During the first year of the Rutgers Law School, Evening Student Program-focused, Entrepreneurship Clinic, 16 students worked with entrepreneurial clients who had a wide range of enterprises, from developing baby blankets that could be used to treat infants with excess bilirubin to a service providing college students with safe travels on campus.
The students determined the clients’ suitability for the clinic, as well as the clients’ legal needs and strategies for meeting those legal needs, then set about addressing those legal needs.
The clinic, under the direction of Professor Douglas Eakeley, was taught by supervising attorney Theodore Weitz, who has a long record of experience representing entrepreneurial companies and who teaches entrepreneurial law at Fordham Law School. In addition, Mukesh Patel, an adjunct professor at the Rutgers Business School, who is also a serial entrepreneur and head of an incubator, was the director of development for the clinic and liaison between the clinic and the business school.
Patel said he brought in case studies for the students and potential clients for them to work with through the non-profit New Jersey Invention Network and the Rutgers Honors College Innovation Lab. He said the clinic law students had “case rounds” with potential clients, asking them about their business start-ups and assessing their legal needs.
“They learned how to represent them and practice these skills in a real attorney/client environment,” he said.
Through the clinic, law students listened to clients pitch their business ideas, took part in weekly conference calls and worked on client needs that included drafting articles of incorporation, writing up by-laws and nondisclosure agreements, conducting legal research, and advising on whether a business should be non-profit or for profit.
“The clinic . . . gave me the opportunity to help a start-up technology company restructure its equity organization, develop an employment agreement and vesting equity incentive package, and successfully secure a round of financing, “ said Joe Doll ’17, who graduated with a JD/MBA in May.
Jeffrey Kole, another clinic student, said “The clinic allowed me to work with some exciting startup companies run by local entrepreneurs who were in need of legal help, but would have had trouble footing a hefty legal bill.”
“In most cases, our students assisted at the very early stages, including selection of entity and founders’ issues, but in other cases the enterprises were more advanced and we assisted in financing and operational issues,” said Eakeley.
Justine Martolano, a clinic student who also graduated from Rutgers Law School in May, offered this advice to other law students, “I would highly recommend the Entrepreneurship Clinic to anyone who does not know what subject matter they would like to focus on, but would like the experience to gain practical legal skills, as well as to anyone who knows they are interested in contracts, business associations, and start-ups.”