Drake University Law School’s Neal and Bea Smith Legal Clinic has received a $500,000 grant to provide free legal services to current and aspiring entrepreneurs in low-income neighborhoods. The clinic aims to spur community revitalization by removing or reducing legal challenges that impede the success of new businesses and nonprofit groups.
The Iowa Supreme Court awarded the grant, to be issued over a two-year period beginning July 1, to empower Drake Law students and faculty members to increase the clinic’s redevelopment efforts in neighborhoods that have the greatest need. The grant is funded by a U.S. Justice Department settlement with the Bank of America.
“Drake Law is continually looking for new and better ways to serve our community, while providing excellent learning opportunities for our students. We launched the Transactional Nonprofits Clinic in July 2013 to do just that,” said Jerry Anderson, dean of Drake Law School. “This grant allows us to evolve our transactional clinic to serve business start-up clients, in neighborhoods where entrepreneurial initiatives will have the greatest positive impact on their communities."
The new Entrepreneurial Clinic will provide entrepreneurs and nonprofit leaders with comprehensive pro bono legal services including trademark protection, entity formation, employment agreements, contracts, licensing agreements, and leases. In addition to business start-ups, clients include refugee organizations and other service-oriented nonprofits, particularly those in the early stages of development.
“As an aspiring entrepreneur, one of the major barriers to success is: you have an idea, but you don’t have any money until you get your enterprise on its feet,” said Chip Lowe, director of the Entrepreneurial Clinic. “Start-up business owners and nonprofit directors are often unable to hire a lawyer because they don’t have the funds to do it. We’re here to get them over that hurdle.”
The grant will allow the clinic to partner with Drake’s College of Business and Public Administration, and its Buchanan Center for Entrepreneurial Leadership, to provide a full range of business and legal services to fledgling businesses.
The Entrepreneurial Clinic plans to serve 30 to 40 clients per year moving forward, and further foster redevelopment in underserved neighborhoods through free public seminars and other educational programming. Seven or eight Drake Law students work for the new clinic each semester, giving them valuable experience in corporate and nonprofit law prior to earning their Juris Doctor.