Thompson Directs New Entrepreneurship Clinic
Dana Thompson, '99, values the opportunity to make a difference in her home state of Michigan, something she believes she can do through a new clinic she is directing.
"The chance to have an impact on Detroit and the rest of the state was really important to me," said the clinical assistant professor of law. "I think the Entrepreneurship Clinic is a great opportunity to support the economic development of our state and country."
The new clinic, a key component in the Law School's Zell Entrepreneurship and Law (ZEAL) Program, is the culmination of efforts at the Law School and throughout U-M to emphasize the importance of entrepreneurship and the role that the legal community can play. It was instantly popular with both students and clients: 55 students applied for the 10 slots in the clinic for the current semester, and more than 40 applications from students around campus who needed legal advice have been submitted since the beginning of the semester.
"It shows that people really need this clinic. A lot of them need help with IP matters, patents; most need to organize as an entity. Others are dealing with real-estate issues and employment concerns," Prof. Thompson said.
The clinic—which she teaches along with Bryce Pilz, '00, who earned an undergraduate degree in engineering from the University as well—meets twice a week, covering topics such as interviewing and counseling clients, how to finance a business model, how to pay employees, and what it means to represent an entrepreneur as opposed to other types of clients. Ethical lawyering also will be emphasized.
Students in the clinic are being paired up and assigned to clients. "It entails basically setting up a public-interest law firm," Prof. Thompson said. Applications for the fall semester indicate the popularity of the clinics is growing rapidly: 97 students will vie to fill 16 spots.
Prof. Thompson's career path has prepared her well for her latest duties. After law school, she did transactional work and pro bono work on affordable housing at Morrison and Foerster in San Francisco. She then went to Miller, Starr and Regalia, where she specialized in commercial real estate and corporate law, followed by the Nature Conservancy, where she represented the organization on land conservation transactions.
In 2005, she began at Michigan Law as a visiting professor in the Urban Communities Clinic (now known as the Community and Economic Development Clinic), then, in the most direct link to her new clinic directorship, she founded and directed Wayne State Law School's Small Business Enterprises and Nonprofit Corporations Clinic.
Prof. Thompson is energized by the students and has high hopes for what the new clinic can accomplish. "Students are such an ideal group to work with on entrepreneurial projects. They really see things in an entirely different light."