By Darryl Maxwell
For Tammy Hui, a volunteer with the D.C. Bar Pro Bono Center’s Small Business Legal Assistance Program, entrepreneurship is in her blood. Tammy is a native of Edmonton, the capital city of the Canadian province of Alberta, where she grew up as the daughter of a general contractor father and the niece of automotive shop owners and restauranteurs. “That’s what attracted me to business owners, that entrepreneurial spirit,” she says. “Folks who are willing to make huge leaps without any protection. I’m drawn to helping those people as best I can.”
That combination of the risk-averse, conservative attorney outlook and the daring entrepreneurial mentality led Tammy to earn a dual JD/MBA from Western New England University. After handling corporate law and nonprofit compliance as deputy general counsel at The Climate Reality Project, Tammy leaned in to her business roots and began her own firm, Tammy Hui Law + Strategy, PLLC.
While growing her solo practice, Tammy realized there were clients that needed her help but could not afford her services. “Even at my reduced rates, there were clients who couldn’t afford my services. But I really liked listening to their stories and tried to help them. I sought out the Pro Bono Center’s Small Business Clinic as a way to give back.” Tammy began volunteering with the Pro Bono Center’s Small Business Brief Advice Legal Clinics in 2018 and has displayed an unwavering commitment to helping those attendees who are idea-rich but don’t have the capital to start up quickly. “I love helping people. But it can be a challenge for those of us managing a solo practice to take on long term cases. The Small Business Clinics provide me the opportunity to use my skills during a finite time period. These clinics are a great resource for the community.”
Tammy hails participating in a small business clinic organized by the Pro Bono Center, in partnership with Gallaudet University, as one of her most memorable pro bono experiences. Gallaudet’s Center for Innovation & Entrepreneurship hosts a Small Business Brief Advice Legal Clinic annually and provides American Sign Language interpreters so that Gallaudet students and the deaf entrepreneurship community in D.C. can easily take advantage of free legal advice. “One group of students came to the clinic with a very interesting idea: A meal delivery service targeting the deaf student community. These students did not have the means to compete with the likes of Uber Eats or Postmates but understood their target population. It was a pleasure helping them understand their legal risks,” she says. The clients were not only thrilled to meet with Tammy, but also appreciated the interpreters making the process much more welcoming.
Many solo practitioners want to fulfill their pro bono obligations. However, time constraints and the challenges of client cultivation make incentivizing small firm attorneys difficult. “Solo practitioners are definitely entrepreneurs, taking a gamble on our abilities,” Tammy explains. “But my cautious lawyer side is stronger for sure.”
For Tammy, the Pro Bono Center has helped her counsel entrepreneurs in need and reach so many more people than she ever expected. She’s a great example to other small firm lawyers and solo practitioners who see their regular practice as an obstacle to pro bono. “Tammy has not only been a great advocate for the Pro Bono Center’s transactional opportunities, she’s also been a phenomenal referral source,” says Darryl Maxwell, Assistant Director at the D.C. Bar Pro Bono Center. “She advises clients and shares our clinic information via her social media platforms.”
The Pro Bono Center is grateful for Tammy’s commitment to the low-income entrepreneur community and looks forward to her continued work as a phenomenal volunteer and advocate.
Darryl Maxwell is the Assistant Director for Nonprofit & Small Business at the DC Bar Pro Bono Center.