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Entrepreneurial Business Law Clinic open for business

January 5, 2012 | Events

With a dozen students eager to help entrepreneurs with their dreams, The Ohio State University Moritz College of Law Entrepreneurial Business Law Clinic opens for business this month.

The clinic, led by Assistant Professor Charles Lee Thomason, has three clients so far, with more to be added throughout the semester. All are e-commerce businesses with Ohio or Ohio State connections.

Two of the businesses were winners at start-up conferences in Akron and Cincinnati. The events feature aspiring entrepreneurs and their business plans. A panel decides which plan is the most viable, often awarding funds or some other resource to the winner.

Thomason, a patent attorney, also contacted peers for leads on people who had great ideas but limited resources to pay for legal fees.

“You can find people who know a lot about one thing,” Thomason said, “but what’s fun is to find a person who knows a lot about multiple things – how to run a business, how to get into a market, and how to engage others in an enterprise. That is what an entrepreneur is.”

Students will benefit by being able to work with clients on real business law issues, from helping a business incorporate to transactional work to handling intellectual property issues. It will give them an opportunity to combine the law they have learned in lectures into a unified approach to use with clients, Thomason said.

The third-year students will work with clients on a pro bono basis, which is critical for start-ups in their infancy.

“They’ve got a limited amount of resources. Many start-ups can get organized to head in the direction they choose, but most run out of money for day-to-day operations,” Thomason said. “So they tend to defer their legal expenses. They wait to get incorporated, or they rely on ‘handshake’ agreements.

“They believe they’re saving money until they have a problem and realize they aren’t in a secure legal position to deal with it, or they lack legal protections that could minimize the problem,” he continued. “Entrepreneurs are smart people, but they still need to make informed business decisions based on legal guidance, or they may not make it past the start-up stage.”

The Entrepreneurial Business Law Clinic is the seventh clinic at Moritz, funded almost entirely by donations from alumni and friends of the College, including Ed Cooperman ’67, James J. Johnson ’72, Alec Wightman ’75, John T. Mills ’73, Clay P. Graham ’80, Michael Segal ’83, David Jamieson ’69, Robert L. Grossman ’78, Ohio Capital Corporation for Housing, and John J. Chester Sr.

“I think the clinic is a real benefit to the school and the students, and the donors are the ones who made it happen,” Thomason said.