Entrepreneurship Law Center
With the explosion of business startups around the country, entrepreneurs are eager to reach market with the next great idea. They know their business better than anyone, but often they need assistance to make critical legal decisions. The Entrepreneurship Law Center, part of Northwestern University School of Law's Bluhm Clinic, is a non-profit, student-based, clinical program. The Center, originally founded as the Small Business Opportunity Center more than 10 years ago, is one of the first programs in the United States to provide intensive, hands-on training for students who want to be transactional lawyers or founders of start-up companies. The Entrepreneurship Law Center serves as a model for similar programs developed in law schools across the country.
Under the supervision of clinical faculty and staff, law and business students work together to represent start-up companies, entrepreneurs, and nonprofit organizations. Clients range from brand-new initiatives eager to reach the marketplace, where students help launch the business from a legal perspective, to larger, established companies with more sophisticated legal needs such as raising additional capital, preparing equity incentive programs for employees, licensing intellectual property, and more. The Center's current roster of clients ranges from small businesses (such as a real estate consultant and a caterer) to high-tech e-commerce enterprises. Although its principal purpose is to train students for leadership positions in law and business, the Center also provides a valuable service to the community by helping many nonprofit organizations and other clients who could not otherwise afford legal assistance.
Students participating in the Entrepreneurship Law Center provide affordable legal advice on matters such as incorporation, trademark registration, copyright protection, and contract review.
Clients are selected according to several criteria: businesses that can provide students with important and versatile transactional law experience, companies likely to create new jobs for the community, and nonprofit organizations providing a unique service.
The Center's client base reflects Chicago's diversity and outreach is conducted to appeal specifically to entrepreneurs in traditionally underserved communities. "Our students lead presentations at local high schools and conduct entrepreneurial seminars at community centers," says Entrepreneurship Law Center director Esther Barron. "In this way, we are able to share important information and resources with people who need it, and also attract new potential clients to our Center."
Each spring, the Center hosts its Annual Entrepreneurship Conference. Hundreds of entrepreneurs, Center alums, and students attend to hear panel presentations on a wide range of entrepreneurial issues and to meet with high level speakers and moderators.