Through the Startup Law Initiative (SLI), first-year students team up with law firms to provide free legal incorporation services to low-income and diverse startup founders and local entrepreneurs. SLI’s services allow founders to overcome costly legal barriers to conducting business. Founders must meet income requirements to qualify for assistance.
Students are put into small groups and assigned a startup client to work with over the course of the year. In the fall, students will help the clients incorporate, gaining experience in research, client intake, interviewing, drafting and filing documents (e.g., articles of incorporation), and interacting with clients and supervising attorneys. In the spring, students will work on a variety of documents that are important to startups, such as equity incentive plans, nondisclosure agreements, and employment contracts.
Additionally, students learn the core legal, financial, and organizational aspects of starting and scaling a new business by attending training workshops. A group of students will create and present a workshop on startup law basics to the community each semester.
Supervision: Students in SLI are supervised by attorneys from the law firm SPZ Legal, P.C.
Time Commitment: 20-25 hours per semester
Frequently Asked Questions
- Can all Berkeley Law students apply? Yes, both J.D. and LL.M. students are welcome to apply, but applicants should keep in mind that our capacity is limited. SLI was limited to 18 members last year given supervising attorney capacity and will be limited to 24 members during the 2023-2024 school year.
- I came to Berkeley Law because I want to be part of the start up law culture at the law school. If I do not receive an offer to join SLI, how else can I get involved? SLI is only one small way to get involved in startup law efforts at the law school. Students should check out startup@BerkeleyLaw for more information. There are several courses at the law school, including the New Business Legal Bootcamp and the New Business Law Clinic. The Berkeley Center for Law and Business hosts events throughout the year, including several related to startup law such as the Venture Capital Speaker Series. It is important to remember that SLI is a pro bono project focused on creating access to legal services to under-resourced entrepreneurs. Students interested in start up law and emerging businesses can pursue this field in many other ways at the law school.
- What times/days of the week will meetings take place? Training for new student fellows will take place on September 29, and will be led by our supervising attorneys. Client work will be done on the fellows’ time, coordinated with teammates. Incorporation will take place from September to November 2023. From January to March 2024, student fellows will work on general legal documents. Fellows will give a Saturday workshop on startup law basics each semester.
- Is prior experience required/preferred? No! Training will be provided, so no experience is necessary. One of the goals of the organization is to provide exposure to corporate transactional work for students who are interested but have not had prior opportunities to explore this type of work.
For more information, please contact the student leaders at StartupLawInitiative@berkeley.edu.