Entrepreneurship and Community Development Clinic

Clinic Description

The Entrepreneurship & Community Development Clinic  (“ECD Clinic”)  represents the start-ups of low- and moderate-income entrepreneurs and fledgling businesses. Business owners who are committed to strengthening communities—such as through job creation or by providing valuable goods and services for their communities—often have limited resources. Students provide these clients with essential legal counsel through a wide range of transactional legal services while also receiving the hands-on, practical experience needed to navigate the evolving fields of entrepreneurship and community development. The clinic not only promotes economic empowerment and social innovation but also contributes meaningfully to the entrepreneurial ecosystem in the New York City area.

The ECD Clinic is a one-semester course that introduces students to transactional lawyering. Students in the ECD Clinic provide free transactional legal services to low-income and moderate-income entrepreneurs and community-based organizations in the neighborhoods surrounding Columbia on issues relating to new and emerging businesses. The clinic will be of interest to students interested in learning to work with organizational clients and learning to represent clients in transactions.

Instructor: Lynnise Pantin, Pritzker Pucker Family Clinical Professor of Transactional Law
Experiential Credits: 7 credits (3 for the seminar; 4 for fieldwork)
Available in: Fall 2024 and Spring 2025


As part of their Clinic experience, students attend a twice-weekly classroom seminar, which combines analysis of client matters, the relevant substantive law and lawyering skills required in a transactional practice. The purpose of discussion in the seminar is not to merely display mastery of the reading. Rather, discussion involves sharing thoughts, perspectives, and ideas, and listening to and building upon the contributions of others. Regular attendance and participation are expected. Attorneys for entrepreneurs encounter client needs in a variety of expansive substantive areas. In addition to the lawyering skills learned in seminar and clinic work, student attorneys in the ECD Clinic will be exposed to a range of substantive legal disciplines including intellectual property, employment law, corporate governance and regulation


Fieldwork in the Clinic will take the form of interviewing, legal research, problem-solving and legal analysis, writing, counseling, transaction/project planning, negotiating, and drafting contracts. More specifically, the Clinic will undertake legal work for clients that may include: 1) advising about entity choice and assisting with corporate formation, 2) answering employment questions, 3) assisting with the registration of trademarks and advising on other intellectual property issues, 4) drafting and negotiating agreements such as leases and other contract agreements, 5) assisting with applications for tax-exemptions and 6) advising on relevant regulatory and licensing issues. Students may also research and write on issues related to public policies that affect Clinic clients and may provide community education workshops on substantive law issues pertinent to the Clinic’s practice areas.

Advanced Opportunities

Students who choose to continue with the Advanced Entrepreneurship and Community Development Clinic can broaden their experience by:

  • Providing community education and outreach to low- and moderate-income entrepreneurs and community-based organizations.
  • Holding bi-weekly office hours with various incubators such as the Columbia Startup Lab.
  • Assisting the clinic in identifying potential clients and partner organizations.

Information For Clients:

The clinic represents organizations and small businesses that:

  • Cannot afford outside legal counsel.
  • Serve a community need.
  • Have detailed business plans with defined goals.
  • Have not received significant outside funding or financing from investors.
  • Are located in New York State, preferably within the five boroughs of New York City.

The ECD clinic advises clients on a variety of legal issues crucial for new and emerging businesses including:

  • Entity choice and corporate formation.
  • Employment law.
  • Trademark and copyright registration and protection.
  • Strategizing, negotiating, drafting, and reviewing contracts and agreements.
  • Ongoing corporate and regulatory matters.
  • Public policy issues that impact small businesses and community organizations.

The clinic does not provide counsel on litigation, patents, complex tax matters, securities, public mergers or acquisitions, or international trade.

We review applications on a rolling basis but take the bulk of our clients during the months of August and January.  Successful applicants will meet with law students for an in-person interview and to review a retainer agreement detailing the scope and terms of the clinic’s representation. A signed agreement is required before any legal work begins. Our legal services are free. Clients are responsible for any outside costs associated with the clinic’s legal work such as government-mandated applications or filing fees.