Law & Entrepreneurship Clinic director selected for new business law fellowship

December 7, 2017

Anne Smith, director of the University of Wisconsin Law School’s Law & Entrepreneurship Clinic, has been chosen as the inaugural recipient of the Kinnie Smith Rowe Faculty Fellowship in Business Law. (Anne Smith is no relation to Kinnie Smith).

She hopes to use the fellowship to advance a new strategic initiative that would allow the clinic to automate some of its processes so it can serve more clients. The clinic receives more than 500 applications a year and must turn away many clients and keep others on a wait list that can take months.

Anne Smith

“We would like to create an automated system that would help walk people through entity formation,” she says. “It would help us provide services to more people because the law students wouldn’t have to be as involved with the simpler cases and then we could focus on the more complicated cases and still provide a good amount of service to the state.”

The new fellowship was made possible by John Rowe ’70, and Stanton “Kinnie” Smith ’56. Rowe is the former chairman and chief executive of Exelon Corp., and after his retirement, his employer gave a generous gift to the Law School in his honor. Part of the gift funded the Rowe Faculty Fellowship in Regulatory Law, currently held by Professor Susannah Camic Tahk, and another part went to support the new Business Law fellowship.

Kinnie Smith, who spent more than 50 years practicing law with a focus on corporate compliance and governance, securities, mergers and acquisitions, and utility and energy law, matched Rowe’s contribution to fully endow the Business Law fellowship. Smith and his wife, Mary Beth, have been dedicated supporters of the L& EClinic since the beginning, visiting classes and helping with strategic planning.

“For the Law and Entrepreneurship Clinic, the support of alumni has been invaluable,” Smith says. “It’s so wonderful that generous alumni support us not only financially, but also strategically. Alumni are generous with their time — they care about us, challenge us, want us to be better and want us to succeed.”

Smith was selected based on her excellent and innovative work, according to Dean Margaret Raymond.

“What’s exciting about these fellowships is that they provide a very nice pool of resources outside the traditional ‘chair,’ which is available only to a full professor with tenure, to recognize and support a mid-level faculty member who is doing great work,” Raymond says. “It expands the scope of who we can recognize with flexible funds that faculty can use to do many different things — including the kind of innovative project that Professor Smith envisions.”

Smith said she’s especially honored not only to be the inaugural recipient, but to be the first UW Law clinical professor to win such a fellowship. While the fellowship recognizes her outstanding work at the L & E Clinic, which she co-founded in 2009, she insists that her accomplishments don’t belong to her alone.

“I always say it takes a village,” Smith says. “We couldn’t do it without our advisory committee, the L&E Clinic staff, the students who work hard every day, and the Law School that supports us and allows us to do things that some might think are crazy. It takes a lot to make this special place run.”

The clinic will start by automating the nonprofit entity process, but the plan is to eventually use the system with LLCs and other entities. Clients wouldn’t be completely on their own, but by handling some of the earlier work themselves, they could use their time with clinic staff to focus on more advanced questions, Smith notes. “This will allow us some breathing room to be able to devote more energy to this project, which will ultimately help us better serve clients,” Smith says.

And it’s those clients — and the students — who continue to fuel Smith’s passion for business law.

“Jobs and economic impact are really important. We’re in a state that has a changing economy, and it feels good to be able to support businesses that are intending to take the state’s economy in a different direction,” she says. “We’re doing our small, small part to help Wisconsin’s economy grow in innovative ways.”