Published March 2, 2020
Starting a business involves planning, making key financial decisions and completing a series of legal activities. For a startup, taking care of the legal requirements is an important part of forming a new business. But engaging a lawyer who can handle new business challenges just got easier.
Entrepreneurs, meet resources.
UB’s Office of Business and Entrepreneur Partnerships and the School of Law have partnered to launch the Entrepreneurship Law Center Clinic, also known as the e-Law Center Clinic, to provide legal services to entrepreneurs and startups that are not yet ready or able to engage outside legal counsel.
The center, part of the law school’s clinical legal education program, is also part of a larger initiative, UB’s Innovation Hub. The Innovation Hub directly supports the growth of Buffalo Niagara’s innovation economy by encouraging and driving ideation and startup formation.
“Launching this program is very exciting. Our team welcomes the collaboration to create a best-in-class educational experience for the next generation of transactional lawyers that also supports a critical need in the startup community,” says Christina Orsi, associate vice president in the Office of Business and Entrepreneur Partnerships.
As entrepreneurship continues to thrive across Western New York, access to pertinent legal services is needed. Startups don’t often have the resources they need to navigate the many legal requirements necessary to get their ideas off the ground and position themselves to grow their companies.
The Innovation Hub, which was established last May as part of a $32 million award to UB from New York State, is providing initial funding for the e-Law Center Clinic.
To meet the needs of Buffalo Niagara’s startup economy, the center will:
“You have all these different components,” says UB alumnus Matthew Pelkey, director of the e-Law Center Clinic. “There are the founders, the entrepreneurs coming up with ideas and executing them, but there are also the professional services and vendors they need, as well as educators and academics, and investors — the finance piece to help fund them for growth. All of these things have to work in tandem.
“We are hoping to increase the number of entrepreneurs and increase the number of businesses started,” says Pelkey, adjunct professor in the School of Law. “This will hopefully, in turn, create successful companies that will create jobs and provide opportunity for Western New York to grow.”
Getting the right legal support to establish a startup correctly can be a challenge because startups often can’t afford legal services. The center fills that gap while providing hands-on learning experiences for UB law students.
“This has been a big issue,” says Tim Dee, associate director of technology transfer in Business and Entrepreneur Partnerships. “We didn’t have anywhere to turn for them to go for proper legal assistance when they didn’t yet have funding in place.”
UB’s Technology Transfer office will work with the center to close this gap between UB-born innovation and its mobilization into a viable business entity. Legal matters like entity selection, financing and licensing can all be facilitated through the center.
The Entrepreneurship Law Center Clinic builds off the law school’s successful technology transfer law program. With assistance from UB’s Technology Transfer office, law students have had the opportunity to do intellectual property work for UB technologies. This will expand with the e-Law Center Clinic’s hiring of former UB law student tech transfer intern Jordan Wallbasser, who will help more students learn about the critical role intellectual property can play in helping commercialize new innovations.
The e-Law Center Clinic is already having a significant impact, Pelkey says.
“The impact it’s having — especially the fellowship for students — is incredibly rewarding,” he says. “So there’s this economic development piece and commercialization piece that’s important, but to be able to provide students an opportunity to have exposure to a career path they may have never considered before, match them with a job they never thought they could pursue, and really open those doors as a mentor? It’s very difficult to even put into words how rewarding that is.”
To learn more about UB’s Entrepreneurship Law Center Clinic, visit the Business and Entrepreneur Partnerships’ website.