Entrepreneurial Law Clinic provides critical early stage legal, business counseling

posted Nov 01, 2018

The University of Washington School of Law Entrepreneurial Law Clinic (ELC) is a cornerstone of the innovation ecosystem in the Pacific Northwest. 

The clinic teams UW law and business students with pro bono attorneys and business advisors to provide critical early stage legal and business counseling to technology entrepreneurs, small business owners, social entrepreneurs, nonprofits and faculty researchers from UW who may potentially spin off from CoMotion, the innovation hub of the university.

The ELC is a transactional and counseling clinic that provides startups with a comprehensive legal and business audit. It is also a part of the United States Patent and Trademark Office Law School Clinic Certification Program in trademarks and patents – this means that clients’ trademark and patent applications can be seen on an expedited basis.

“We help startups identify and prioritize their legal issues while remedying potential problems and establishing systems to prevent standard business formation and growth pitfalls,” said Jennifer Fan, director of the Entrepreneurial Law Clinic and a UW assistant professor of law. “Through the ELC, students are able to get the real world experience they want and need to be successful business attorneys in the future. It is an experience unlike any other that they will have in law school.”

Seattle Strong Coffee

Seattle Strong Coffee is a craft cold brew coffee company founded by a team of master’s students from the UW Foster School of Business. They started their business with the intent of creating a better tasting and stronger cold brew without additives. The resulting brew has three times the caffeine of normal coffee with a smooth flavor and is available at markets around Seattle.

The ELC analyzed corporate and intellectual property issues for the Seattle Strong team. They drafted documents, including non-disclosure and IP assignment agreements, and conversion documentation.

"The ELC was critical in helping us with our articles of conversion,” said Evan Oeflein, COO of Seattle Strong Coffee. “They saved us an incredible amount of money and were helpful in providing other legal documents for use with future employees, partners, and suppliers. It was an exceptional experience all-around."

In the UW Business Plan Competition, Seattle Strong Coffee won the $2,500 Accenture “Best Consumer Product Idea” prize.

Smart surgical recovery boot

Alexandra Hammerberg, a UW graduate student, developed a pressure-sensing composite material that can be used in footwear, headgear and protective clothing. She hopes to develop a smart surgical recovery boot using her material that could measure the pressure placed by the patient’s foot and help healthcare professionals to track their patients’ recovery process.

The ELC provided Hammerberg with advice on forming an entity and protecting her intellectual property. Additionally, ELC patent students have worked with her to file a provisional patent with the USPTO for her composite material.

“Working with the ELC has been a highly educational and rewarding experience,” Hammerberg said. “The ELC students that I worked with, along with their professional mentors, provided insight and expertise I would not otherwise have access to as a first-time inventor and graduate student. I was hugely impressed with the students' quality of work and the priority they gave to putting together the memorandum and the provisional patent.”

An invaluable experience

For John Delaney, J.D. ’18 and LL.M. ’19, the Entrepreneurial Law Clinic was the most valuable experience of law school.

“There is nowhere else in the law school curriculum to get the kind of practical exposure and training that the clinic provides,” he said. “The trifecta of working with fellow classmates, helping the clients and learning from Prof. Fan is the perfect storm of learning.”

“I really felt like I made a difference,” Delaney said.

355 Entrepreneurial Law Clinic Projects since 2006: 119 microenterprises; 97 nonprofit/social ventures; 84 Technology ventures; 55 UW Tech spinoffs.

Since the clinic’s inception in 2006, the Entrepreneurial Law Clinic has taken on 355 projects to assist clients with their business needs. The clinic focuses on microenterprises; technology ventures; nonprofits and social ventures; and UW spinoffs.