October 19, 2006
UA Law/Entrepreneurship Program
Posted by Darian Ibrahim

First Usha's terrific post on training dealmakers, and now Gordon’s, gives me an opportunity to talk about something new we’re trying here at Arizona. This spring we kick-off a law/entrepreneurship collaboration, a year-long program designed to produce better transactional lawyers by having law students work directly with entrepreneurship students on their business ventures. Not only is the program designed to produce better transactional lawyers, but also to emphasize to future entrepreneurs the importance of law at an early stage in venture development. Gordon was kind enough to visit Tucson and lend his advice on the program earlier this fall. Below the fold, I describe the program in some detail. One of its strengths, we believe, is that it requires only minimal additional resources, making it possible to replicate at other schools. I’m not sure if it will bring “transactional training to the masses,” as Gordon says, but hopefully it’s a step in the right direction.

The law/entrepreneurship program assembles law students with interests spanning business organizations law, intellectual property law, and tax law to form a “mock law firm” to provide simulated legal counsel to the business school’s student entrepreneurship teams as those teams develop their ideas and prepare business plans. Many of these entrepreneurial ventures are technology-based, although some are not. The year-long program begins in the spring with 2Ls taking a 1-credit course called “entrepreneurship practicum I” co-taught by transactional law faculty. The goal of entrepreneurship practicum I is to prepare law students to make short business development “pitches” to the entrepreneurship teams at the end of the spring semester, which will alert the teams to the common legal issues faced by start-ups. To better prepare students for the practicum course, one of three “feeder” courses – intellectual property transactions, corporate tax, or law & entrepreneurship – is also required.

The heart of the program is in the fall, when the same law students (now 3Ls) take a 2-3 credit course called “entrepreneurship practicum II” that will involve more hands-on work with the entrepreneurship teams under the instruction of an adjunct professor, a practicing attorney specializing in start-up representation. During entrepreneurship practicum II, law students will draft formation documents, IP licensing and transfer agreements, and perhaps even parts of private placement memoranda. They will also learn to work with and manage clients. In fact, one of my goals for the program is to produce lawyers who know when to put on the brakes and when to apply the gas pedal – in other words, when to advise entrepreneurs to be cautious, and when to let them take the risks that often define entrepreneurial success. Lawyers are quite good at the first; it takes some skill to pull off the second.

This program is new and to my knowledge unique, and I welcome any comments or suggestions for improvement. I’m also happy to discuss the details with professors in law or entrepreneurship who might be interested in pursuing such a program at their own schools. Finally, I think Gordon’s idea for an AALS conference on transactional law is terrific, and of course I’m happy to help.

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