Becoming an Affiliate Attorney

Clinic Overview

The Entrepreneurship Clinic is a new legal clinic at the University of Michigan Law School focused on training law students in representing entrepreneurial ventures. The Clinic provides free legal services to U-M student-led startup ventures. Our student attorneys advise their start-up clients on issues including: entity formation, intellectual property, financing, contracts, and other related issues.

Affiliate Attorneys

To further expose the Clinic students to a variety of skilled attorneys practicing in this field and to continue to tap the interest we have received from alums and other interested attorneys, we are starting an Affiliate Attorney program. Interested practicing attorneys, anywhere in the world, can volunteer (typically one to two hours per week) for a semester to help in supervising and mentoring a team of two student attorneys in their client work. Specifically, we envision the Affiliate Attorney being available each week (remotely is fine) for a portion of a meeting between the student attorneys and the Clinic faculty supervisor for that team. The Affiliate Attorney would also be able to periodically assist the student attorneys via email or phone with issues that may arise during their client representation.

More Information

The FAQs below provide further information. Please also feel free to contact the Clinic faculty—Dana Thompson (drthomp@umich.edu) or Bryce Pilz (bpilz@umich.edu)—for further info.

To apply to become an Affiliate Attorney, please send the following information to Denise Madewell (madewell@umich.edu): (i) resume, and (ii) a short statement of your interest (can be in the body of your email) in helping the Clinic, ability to make the requested time commitment, and your relevant expertise.

FAQs About the Entrepreneurship Clinic Affiliate Attorney Program

What is the Entrepreneurship Clinic?

The Entrepreneurship Clinic launched in January 2012 with the support of a generous donation from Michigan Law alum Sam Zell, '66. The Clinic provides free legal services to U-M student-led start-up ventures. The Clinic runs on a semester schedule and includes approximately 16 law students each semester and a small number of returning "advanced" clinic students. The law students attend four hours of class each week, in which they learn and discuss both the practical lawyering skills and substantive legal knowledge associated with representing entrepreneurial ventures. The law students also spend 20+ hours per week representing multiple clients. We also expect the law students to actively engage in the local and campus entrepreneurial community by attending events and offering educational workshops.

What types of legal services does the Clinic provide?

The Clinic assists with entity selection and formation, financing, intellectual property counseling (including freedom to operate, provisional patent application preparation, trademark prosecution, and clearance), and other related transactional work. In the Winter 2012 semester, the Clinic student attorneys' legal work included: entity selection and formation, intellectual property counseling, a convertible debt financing, and other transactional work. (Already last summer, one of our clients turned down an acquisition offer and another client negotiated a pre-seed financing.)

Who are the typical Clinic clients?

As of now, the Clinic is focuses on representing ventures launched by U-M students. Typical ventures include: mobile or web apps, IT, medical devices, and clean tech. Most of our clients involve U-M engineering or business students— both undergraduate and graduate. The clients receive business support and mentoring from the Zell Lurie Institute at the Ross School of Business and UM's Center for Entrepreneurship. Many of the clients are residents of TechArb, the student start-up accelerator started by U-M in 2008.

What types of law students participate in the Clinic?

The Clinic has been popular with U-M law students. In the Fall 2012 semester, 97 law students applied for the 16 Clinic spots. The students typically have demonstrated a commitment to working with entrepreneurial ventures, through summer associate positions at top law firms around the world, other startup or venture capital related work (some have launched their own startups in the past), or other Law School extracurricular activities such as the new Entrepreneurial Law Association, the new Michigan Journal of Private Equity and Venture Capital Law, and the Business Law Association.

How are the Clinic student attorneys supervised?

The Michigan court rules allow law students to engage in the practice of law under the close supervision of experienced attorneys. The Clinic is taught by two U-M clinical law faculty: Dana Thompson and Bryce Pilz. The Clinic student attorneys typically work in teams of two under the close supervision of one of the Clinic faculty. Although they are closely supervised, the student attorneys take the lead in representing the clients, serve as the primary interface with them, and draft and propose all courses of action. The student attorneys meet with their supervising faculty member at least once a week for an hour.

David Parsigian, the managing partner of Honigman Miller's Ann Arbor office, has joined the Clinic in a part-time adjunct capacity to assist us with his expertise.

We have also been fortunate to receive assistance from the following experts: Jason Mendelson at the Foundry Group; Ryan Naftulin at Cooley LLP; Marcia Hatch at Gunderson Dettmer Stough Villeneuve Franklin & Hachigian LLP; Craig Sherman at Wilson Sonsini Goodrich & Rosati; David Callahan at Kirkland & Ellis LLP; and David Concannon at Orrick, Herrington & Sutcliffe LLP. Marcus Sprow at Foley & Lardner LLP and Ben Stasa at Brooks Kushman have generously been coordinating pro bono assistance with provisional patent application filings for the Clinic.

What is the role of an Affiliate Attorney?

Affiliate Attorneys will assist in supervising and mentoring one team of Clinic student attorneys. We expect Affiliate Attorneys to have the following roles:

  • participate (either personally or remotely) with a meeting (or a portion thereof) at a set time each week with the student team and the supervising faculty member;
  • be reasonably available to periodically communicate with Clinic student attorneys via email or phone;
  • mentor student attorneys on the practice of law in representing entrepreneurial ventures;
  • advise Clinic student attorneys on specific legal issues that arise in their client work.

We expect that Affiliate Attorneys would have access to confidential attorney-client privileged information and would be part of the legal team. It is up to each Affiliate Attorney, and/or his or her firm, whether they would have a direct engagement with the client and run a conflict check in advance.

What is the expected time commitment for an Affiliate Attorney?

We understand, first hand, the unpredictable and busy nature of your practices. We will work with our student attorneys to be respectful of and flexible with your time. We ask each Affiliate Attorney to commit to at least one hour per week of work with their assigned student attorneys. We will have a set meeting time each week with the student attorneys and the supervising faculty member, and ideally, the Affiliate Attorney would be able to participate in that meeting (phone or Skype is fine) for a few minutes. We would like the Affiliate Attorney to be up to speed on the client matter so that when specific questions arise, the Affiliate Attorney already has a solid understanding of the client matter. The Clinic faculty will typically serve as the first line of supervision for the Clinic student attorneys. We anticipate using Affiliate Attorneys mostly for questions involving their specific area of expertise or that involve a question of industry custom to which the Affiliate Attorney would be privy. Of course, we envision this relationship being flexible and each Affiliate Attorney and team of student attorneys will naturally develop their own unique relationship.

What is the purpose behind the Affiliate Attorney program?

In establishing this Clinic, the enthusiasm and desire of attorneys with ties to the Law School to participate has impressed us. We are seeking ways to involve as many of our talented alumni as possible. We also believe that our students benefit from exposure to attorneys "in the trenches" who can convey their real-time experiences and impressions concerning this area of law.

What you would gain from serving as an Affiliate Attorney?

  • work with enthusiastic, bright law students and their enthusiastic, bright clients;
  • access to top U-M law students seeking to work in the corporate and IP fields after graduation;
  • get the fulfillment of mentoring and helping a new generation of attorneys;
  • potentially obtain pro bono credit depending on your state rules;
  • get involved with the Entrepreneurship Clinic, and perhaps participate more broadly as a guest speaker at the Law School, an advisor to the Clinic faculty, a guest blogger on our website, etc.

Of course, as reasonably possible, we will recognize all of the attorneys and firms that assist us, and help you in any way we reasonably can.

How long would my term as an Affiliate Attorney run?

The Clinic runs on a semester schedule—a fall semester from September to December and a winter semester from January to early May. We ask that each Affiliate Attorney make a commitment for a full semester (absent extreme circumstances). Affiliate Attorneys can serve multiple semesters if they wish, although we will probably try to rotate through a pool of interested Affiliate Attorneys so we can give everyone a break.

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