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Forget the Legalese

Trellis Legal specializes in approachable legal services. We prioritize local entrepreneurs and businesses, non-profits, and communities in Pennsylvania, and help them navigate legal issues such as entity formation, entity restructuring, contract drafting, review and negotiation, lease agreements, terms of use, agritourism liability, farm zoning, and more. Our experience working with small businesses, on farms, in corporate CSR advising, as well as in environmental advocacy has fostered the understanding that business transactions involve, and must support, invaluable relationships. We can be your go-to for business transactional needs.

The Trellis team is headed by our principal attorney Marlene and she is supported by our wonderful staff attorney Erin Holliday, and administrator Jackie Souza (read more about them below). 

Trellis is a business member of the Chatham Center for Women's Entrepreneurship and the Pennsylvania Association for Sustainable Agriculture (PASA). 

Marlene photo

Marlene van Nelson

Founder, Principal Attorney

Marlene graduated Cum Laude from the University of Pittsburgh School of Law and holds a B.S. in Agricultural Sciences and Natural Resources from Cornell University. She has helped many businesses across Pennsylvania navigate setting up their business entity, getting the contracts they need, and accounting for unique issues that affect their industry such as permitting, zoning, and liability considerations. She loves seeing her clients succeed. 


Outside of the office, Marlene helps advance social entrepreneurship, is a member of the Pennsylvania Farmers Union, the Pittsburgh Food Policy Council, PASA, and supports various projects designed to help farmers, the restaurant industry, and small businesses.


Marlene also enjoys hiking, cooking, volleyball, rowing, and traveling with her wonderful husband. She has been named in the Incline's Who's Next: Law as one of 12 Pittsburghers under 40 shaping the legal community. Marlene is licensed in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania and admitted in United States District Court in the Western District of Pennsylvania.

Photo by Courtney Holliday.

Erin photo

Erin McCarthy Holliday

Associate Attorney

Erin graduated from the University of Pittsburgh School of Law and holds a B.S. in Journalism from Ohio University. She comes from a background in advertising and class action litigation, but is excited to work with small businesses-especially being a small business owner herself! 


Outside of the office, Erin runs a business with her husband fixing up and renting houses, teaches spinning and bootcamp classes, and enjoys running and playing with her giant Great Pyrenees dogs Tina and Pete. 

Photo by Courtney Holliday.


Jackie Souza


Jackie graduated from the University of Pittsburgh with B.S. in Honors Sociology. Jackie helps with all things client communication, invoicing, scheduling, and more! When not at Trellis, Jackie is a program coordinator at Partner For Work.


In her spare time, she enjoys traveling with friends, hot yoga, live music, and tending to her massive houseplant collection! 

Photo by Courtney Holliday.


More Importantly, Here's

What Our Clients Say:


Kate Romane

Chef & Owner, Black Radish Kitchen


Marlene and her team at Trellis Legal have been an enormous help for the Black Radish Kitchen over the past few years - including helping us with contracts, handbooks & employee guidelines, and lease agreements. During the very challenging time of COVID-19, we looked to Trellis as a leader for helping us and many people in our community to find small business resources and stay connected to what assistance is available. Trellis is kind, forward thinking, approachable, and willing to put in the time to find you the answers. I could not be more of a fan girl. 

Sandra Villarroel

Sandrachile Photography

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I deeply appreciate the people who hire me, and treating them with honesty is my biggest priority. I use my contract to ensure the couples that I care so much about can feel confident that I am not trying to trick them or take advantage of them. Trellis Legal are the only lawyers who get me, they understand me when I say that it is not about money, it is not about me, it is about caring for one another, and Trellis understands that.

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