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, contract drafting, review and negotiation, lease agreements, terms of use, 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.


Our specialties are in food, agriculture, and creative business legal needs, including the Right to Farm Act, food establishment/kitchen permitting, agritainment liability, creative business contract terms, wholesale terms, etc. But really, we can be your go-to for business transactional needs.

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


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, serves on the board of Lawrenceville United (her local community organization), is an active member of Pittsburgh Food Policy Council, and is an alternate member on the Allegheny County Health Department Food Safety Advisory Committee.


Marlene also enjoys hiking, cooking, 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.

Joseph Macklin II

Associate Attorney

Joe graduated from the University of Pittsburgh School of Law, receiving both a Pro Bono Service Recognition Award and a Community Service Award for his commitment to providing quality legal representation to low-income clients. He also holds a B.A. in Political Science from Bridgewater College. Joe brings to Trellis Legal firsthand experience of the concerns that small businesses commonly face, having worked in the hospitality industry prior to becoming an attorney. 


Outside of the office, he serves on the Social Justice and Outreach Committee for the Episcopal Diocese of Pittsburgh, making sure that social and economic issues related to race and class are brought to the forefront in their discussions. In his free time, Joe enjoys volunteering, trying new recipes, and reading. Joe is licensed to practice law in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. 


More Importantly, Here's

What Our Clients Say About Us:


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 this very challenging time of COVID-19, we have 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

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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