"I'm an entrepreneur and before joining the Center, I went through the process of starting up a company. This experience made me realize what I did right and how I could improve. It also made me realize I could use my law background to help other entrepreneurs. This is one of a very few transactional legal clinics at a top law school, and we have the opportunity to help real clients with real issues. In my two semesters, I've worked with six clients ranging from small non-profits to a technology company. Being in this Center has given me the chance to gain important practical skills before getting out of law school and to share my expertise with people who really value it."
-- Carl P. Evans
The Entrepreneurship Law Center provides second- and third-year students with hands-on business experience. Many of America's leading law schools, including Northwestern, offer students an opportunity to gain practical experience through a variety of clinical programs, but almost all are in the areas of trial and appellate advocacy and other forms of litigation. The Entrepreneurship Law Center adds a business component to the Northwestern University's already nationally-acclaimed clinical programs.
Students participating in the Entrepreneurship Center are tightly connected to Chicago's burgeoning entrepreneurial community, facilitating the city's economic growth and fostering job creation. Students guide entrepreneurs through essential legal issues, working collaboratively with other students and gaining a broad range of transactional legal skills with a variety of business models. They build their own confidence as transactional lawyers while helping passionate entrepreneurs start and run successful ventures.
"Our Center tackles projects that may be too complex for a student to pursue on his or her own. Following a law firm model, a senior lawyer guides students through the process, ensuring the same quality one would expect from a top law firm," says Center Director Esther Barron. Adds Assistant Director Steve Reed, "Our Center's primary goal is to expose students to a variety of clients and types of work, and we diligently establish and maintain connections with Chicago's entrepreneurial community. Many attorneys didn't have the benefit of a transactional clinic when they were in school and the experience students gain here provides them with the vocabulary and practice to hit the ground running with confidence as transactional attorneys."
As part of their Entrepreneurship Law Center experience, students meet weekly to talk and work through issues currently being addressed with clients. Students may give presentations, and outside speakers such as successful entrepreneurs, are invited to address specific topics. Outside of class, students spearhead all client interaction. On teams or individually, they direct client correspondence, lead meetings, draft contracts, agreements, and more. All work is initiated by students, but reviewed by faculty to ensure law firm-quality.
While many Entrepreneurship Law Center students pursue an integrated, joint JD-MBA, all second and third-year law students, and a limited number of international lawyers who have come to Chicago for a year to obtain an advanced LLM degree from the Law School, are eligible to participate.
Prior to participating in the Entrepreneurship Law Center, students must first take an introductory course in corporations or business associations, and then the Law School seminar on Entrepreneurship Law. This seminar takes the student on a journey through many aspects of starting up and operating a new venture and representing an entrepreneurial client. While students are exposed to many entirely new subjects, they are also taught how to put into practice in a business context the theoretical concepts learned in Contracts, Corporations, Federal Tax, Antitrust, Local Government and Employment Law.
Other courses offered on a staggered basis are Financing the Entrepreneurial Venture and various structuring transaction classes, each designed to expose students to significant aspects of transactional law.
A key ingredient to the success of the Entrepreneurship Law Center is the involvement of a Student Board. Members, selected by past board members, are highly-motivated, entrepreneurial individuals who make significant contributions in the area of program content, student and client recruitment, fundraising, public relations, community outreach, and the use of technology.
Partnership with Northwestern University's Kellogg School of Management has been particularly rewarding for Entrepreneurship Law Center students and clients, alike. The Student Board and faculty advisors have begun to explore ways to collaborate more closely with the University's College of Engineering and Applied Sciences and with the numerous governmental and private sector organizations, as well, to help stimulate economic development in the Chicago metropolitan area.
Student Board members conduct community workshops and engage in other outreach activities involving small business, entrepreneurship, and economic development.