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New Clinic Project Provides Legal Assistance to Start-Ups

September 09, 2013

Budding entrepreneurs and start-up companies on a budget in Silicon Valley and beyond now have access to free legal services thanks to the USF School of Law’s new Entrepreneurial Ventures Legal Services Project. The project is a collaborative effort between the school’s Investor Justice, Employment Law, Internet and Intellectual Property, and Mediation clinics.

Filmmakers Krista Howell and Mark Gunson, developing a film tribute to Bay Area surfing, discuss their legal needs with Entrepreneurial Ventures Legal Services Project students.

“Although San Francisco Bay Area entrepreneurs often have the next great idea, they often need legal expertise to put their business together effectively and within the law’s requirements,” said Professor and Project Director Robert Talbot. “Start-up companies are always unique. From the business plan and management team to the capital resources, the product, and the marketing—all create needs that vary with each individual project. The legal help that a start-up needs almost always requires expertise in multiple legal disciplines.”

Under the supervision of clinical faculty and staff, law students in the four clinics provide the range of legal expertise that many entrepreneurs need to launch their businesses successfully. The Investor Justice Clinic works on business and securities legal issues; the Internet and Intellectual Property Justice Clinic works with trademarks, copyrights, patents and online business issues; and the Employment Law Clinic works with issues ranging from worker rights to employee classification and employment discrimination. In addition, the Mediation Clinic works with resolving conflicts through alternative dispute resolution rather than traditional means.

As they help fledgling start-ups with legal services, law students receive valuable hands-on training, Talbot said. 

“This experience helps students become practice-ready,” he said. “Students gain experience with the vocabulary and skills to hit the ground running as transactional lawyers. They are handling legal issues that are particularly important in the Bay Area. In addition, by working on cases in teams made up of students from different law clinics, they learn how to work collaboratively.”

The Entrepreneurial Ventures Legal Services Project is currently assisting its first clients, including a new fitness venture and a group of filmmakers. The number of clients accepted is limited and based on criteria including financial need of the entrepreneurs, whether the company will provide jobs or needed services to the community, whether the company is nonprofit, and whether the project is of a complexity suitable for students.

For additional information about the Entrepreneurial Ventures Legal Services Project, contact lawclinic@usfca.edu