Institute for Justice Clinic on Entrepreneurship—Significant Achievements for 2018-19

The Institute for Justice Clinic on Entrepreneurship (IJ Clinic) continued to be a lifeline for small businesses in Chicago in 2018-19 through our in-depth representation of low-income entrepreneurs, advocacy for economic liberty, and legal programming for small businesses throughout the city.  To celebrate its 20th anniversary, we launched a listening tour to hear from Chicago entrepreneurs about their greatest accomplishments and their greatest legal challenges.  Listen to the podcast How's Business? to hear some of the inspiring stories of local small business owners.  They provide the clearest explanation for why the IJ Clinic's lawyers and students are a vital resource. 

In the past year, the IJ Clinic guided clients through major milestones. Tea Squares, which produces caffeinated snacks and other food in the South Shore neighborhood, secured its trademarks and built out its space for more production. The Street Vendors Association of Chicago negotiated with the city to revise the regulations that apply to pushcart vendors and to shepherd vendors through the licensing process, all while operating a nonprofit and a shared kitchen. Nature’s Little Recyclers, a vermicomposting company, encountered major obstacles when the city ordered it to stop composting on land that it was preparing for community gardens, because the land was of course in the community and not in an industrial zone.  Our newest client, YJ Lacour, developed its financing, prototyping, and manufacturing relationships, and launched its line of cutting-edge leather sneakers. Through each of these challenges and achievements, the students in the IJ Clinic provided thoughtful counsel, deep legal research, skilled negotiations, insightful contract review, and skilled contract drafting.

The IJ Clinic was more active than ever as a watchdog for small businesses of all kinds in Chicago.  We are a voice for reform of the old Chicago Way, which makes it so hard for entrepreneurs to start up.  As the new mayor has begun her term, we have had the opportunity to advise the administration on reform strategies.  Crain's Chicago Business published several of our op/eds, including one by a student. In addition to our work for clients like the Street Vendors Association of Chicago and Nature's Little Recyclers, we helped build coalitions around licensing mobile boutiques and streamlining sign permits.  

Lastly, the IJ Clinic continues to shine a spotlight on entrepreneurship on the South Side of Chicago. While many news stories about the South Side focus on crime or poverty, the IJ Clinic lifts up the models of innovation and inspiration among the South Side’s entrepreneurs. The South Side Pitch is a competition for those innovators that culminates in a wonderful evening for the finalists to face off before a panel of expert judges and the standing room only audience, a la Shark Tank. Finalists in 2018 included an online store for products from Africa, a platform that landlords can use to reward long-term renters by helping them save money, and a new invention that helps women who suffer from incontinence.