Columbia Star

1963        Celebrating 60 Years      2023

Star Profile Brian Payne, attorney for small businesses

Brian Payne

Brian Payne

By John Temple

Columbia business education just got a boost. It’s called Smart Business Matters, a non- profit forum for presentations on vital business matters. Chairman of the board at Smart Business Matters is attorney Brian Payne, managing member of Small Business Law Firm of Payne & Associates, LLC, corner of Lady and Pickens.

Payne was born in Minneapolis, where his father ran several businesses. Real estate was the focus, and his properties next to Indian reservations proved the most profitable. The Payne family homes, also part of the real estate escalation, changed often.

Payne moved 26 times by high school graduation, where he finished his fifth high school. He made a secondary school career out of being the new kid.

After four years at the University of Minnesota, Payne earned his degree in the philosophy of science. He left for graduate school at Villanova University in Pennsylvania. After two years, Payne had his master’s degree in philosophy and an invitation to teach in Ekaterinburg, Russia, in western Siberia.

In Ekaterinburg, he taught philosophy, social psychology, and law. While there, he learned the life of an emerging society on the rough edges of introductory capitalism.

Payne arrived at his neighborhood bank in Ekaterinburg as the doors were closing. He needed to convert his pay into dollars. A local lady in the bank line with him offered to guide him to another bank nearby that was possibly still open. They reached the other bank’s door just in time, and Payne had his dollars to take home.

That night, he heard his back door ripped off its hinges. Payne leapt out of bed and out of his window, which was four floors above the street. Payne jumped to the third- floor veranda, dropped to the ice- covered street, tearing up his body badly.

Payne struggled back to his empty apartment to call for an ambulance, but his phone line was cut. A neighbor called for him, and Payne took an ambulance to the hospital, where he was attended by five surgeons.

After two months in the Ekaterinburg hospital, where he was visited regularly by the American consulate, Payne moved into a different, more secure apartment to finish the term of his teaching contract.

His mother and stepfather lived in Columbia, and Payne was accepted to law school at USC for the fall class of 1995. Without missing a beat, on the day he learned he passed the S.C. Bar exam, Payne bought a ticket to China.

After touring Hong Kong and the mainland, Payne landed a job with Huawei Technologies, where he worked for most of a year and also acquired an uncertain command of Mandarin. Huawei was China’s largest privately owned company, and Payne’s job was to review their English- language documents.

Payne returned to Columbia in late 1999, and by January 2000, he founded the Small Business Law Firm of Payne & Associates, LLC.

The firm specializes in start- up businesses, helping 200 businesses get under way in the past year. Typically, it’s a package deal with a start- up. Payne can charge a flat $350 (plus the secretary of state filing fee), issue a 35- page memo in hard copy and on disk, and guide the new business owner through the minefields of the early days of a start- up. Afterwards, Payne bills hourly as he maintains the lawyer/client relationship.

Payne also has clients who are part of the merger and acquisition business, where he handles both buyers and sellers. He has two more small- business lawyers in his office besides a support staff. The firm’s clientele for the most part is composed of businesses with fewer than 100 employees.

For fun and for cultural seasoning, Payne travels, most recently to the Mekong Delta in Vietnam for a few weeks. His law studies at USC got him grounded in international law, and his work experiences in Russia and China exposed him to foreign business practices. Payne feels comfortable working in Columbia among its small businesses, knowing the international traffic is about to pick up.

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