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UC law students provide free legal counsel to 230 local entrepreneurs

Two UC law students and their clients at MORTAR.

UC law students advise small business owners who are part of MORTAR's entrepreneurial program.


The University of Cincinnati College of Law is giving its students real-world experience with Cincinnati entrepreneurs through a partnership with the Entrepreneurship and Community Development Clinic (ECDC) and MORTAR.

“One of the best ways for our law students to learn how to practice law is by actually doing it,” says Lew Goldfarb, director of the ECDC. “In the clinic, law students assume responsibility for managing attorney-client relationships from start to finish, an experience that cannot be duplicated in the classroom.”

The ECDC opened in 2010 to provide hands-on training for law students and to provide free legal services to local entrepreneurs and nonprofit organizations that might otherwise be unable to afford professional counsel. In the past six years, 147 students have provided over $1 million in free legal help to 230 local businesses and organizations.

“The ECDC is different than most other business clinics due to its extensive community involvement,” Goldfarb says. “We partner with many local business organizations, law firms and local lawyers, which helps enhance our impact on local entrepreneurs and law students alike.”
 
Under the supervision of Goldfarb and attorneys from local law firms, students prepare and review contracts, work on trademarks and copyrights and handle issues around corporate governance and employment practices, as well as prepare applications for tax-exempt status. Fellowships with ECDC are offered each semester and over the summer.
 
In addition to ECDC’s relationship with MORTAR, students have worked with other local incubators like Bad Girl Ventures, The Brandery, First Batch, the Hamilton County Business Center and OCEAN Accelerator. The students' experience with each accelerator program is similar, but their work must be tailored to the varied needs of their clients.
 
“Most MORTAR business owners are starting lifestyle businesses and not high-growth, venture track tech businesses, like those participating in The Brandery program,” Goldfarb says. “Students sometimes must adjust their legal priorities and how certain agreements are drafted.”
 
Goldfarb’s commitment to support and strengthen the local entrepreneurial community extends to serving as a member of MORTAR’s board.
 
“I was thrilled when I read about the launch of MORTAR,” Goldfarb says. “I believe its mission met a significant, unmet need in the entrepreneurship community. I reached out to Derrick Braziel to find out more about their plans and to discuss a potential partnership with the ECDC.”
 
ECDC also works with independent clients that are not affiliated with one of the local accelerator or incubator programs. Community partners refer businesses that are in need of assistance, and other clients reach out for assistance directly through an application on the group's website.

With the tremendous growth in the local entrepreneurial community and redevelopment efforts underway in many Cincinnati neighborhoods, ECDC anticipates there will be an increasing need for its services.
 
“I am open to collaborations with other organizations in the community as long as it will benefit our students and our resources allow it,” Goldfarb says. “By working together, I believe we can make a big difference in the community.”
 

Read more articles by Julie Carpenter.

Julie Carpenter is a jack-of-all-trades with a background in cultural heritage tourism, museums and nonprofit organizations. She's a bit obsessed with the built environment and irregularly shares her musings on architecture, urban planning and city life on Facebook and Twitter (@StrawStickBrick).
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