The Northwestern Entrepreneurship Law Center hosted its 10th annual law Conference on Saturday March 7th. Over 200 attendees including JD-MBAs, NU Law Alums, CEOs of larger companies, students from School of the Art Institute of Chicago, Future Founders, Kent Law, Loyola, NU Law, NU Med, NU Engineering heard panel sessions on new venture financing, legal tips for start- ups as well as IP issues and brand protection. During the afternoon, law students provided a drop-in legal clinic for entrepreneurs. The format also provided networking time for the attendees and presenters. This annual event provides emerging collegiate entrepreneurs opportunities to share ideas, pose questions and to meet and network with students from other campuses.
While entrepreneurs are eager to bring their idea to market, they often they need assistance in making 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 was one of the first programs in the United States to provide hands-on training for prospective 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 trains students for leadership positions in law and business and provides legal assistance to many community 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. They also lead presentations at local high schools and conduct entrepreneurial seminars at community centers. See The Entrepreneurship Law Center’s website law.northwestern.edu/legalclinic/elc/for a complete program description.
This year’s keynote speaker, Thomas Morsch, JD, Northwestern University emeritus professor of Law and emeritus Director of Entrepreneurship Law Center received the 2015 Distinguished Entrepreneur Award in recognition of his development of the Law Center.
Tom recalls that, “in the spring 1998 some JD/MBA students suggested to the dean of the law school that there should be a hands-on clinical program for students interested in becoming transactional lawyers, as distinguished from those who planned to be trial lawyers and who already had such a program available to them”. He was contacted and asked to start such a program.
“The program, originally founded as the Small Business Opportunity Center, kicked off on September 1, 1998 - with 4 students and no clients in the clinic, and 20 students in a related seminar that he called "Entrepreneurship Law". They set out to find appropriate clients, and the list grew rapidly. As it did, the number of students grew accordingly. By 2001, Tom had hired an administrative assistant and another lawyer-supervisor, and they were receiving requests for legal assistance at the rate of 3 or 4 per week. As part of its broad promotion of local collegiate self-employment education programs, the Coleman Foundation provided its first grant to the Center in 1999.