Innovation Clinic Student Work

What Will You be Doing?

As a student in the Innovation Clinic, you will represent disruptive, novel, groundbreaking startups on their most pressing transactional and regulatory needs. You will be hands-on through all aspects of the process, leading client calls, drafting documentation, conducting research, and negotiating with opposing counsel. It will be your primary responsibility to coach our clients, solicit necessary information, and prepare all documentation necessary to accomplish our representations. See the “About Us” portion of this site, as well as our annual significant achievements publications, for more information about the type of work you can expect to do.

You are in control of the projects you would like to take on and can work on whichever projects you want, provided that there are adequate students interested in the same matters to staff them appropriately. This enables the Innovation Clinic to flexibly tailor its work to students’ interests and manage capacity in order to serve as many clients as possible while giving you the work you are most interested in doing.

You will typically be working in pairs or teams on your work in the Innovation Clinic. This equips you with experience working in a team to accomplish a client’s goals, something you will be frequently called upon to do in your practice.

As part of the Innovation Clinic, you will also join a seminar that meets once per week for two hours. Seminar allows you to learn about the work that other students are performing and to learn about transactions and topics that you may not come across in your client-facing work. Topics covered include founders agreements and Series A term sheets, venture capital fund structures, startup intellectual property concerns, negotiation skills and a mock negotiation session, founders’ disputes, contract drafting and review, ethics in transactional practice, case rounds, and more.

Throughout your time in the Innovation Clinic, you will receive a substantial amount of personalized feedback on your approach to and performance on client calls, your method of contract drafting and negotiation planning, the language within your contracts, the quality and method of your regulatory research, and all other aspects of your client representation. If you incorporate all of this feedback into your future projects, it is highly likely that you will perform at a seniority level well above yours by the time you graduate from Law School, impressing future employers and equipping you to do more complicated work earlier in your career. Throughout your time in the Innovation Clinic, your knowledge and associated scope of responsibility on projects will build such that hopefully, in the future, you would be largely self-sufficient if you encountered a similar project type again.

Our projects may also give you the opportunity to interface with industry experts to crosscheck our research and findings and learn how to leverage external resources in a way that is beneficial but cost efficient for a client.

Who Are Your Clients?

Your clients will be startups and venture capital firms both within and outside of the University of Chicago, from Chicago and across the country. We focus on high growth startups and tech-enabled companies, and do not provide services to general small businesses, consultancies, or other personal services firms.

What Can You Expect to Learn?

On our transactional projects, you will learn how to research precedent documents to prepare for a client call, prepare for and lead a client call, use precedent and other resources to draft initial drafts of documents, incorporate supervisor and client feedback, and supervise closing mechanics in transactions that involve a closing, in addition to basic contract drafting and negotiation skills.

On our regulatory projects, you will learn how to perform research when administrative law plays a significant role, how to think about and approach regulators where approval may be needed, how to estimate and judge risk for a client and mitigate it where possible, and how to navigate extremely complex regulatory regimes to generate actionable insights, feedback, and paths of action for our clients. You will also learn how to get comfortable with discomfort. You will learn how some of the inconsistency, lack of clarity, or antiquation that you may encounter in bodies of law in your theoretical classes results in real challenges in the real world, and how to get comfortable with discomfort and provide legal advice to clients in situations where it is impossible to know with certainty whether any particular outcome can be achieved.

We may sometimes complete projects that are not client engagements but that are generally applicable to many clients. For example, former Innovation Clinic students submitted a comment to FinCEN regarding its proposed rules implementing the Corporate Transparency Act, encouraging FinCEN to make certain changes to the final rule. FinCEN incorporated a number of these comments, meaning that Innovation Clinic students shaped law before even leaving law school. Other students work on thought leadership pieces on topics such as artificial intelligence regulation, money laundering, and topics of interest that are germane to the startup and tech industries.

On all of our projects, you will learn how to manage a client relationship, including soliciting relevant information from your client, managing communications and project timelines, and delivering findings to a client. You will gain an appreciation of when an extensive memorandum with nuanced reasoning and analysis must be prepared, versus when a short, punchy email is more desirable. You will learn when it is better to draft a fulsome agreement or complex letters to regulators versus when you must synthesize complication into an easily digestible chart, email, or infographic depending on the audience.

Clinic Structure

There are usually 10-15 students in the Innovation Clinic at any given time, all working on the client work and joining our weekly seminar described above. Students are required to commit to participating in the Innovation Clinic for at least two consecutive academic quarters, although most students voluntarily participate in the Innovation Clinic for a full academic year. Students are permitted to select the number of credits that they would like to enroll for, between 1-3, in each quarter, and can vary those credits at their discretion from quarter to quarter. The more credits a student takes, the more client work they will be expected to accomplish.

Is the Innovation Clinic for Me If I Don’t Want to Work With Startups?

Although startups are the vast majority of our clients, you will develop skills while representing them that are generalizable to any practice. Whether you will litigate, work for a non-profit, or go into a different type of transactional law, the critical reasoning, analytical, drafting, and client management skills that you learn in the Innovation Clinic are relevant to any legal practice.

How Do I Enroll?

The Innovation Clinic is a biddable class, and spots are allocated based on the same lottery that the registrar runs to allocate spots to other biddable classes. The number of open seats available for bidding each quarter depends on the number of students that are rotating out of the Innovation Clinic at the end of the prior quarter.