Law & Entrepreneurship Clinic: A day in the life

In a sun-filled room overlooking bustling University Avenue, a group of lawyers is gathered around a large conference table. The table is littered with notepads, laptops and cups of coffee. As the group works, moments of near-silence and intense concentration are followed by impromptu updates and questions.

“My client changed the design mechanism on the prosthetic hand, again,” says one.

“That means you’ll have to rewrite the patent application,” responds another.

“Do you think I should redo my patentability search?”

The collaborative group is busy solving problems facing entrepreneurs and start-up businesses, such as business formation, capital structure, funding, intellectual property and contracts.

The catch?

The lawyers gathered around the table are mostly students, in their second or third year of law school. They, together with their supervising attorneys, form the Law & Entrepreneurship Clinic (L&E Clinic).

What follows is a glimpse at a fraction of the myriad activities that take place throughout the course of one day.

9:00 a.m. Student-attorney Grant Keebler is conducting patentability research. His client wants to explore existing patents for a solar power project before he invests more time developing the product. “I will spend up to 15 hours researching what’s out there and advising our client on how they could tailor their project to be unique and patentable.”

10:00 a.m. Student-attorney Maciej Pietruczak and supervising attorney Troy Vosseller ‘10 are conducting an initial client meeting over Skype. Their client is interested in setting up non-compete contracts to protect his science entertainment program. “We really emphasize the lawyer-as-counselor model,” says Vosseller. “In these types of meetings, students learn how to give clients the information they need to make decisions.”

11:00 a.m.  Donor Mark Burish ’78 visits the L&E Clinic and learns about current projects. “This is one of the few places you can get this level of hands-on experience as a student,” he tells the group. “I was working in a firm for years before I got the opportunity to work on the kind of projects you are working on.” 

Over a dozen student-attorneys and their supervisors gather in a conference room presenting projects, asking questions and getting feedback. Says student-attorney Maciej Pietruczak: “I started by creating a 12-page contract, the most detailed contract possible, and then realized that contracts are a balancing act between including everything lawyers want and avoiding scaring clients away with too much legal language,” he says. “Now the contract is only two pages. We have to pick and choose what is right for the client.” 

Students and supervising attorneys alike pitch in to review the contract and ask questions about language choices – “Why did you use the word ‘latest’ there – could that cause any problems?”

1:00 p.m. Student-attorney Lindsey Thompson is drafting a patent for a client. Lindsey and co-director Anne Smith meet with the client to review changes he made in his technology that impact the patent drafting. Although the changes seem minor to the client, they impact the patent draft. Lindsey counsels the client on how to make the decision to stop tinkering with the design so the patent draft can be finalized and filed.

2:00 p.m. Student-attorney Matthew Leffler meets with clients who are drafting an operating agreement and want to formalize employment status. His role is to educate and inform the client on legal and business risks. He goes over the updated contract clause by clause, laying out the rights and responsibilities of each party. “We try to encourage clients to have the difficult conversations on the front end of these agreements. We ask, what are potential areas of conflict in the future and what can we do to be proactive now?”

3:00 p.m.
Supervising attorney Rebecca Burkes does more than field questions and review student work. Today, she’s developing educational resources on entity selection to help the student-attorneys better understand the issues involved in entity selection and to firm up the L&E Clinic’s standard operating agreement language.

4:00 p.m. Co-directors Eric Englund and Anne Smith contact a member of the advisory committee. They discuss limited liability corporation questions that are routinely surfacing in the L&E Clinic’s client work with Joe Boucher ‘78 from the law firm Neider Boucher. Using the expertise of members of the advisory committee is part of the robust review process the clinic follows. “We have access to top-notch attorneys who lend their expertise and review student work,” says Englund. “This enables us to offer a wide variety of services to our clients.”

5:00 p.m. Student-attorney Brittany Nanzig wraps up her work for the day by uploading the final draft of a new contract into the firm's electronic document management system and logging her time. “L&E Clinic graduates tell us having experience tracking time and documenting their work made it easier for them to focus on substantive matters rather than learning administrative processes in their new careers,” says Smith.

Submitted by Law School News on October 16, 2012

This article appears in the categories: Articles

Submit an Article