By Andrew Cohen
To broaden its work on startup and venture capital issues, Berkeley Law has launched a new program called Startup@BerkeleyLaw. A joint initiative of the school’s Berkeley Center for Law, Business and the Economy (BCLBE) and Berkeley Center for Law & Technology (BCLT), it will give students—as well as entrepreneurs, investors, and attorneys—access to top experts, timely courses, and dynamic programming on emerging legal issues for startups.
The program’s first endeavor is a partnership with the Nasdaq Entrepreneurial Center, a new nonprofit in San Francisco designed to educate, innovate, and connect current and aspiring entrepreneurs. Startup@BerkeleyLaw will offer courses there on several legal areas that affect startups.
“We’re witnessing an historic shift as more Silicon Valley companies move toward San Francisco and the East Bay,” said Adam Sterling, BCLBE’s executive director. “Berkeley Law’s geographic advantage, combined with this new initiative and Nasdaq partnership, will help cement our leadership position in the study of startup and venture capital law. For students interested in the startup practice, this is the place to be.”
The Nasdaq Entrepreneurial Center opens September 24, with the first Startup@BerkeleyLaw course to be held there September 29. Executive Director Nicola Corzine met with BCLBE leaders last spring to discuss crafting the center’s law curriculum.
Berkeley Law Professor and BCLBE Co-faculty Director Robert Bartlett will teach Basic Startup Law. A former startup attorney who still engages with venture capital funds, angel investors, and entrepreneurs, Bartlett has additional experience in the field as a researcher and educator. Basic Startup Law will be offered twice a month to current or aspiring entrepreneurs and Berkeley Law students in two-hour sessions.
Subsequent advanced topics courses will be taught by Bartlett and other members of Berkeley Law’s renowned faculty in intellectual property law and privacy. Those courses will tackle areas such as data breach, privacy, IP strategy, and founders’ equity. By leveraging BCLBE and BCLT’s deep network of Bay Area law firms, the curriculum will also incorporate some of the startup world’s leading practitioners.
The courses and programs will be held at the Nasdaq Entrepreneurial Center’s new Howard Street facilities in the heart of San Francisco’s startup scene. “In addition to helping educate our students interested in this practice, it will provide an excellent opportunity for them to network with young entrepreneurs and attorneys,” Sterling noted.
Ahead of the curve
Startup@BerkeleyLaw will also broaden Berkeley Law’s own startup curriculum, which includes Business Law Bootcamp, Intellectual Property for Entrepreneurs, Silicon Valley Antitrust, and Venture Capital.
“Berkeley Law is unique in that so many of our faculty directly conduct research on the startup ecosystem and enjoy preparing students for working in that sector,” Bartlett said. “There’s a lot of fertile terrain for expanding our brand in this domain. By leveraging our world-class faculty in business law and IP, as well as our unique access to real-world entrepreneurial activity, we can deliver training for the aspiring startup lawyer like no other law school.”
Outside the classroom, Startup@BerkeleyLaw will help local startups navigate tricky legal and organizational issues that confront new ventures. It will also leverage the school’s existing startup programs and resources through the New Business Practicum, which has helped launch some of the area’s emerging startups; the InSITE Fellowship, which teams law students with business students on consulting projects for local startups; and the new Berkeley IP Lab, an experiential course that pairs law students with Berkeley-affiliated startups.
Professor Robert Merges and BCLT Executive Director Jim Dempsey worked with Dean Sujit Choudhry to form the IP Lab, which launched this year. The tandem seminar-practicum course gives student hands-on exposure to the IP issues facing firms associated with SkyDeck, the UC Berkeley startup incubator.
“Berkeley Law has deep expertise in the spectrum of issues crucial to the startup economy, from entity formation to securities and financing to IP strategy and data security,” Dempsey said. “On campus and off, we’re positioning Berkeley Law as the leader for education and research about the legal framework that enables innovation.”
To cement that status, the school is working to funnel more startups into its existing clinics and practicums, expand experiential offerings, and place more students onto entrepreneurial projects.
“Many of the hottest startup companies in the world are now headquartered within a dozen miles of the law school,” Sterling said. “As with the campus startup scene, a lot of these companies need both legal and non-legal advice. Integrating them into Startup@BerkeleyLaw can greatly enhance the range of issues, technologies, and personalities available to our students.”
Note: Legal trainings and office hours at the Nasdaq Entrepreneurial Center are intended only to provide an educational experience and overview of legal concepts and issues. These programs are not a substitute for obtaining legal advice and neither the legal trainings nor office hours create an attorney-client relationship.