WEDC awards $75,000 to Law & Entrepreneurship Clinic

January 31, 2017 By Tammy Kempfert

The Law & Entrepreneurship Clinic at University of Wisconsin Law School has been awarded a $75,000 Entrepreneurship Support grant from the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation. The award means the clinic can expand its offering of no-cost legal services for entrepreneurs, especially those in the food and beverage sector.

That’s good news for area entrepreneurs, who, for all their creative wealth, can find themselves short on legal know-how — and on cash. The clinic offers them free early-stage legal and business counseling to help set their startups on the path to growth.

All the legal work is performed by UW Law students, who are preparing to become practice-ready transactional attorneys. Under the supervision of licensed attorneys, students manage clients, lead meetings and direct their own research.

Anne Smith

Anne Smith

According to director Anne Smith, approximately 1,500 clients have benefited from the clinic’s services since it opened its doors in 2009, but Wisconsin’s food and beverage industry has been underrepresented. Now the clinic is gearing up to provide food and beverage startups with specialized outreach, training and legal services.

“With the grant money, we’ll be able to help our clients comply with complex state and federal food safety regulations, as well as dealing with other hurdles they might encounter early on,” Smith says.

Funds from the grant will also help the clinic meet the evolving needs of its clients. WEDC funds are slated to support the development of the clinic’s patent practice and increase its capacity to work with international entrepreneurs.

“The added expertise and tools enable us to strategically advise startups so they can avoid future pitfalls and appropriately manage their businesses down the road,” Smith says. “Ultimately, the state’s economy benefits.”

And she says, boosting the state economy is part of the L&E Clinic mission. Last year alone, the clinic’s free services amounted to nearly 7,200 hours, which collectively saved clients over $1 million in fees. A recent clinic survey found that 75 percent of its clients have remained in business, 22 percent had annual revenues of $100,000 or more, and 10% employ five or more people.

The L&E Clinic is one of 11 organizations to receive nearly $500,000 in total funding through the WEDC’s new Entrepreneurship Support pilot program. The program aims to grow entrepreneurship throughout the state, with education, mentorship and training, business development and financial services.