Law, with offices in Grand Rapids, Detroit, Novi, Kalamazoo, Grand Haven, Lansing, Ann Arbor and Hastings, has, since 2011, offered an invaluable service to Michigan startups. With their MiSpringboard program, they are providing free legal services to entrepreneurs in Michigan.

According to Harvey Koning in the Grand Rapids office, who leads the Banking, Financing and Restructuring Practice team, “MiSpringboard, a statewide program, started as a way to benefit the economy here in Michigan, which, in 2011, was still difficult. We began by committing to give away one million dollars in free legal advice. Since then, we have allocated an additional one million dollars to continue the program.”

He continues, “We prefer to receive referrals from our referral partners although entrepreneurs can also self-refer. They fill out a three-page intake form and then meet with an attorney who accesses their needs. If we feel they can benefit from our services, they are then assigned to a single contact person within our organization, although other attorneys may, according to the client’s needs, be consulted. Every entrepreneur receives at least $2,500 worth of free legal advice. Each client receives a package of services based on their particular needs.”

Referral organizations throughout the state recommend businesses for participation in MiSpringboard. The long list of referral agencies includes Ann Arbor SPARK, Grand Rapids Opportunities for Women, Techstars Mobility in Detroit, Innovate Marquette, Southwest Michigan First, Michigan Economic Development Corporation and many others. These are listed at www.varnumlaw.com/services/mispringboard/ According to Koning, these organizations have a finger on the pulse of the marketplace and can judge whether someone could benefit from Varnum’s services.

Koning says, “We work with companies at various stages in their growth. It can be as simple as someone with an idea that they want to implement or a small business owner who is already underway and is farther along in the process.”

He goes on, “Most often the entrepreneurs themselves have already connected with financing sources, but we can point them in the direction of various sources of funding.”

MiSpringboard has worked with a total of 268 companies from 76 different Michigan communities. However, the largest number of clients come from Detroit, Ann Arbor and Grand Rapids.

Services include, but are not limited to:

  • Corporation and limited liability entity formations
  • Equity investments and securities offerings
  • Capital structure planning
  • Trademark registration and acquisition of domain names
  • Intellectual property protection
  • Licensing
  • Joint venture agreements
  • Nondisclosure agreements
  • Employment agreements, compensation planning and non-competes
  • Compliance with employment laws
  • Employee benefits
  • Research collaboration agreements
  • Distribution agreements
  • State and federal tax planning and compliance
  • Immigration
  • Privacy and security issues
  • Introductions to accountants, lenders and other resources

According to Koning, “Usually, we work with our clients from 30-60 days, but this varies according to their needs.  Right now, we have about 30 different attorneys involved in the program. We can rely on specific attorneys depending their particular expertise. “

He continues, “We are seeing more and better candidates all the time. I think this is a result of the improvement of the overall ecosystem with more resources and funding available to entrepreneurs. There is a wide diversity in ethnicity, gender, age and business type. Varnum is so pleased that they have been able to give so many business owners a good start.”

For more information on MiSpringboard, visit www.varnumlaw.com/services/mispringboard/


About the Author

Jane Whitttington

Jane Whitttington

Jane Whitttington is a freelance writer and editor who lives in Grand Rapids. A Michigan native and Michigan State University grad, she enjoys reading, travel, politics and volunteering.