In service to our vibrant entrepreneurial community
Lee Thomason writes that there is a sense of pride when Moritz College law students can help their fellow Buckeyes succeed in business.
A student-led initiative for a clinical program to teach the practice of lawyers handling business transactions was the beginning of the Entrepreneurial Business Law Clinic at the Moritz College of Law. Once the clinic launched in 2012, the mission was to provide free legal services to startups and early-stage businesses. With brand names ranging from Alekto to Zaber, the clinic has helped launch more than 100 new businesses from formation toward their first capital raise. Each semester, I find 12 new businesses that are ready to launch, and I pair those with 12 third-year law students who qualify for legal intern certification from the Ohio Supreme Court. Being the attorney in charge of the clinic and working daily with ambitious entrepreneurs and exceptional law students is fun, challenging and fulfilling.
The vitality of the startup community around Columbus and its universities has enabled our clinical program to thrive. The entrepreneurs may be undergrads through doctoral candidates, or 30-somethings trying to transition from employees to business owners. The founders may come from the Greater Columbus area or from anywhere in Ohio. New businesses come to the clinic from on-campus groups like the Business Builders Club and from events such as the BOSS competition at our Technology and Commercialization Office, the Business Plan competition at the Fisher School of Business and the Big Ideas for Health event at the Wexner Medical Center. We meet other clients at WakeUp Startup and SunDown RunDown, and others are referred by our former clients. Every semester our clients have new ideas, unique business models and things you never have thought about. Engaging with their ambitions and seeking solutions for our clients’ legal needs are what keeps our students working hard to provide the best legal services — for free.
The most typical clients will ask their team of two law students to establish a legal entity, usually an LLC, and we will recommend that the founders have an operating agreement for their business. From there, our work plan for the clients branches out to tasks related to confidentiality, intellectual property, employees and interns, bartering work for a share of equity ownership, contracts with business partners and how to mitigate risks of legal liability. Our law students take on these projects with enthusiasm and with a sense of purpose that they may not have experienced during their first years in law school.
It is gratifying to follow the progress of clients who started with a well-developed business idea and now have a business that has grown and has employees. Cody Warren started two businesses that came through our clinic. His Two Men and a Vacuum business now operates from offices in downtown Columbus. Adam Benner and Walt Keys came to the clinic with plans for a microbrewery, and now you can enjoy the atmosphere and craft beer at Land Grant Brewing in Franklinton. They needed our clinical students to help with trademarks, raising capital and, later, real estate. A client from Cincinnati, LISNR, asked for our help with user agreements and employee matters for its online business. Since then, LISNR has raised substantial capital, was named No. 12 on CNBC's Disruptor50 list and won a Gold Lion at the Cannes Festival. Another client, Ryan McManus, tried several business plans while pursuing his MBA at Fisher. Now, Ryan operates ContentVia from offices in Franklinton, and it continues to add employees and to help others launch businesses.
The mission of the Entrepreneurial Business Law Clinic — and the enjoyment of working with great students and a wide range of startup businesses — continues.