All clinic clients are businesses at an early stage in their development. Each term approximately 18 start-ups receive individualized legal assistance, while another 30-50 receive training in one of our community workshops. About two-thirds are for-profits – many come from local incubators, particularly the Haas Business School’s Lester Center for Entrepreneurship, SkyDeck Accelerator, and other business development programs. Nonprofits and cooperatives are often referred by established community-based agencies in the East Bay, particularly our programmatic partner, the East Bay Community Law Center. Many start-ups also have a second bottom line, i.e, they seek to combine profitability with addressing global problems of poverty and climate change. Clients pay no legal fees; only the government filing fees incurred. Clients enter into retainer agreements with the clinic which cover standard attorney-client ethical duties like confidentiality. Clients receive the same attention to ethical duties from clinic students as from any practicing lawyer.
In order to limit student work/client service to those areas within the clinic’s arena of competence, the Instructor negotiates a Letter of Engagement with the client at the beginning of each term. The LOE is designed to set reasonable goals and to delineate appropriate expectations, particularly the clinic’s focus on assisting with basic start up issues. Consequently, the clinic refers out all cases involving litigation, bankruptcy, acquisitions, patents, and complex matters involving tax law.
All Practicum Clients:
- are start-ups: either a new business or a veteran business starting a new program/product,
- are unable to afford counsel, and
- agree to meet with, communicate, and work actively with the assigned student team throughout the term.
Common Issues Addressed:
- Entity Formation
- Hiring Employees and Contractors
- Managing Risks
- Protecting Intellectual Property
- Regulatory Compliance
- Board Training
- Tax Exempt Activities
- Business Modeling
Since 2007, the clinic has provided individual assistance to over 200 clients; another 200+ have received training in our community workshops. Most entrepreneurs are women and people of color.