The Entrepreneurship and Community Development Clinic at Columbia Law School represents entrepreneurs, nonprofit organizations, and community groups that need pro bono transactional legal counsel related to starting or operating their businesses.
The clinic’s free services are offered to clients in New York City that are committed to strengthening communities through job creation, producing and preserving affordable housing, or providing innovative and valuable goods and services for their communities.
The Entrepreneurship and Community Development Clinic is a one semester, seven credit clinic that provides students with a unique opportunity to develop business law and problem-solving skills while representing entrepreneurs, nonprofit organizations, and community groups. Working under the supervision of the clinic director, students will learn to work with community-based and organizational clients as they represent clients in transactions. Students may have the opportunity to advise clients on a variety of legal issues related to new and emerging businesses including:
- Entity choice and corporate formation of both nonprofit and for-profit entities
- Nonprofit law and governance issues
- Employment law
- Trademark and copyright registration and protection
- Strategizing, negotiating, drafting and reviewing agreements
- Ongoing corporate and regulatory matters
- The clinic may also provide students with the opportunity to represent clients on public policy issues impacting small businesses and community organizations.
The clinic is oriented around four themes: (i) legal basics of starting an organization; (ii) professionalism and client counseling and interviewing; (iii) familiarity with entrepreneurship in general, including understanding entrepreneurs and how transactional attorneys add value for clients; and (iv) drafting agreements. Much of the clinic’s value for students is the opportunity to develop and hone effective professional tools critical to the provision of high-quality legal services, including communication techniques, setting and meeting deadlines, working with colleagues as part of a team, and interfacing with clients. Professional responsibility, along with a student-attorney’s ethical obligations to his/her client will be addressed in the context of the clinic.
Visiting Professor Lynnise Pantin is a 2003 graduate of Columbia Law School. She has been the director and supervising attorney of the Entrepreneurship & Innovation Clinic at Boston College Law School.
Information for Clients
The clinic represents organizations and small businesses that meet these criteria:
- 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
- Located in New York State, preferably within the five boroughs of New York City.
- For nonprofits: the primary or secondary mission of the organization must be to serve low-income populations.
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 application or filing fees.
The clinic does not provide counsel on litigation, patents, complex tax matters, securities, public mergers or acquisitions, or international trade.