Entrepreneurship Clinic Kickstarts MLaw Alum's Career with Startups
By Jenny Whalen
Sept. 16, 2013
It was "the human factor" that led 2012 Michigan Law graduate Tom Stasi to enroll in the Entrepreneurship Clinic for its inaugural semester and the impact of that experience which guides his practice today.
Through earlier work with business development projects, Stasi found himself drawn to transactional work, especially when it concerned start-up companies.
"I really wanted to get involved in that space," said Stasi, who worked with two student-led tech startups during his time with the clinic. "I'm a big fan of the clinical model of teaching and start-up clients are so unique compared to other clients. They have very specific needs. It might be a first-time venture where the entrepreneur has it all on the line. They rely on people with certain knowledge to help them along the way."
Now an associate with the firm of Taft Stettinius & Hollister LLP in Cincinnati, Ohio, Stasi continues to work with start-up companies, and serves as the chair of The Brandery Fellowship Program, where he supervises and trains law students to work with emerging companies.
"A large part of the work I do in Cincinnati is start-up based either on the company side or the investor side and it's what I wanted to do when I graduated," Stasi said, crediting his clinic experience for having prepared him for a career in this field.
"The clinic taught me how to be a counselor and to understand my client and the space they work in," Stasi said. "A good attorney can relate to their client and not just talk at them. The way the Entrepreneurship Clinic teaches students to do that is by pushing them to get involved in the community. The more involved you are with what is going on in the city and the region, the more value you bring to your client."
Pairing law students with U-M student entrepreneurs, the clinic, as part of the larger Zell Entrepreneurship and Law (ZEAL) Program, is a mutually beneficial arrangement, providing law students with real-world experience in representing early-stage ventures while offering valuable legal services to U-M entrepreneurs.
Students are also called upon to staff the clinic's "office hours," which are held across the Ann Arbor campus and offer general educational information concerning legal issues common to start-up ventures.
"It's trial-by-fire in a firm, but I got a head-start with the clinic," Stasi said. "Employers will ask, 'Do you have experience counseling? Have you ever been in this situation?' It's so much more rewarding and impressive to say, 'I've done this and I can tell you the success rate of these clients based on the counseling I gave them.' In terms of my career, the clinic was my most rewarding law school experience by far."
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