Law School clinic founders win Best of Madison Business Award
The award recognizes Smith’s and Englund’s work with the L&E Clinic, which provides free legal services for area entrepreneurs and small business owners. The pair received the award along with five others, who together form a network of support for Madison’s vibrant high-tech and biotech sectors.
According to Madison Magazine Editor Brennan Nardi, the L&E Clinic caught the attention of her staff last year, when they were pulling together the ‘M List,’ an annual who’s who of the local business and entrepreneurial scene.
“The Law & Entrepreneurship Clinic’s work was mentioned enough times that we knew we needed to learn more,” Nardi says.
L&E Clinic students assist their clients with tricky legal matters like patents, partnership agreements and employee contracts. Students are supervised by experienced local attorneys, who also act as liaisons to an advisory council. The council consults on legal issues, reviews student work before its release to clients and helps move the clinic’s mission and work forward.
The clinic’s work helps entrepreneurs get their good ideas off the ground — while avoiding costly legal mistakes — so that their businesses can grow and bring jobs and revenue to the community. In turn, students get valuable hands-on experience toward becoming practice-ready transactional attorneys when they enter the workforce.
Smith says leading the clinic with Englund has been an exhilarating adventure.
“When we launched in 2009, I doubt anyone would have imagined that in less than five years, over a hundred students would have participated in the clinic, providing legal services to nearly 600 clients,” Smith says.
What’s more, 96 percent of L&E Clinic clients who responded to a recent survey say they are still in business.
The key to the clinic’s success? A collaborative approach, rooted in the strong local partnerships the clinic has formed, says Smith.
“This award is recognition of an extraordinary team effort,” Smith says. “Without the commitment of our students and advisory committee, as well as alumni and Law School support, we would not have received this recognition.”
The school’s commitment to its entire clinical program was rewarded recently when PreLaw Magazine ranked the UW Law School fourth in the nation for clinical offerings.
Nardi credits the relationship between the city and the university, with its mission of improving people’s lives beyond the classroom, too.
“There’s so much the UW has to offer, and Madison has historically been very open to building partnerships,” Nardi says. “The Law & Entrepreneurship Clinic’s collaboration with the legal community is a shining example.”