The countless legal details involved with launching a business can be overwhelming and decisions have long-term consequences.
Student attorneys in the College of Law’s Entrepreneurship Legal Clinic are helping position Nebraska startups for success, while gaining firsthand experience in transactional law.
Brett Stohs, the clinic’s Cline Williams Director, established the clinic to meet local entrepreneurs’ needs. The early stages of starting a business involve numerous legal decisions that owners may be encountering for the first time, including contract negotiation, employee hiring, regulatory compliance and protecting intellectual property.
Often, budgets and timelines are tight. The Entrepreneurship Legal Clinic pairs third-year law students with aspiring business owners seeking guidance on these and other issues. It’s a win for both parties, said Stohs, assistant clinical professor of law.
“Our goal is to engage student attorneys and push them into a situation where they have to swim in a private firm setting. It’s a great growth opportunity for them,” he said.
Law students learn valuable lessons about culture, communication and client expectations that a classroom can’t replicate, he said. Nearly 60 students have participated in the capstone program.
The Entrepreneurship Legal Clinic typically serves 12 to 15 clients each semester – and many more are waiting in line. When the clinic opened in 2013, most clients were from Lincoln. Now at least one-third come from rural areas, which allows students to learn how to assist clients remotely and expands the clinic’s ability to serve Nebraska.
A range of practical experiences and the diversity of clients give students a clearer idea of what they can achieve professionally, Stohs said.
The clinic shares a tie with the NMotion business accelerator, a mentoring and education program for startups. Stohs is a program mentor, and several NMotion alumni have been clinic clients, including animal health and biometrics company Quantified Ag.