Loyola to 1871: Start me up
By Jack Silverstein Law Bulletin staff writer
One of the primary purposes of a legal clinic is to give students real-world experience.
Add Loyola University Chicago School of Law to the growing list of Illinois law schools making that experience even more real.
“I think sometimes when you’re in school and in that building you’re just still in school, in a way,” said Shelley L. Dunck, head of the law school’s Business Law Clinic.
“I think they’re viewed more as true attorneys when they have to present themselves in an office setting outside of the school.”
Loyola law students will have that opportunity with the school’s new office space at startup incubator 1871.
Launched in 2012 on the 12th floor of the Merchandise Mart, 1871 is a showroom-esque workspace for tech-centric entrepreneurs who collaborate with other entrepreneurs as well as professionals in law, business, marketing and communications to help their startups grow.
The incubator’s name honors the year of the Great Chicago Fire — and the city’s subsequent rebirth.
The Loyola program is a joint effort between its law school, communications school and the Quinlan School of Business in which professors and students provide assistance to startups.
The arrangement started with a partnership between Dunck and Ugur Uygur, a business school professor.
“There’s expertise at both schools, but we are stronger together than we are separately,” Dunck said.
Since opening three years ago this month, 1871 has attracted the kind of clients that are also drawn to the services offered by local law schools’ business law clinics.
“We were both interested in pursuing 1871,” Dunck said about the law and business schools. “Ugur came up with it.”
“I saw there was a need from the startup community to receive legal assistance,” Uygur said. “(Dunck) had the same observation.”
Loyola started working at 1871 in March with four “diversity scholars,” startups led by minority owners — the result of a collaboration between 1871, the Chicago Urban League and the Illinois Hispanic Chamber of Commerce.
For their part, members of the law school advised the startups in choosing a legal structure for business formation and drafted contracts regarding employment and website privacy.
The law school worked with two for-profit companies and two nonprofits, including one company that Dunck described as “sort of like a Kickstarter” for nonprofits.
Dunck’s clinic will still work with its normal client slate — it works with about 150 now — but students in the clinic will also be part of a broader business-law world.
Among the most important advantages for lawyers working with 1871, according to its CEO Howard Tullman, is learning how law and business intertwine in the tech world.
“The universities are increasingly figuring out that they have to cross-pollinate their schools and cannot be in silos,” Tullman said.
And with new technology comes new business models — and different legal needs.
“Everybody’s going to have to figure out how to adjust to these new models,” he said.
One of the four changing needs Tullman cited is how businesses can flourish with limited overhead and capital assets.
“You’ve got Uber, which owns no cars,” he said. “You’ve got Airbnb, which owns no real estate. You’ve got Facebook, which creates no content. And Alibaba has no inventory.”
Those models bring new legal demands, Tullman said, starting with the need for standardized documents for business creation.
“What we are really focusing on is having a set of standard docs which would be the way that companies and investors interact in the early stages,” he said.
“On the West Coast they have a set of documents,” he continued. “On the East Coast they have a set of documents. Chicago doesn’t have it yet, but we definitely need it to save time and money.”
Many of these new businesses are also operating on a philosophy of “ask for forgiveness, not permission,” he said, an approach to business that might shift the timing of lawyers’ involvement from the planning stages to more dispute resolution after the fact.
The same uncertainty applies to businesses that depend less on patent, trademark and IP protection and more on speed and iteration — the ability to build a business, reach market first and execute better than competitors.
“When we talk to law students, there is no question that they would like to be a bigger part of the creation of these businesses,” Tullman said, an outlook that is pushing a generation of new lawyers to re-imagine their responsibilities.
Esther S. Barron has seen it.
As director of Northwestern’s Entrepreneurial Law Clinic, Barron shares a space at 1871 with the university’s Kellogg School of Business and its McCormick School of Engineering.
Tullman described Northwestern’s involvement with 1871 as the “most aggressive” among law schools involved with the space, which includes IIT Chicago-Kent College of Law, University of Chicago Law School and University of Illinois College of Law.
“We knew as soon as we heard what 1871 was going to be and what it was going to bring together in Chicago that there would be a really important role for law students,” Barron said.
Northwestern partnered with 1871 in the spring of 2012, upon the incubator’s launch.
Since then, the law school has helped new businesses with contracts, IP protection and branding. The speed at which these companies evolve from idea to business creation necessitates lawyers who can keep up, Barron said.
“That’s where we can add a lot of value,” she said. “It’s our job to spot the legal issues to allow them to move as quickly as they can … but do it in a way where they are also protecting themselves.”
Jeffrey D. Glickman graduates from Northwestern today and is headed to Schiff, Hardin LLP to work primarily on estate planning. He was part of Barron’s clinic in his third year of law school, working with three clients, including one at 1871.
His work at 1871 focused on helping his client determine whether or not its name — which the clinic declined to provide — was in breach of copyright.
And even though at Schiff, Hardin he will not do the kind of business work that he did at 1871, he credits the experience with building his skills in client relations and communications.
“When I mention the clinic to an estate planner, I don’t sense that they ever thought that it was confusing why I would be working with startups when I plan to be working with families,” Glickman said.
“Because what I would be learning in the clinic would certainly still help me from a soft skill perspective.”
As for Loyola, Dunck views the law school’s partnership with the university’s other schools just as important as its partnership with 1871.
“We got to work with our business school so that we could provide a suite of services rather than just solely legal services,” she said.
“And I think by doing that, we got a better picture of the clients which enabled the students to counsel them in a really meaningful way.”
Copyright 2015 Law Bulletin Publishing Company. Reprinted with permission.