The Institute for Justice Clinic on Entrepreneurship represented over 15 small businesses last year. Our clients included a painting service, a toy manufacturer, a children’s language class provider, a tax preparation service, and a tour guide business, to name just a few. Student teams working in the IJ Clinic assisted these businesses and others with their transactional legal needs – setting up business entities, drafting and negotiating contracts and commercial leases, securing intellectual property protections, and navigating city and state licensing laws -- so that the business owners could focus on growing their enterprises. And grow they did! IJ Clinic client, Kentech Consulting Inc., a tech-savvy background screening business, is an exciting example. Ken Coats, owner of Kentech, became an IJ Clinic client when he was launching his business as a one man operation out of his living room. Despite daunting regulatory hurdles – or as Ken puts it, “the type of work we do — you can’t sneeze without it involving a law” – Kentech now operates out of a permanent office space in Chicago’s River North neighborhood and has expanded to a team of nearly 50 workers. Along the way, the student teams working with Kentech negotiated and analyzed a range of service and operating agreements and tackled numerous complex federal, state, and municipal regulatory and licensing matters. Kentech will be graduating out of the IJ Clinic later this year to make room for a new innovator to benefit from the IJ Clinic’s roster of enthusiastic students eager to help a business make the transition from aspiration to reality.
The IJ Clinic also hosted its largest ever event this year, Recipe for Success: How to Start and Build a Food Business in Chicago, a free day-long conference for food industry entrepreneurs. Over 200 attendees streamed into the Law School on a warm and sunny Saturday in April for inspiration, practical advice and legal tips for food entrepreneurs. IJ Clinic students played a big role in the conference. Taimoor Aziz, Michael Educate, Michael Fielkow, David Frankenfield, Patrick Herndon, Michael Lanahan, Benjamin Montañez, Christopher Mortorff, and Jaime Willis headlined sessions on the details of food business licensing and permits, finding a space for a good business, and hiring food service workers. Patrick Connolly moderated a session on getting new products into stores like Whole Foods. To prepare for their sessions, students built on knowledge they acquired by working with clients in the IJ Clinic and conducted independent research to develop expertise on their topics. Montañez summed up the experience this way: “It was invigorating to be a part of helping individuals to realize their dreams, and in the process create employment, economic development, and opportunities.” He added, “Several people came up to speak with me after the presentation, and we discussed their businesses or their planned businesses. I loved hearing each unique story and plan, and seeing the sparkle in their eyes that comes from taking chances and creating something new.” Separately, a team consisting of Matthew Olson and Priyanko Paul led a workshop on legal considerations for urban farms at the Midwest Urban Farmers Summit earlier in the year.
On the advocacy front, Michael Lanahan gained experience with legislative drafting – and earned compliments from a local alderman impressed by his drafting skills – by helping to write a proposal that would allow cart vendors to sell prepare foods on Chicago’s streets.
The IJ Clinic’s summer clerks also claimed some bragging rights in the Transactional Challenge sponsored by the Corporate Lab, which allows rising 2L students to compete against each other in a set of transactional corporate exercises: David Frankenfield won the event in its inaugural year of competition and William Smolinski was a finalist this year.