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University Gazette

The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

New program will offer early-stage legal counsel for profit and nonprofit ventures

Entrepreneurs need access to legal resources—a need that will be met with the new clinical entrepreneurship program at the School of Law, presented by Dean Martin Brinkley to the Board of Trustees.

It takes drive, ambition, patience and persistence to become an entrepreneur. It also takes access to legal resources—a need that will be met with the new clinical entrepreneurship program at the School of Law.

The William R. Kenan Jr. Charitable Trust made a $1.53 million gift to help establish the program that will provide rigorous, hands-on training for the next generation of public-spirited lawyers while filling gaps in North Carolina’s entrepreneurship ecosystem. The North Carolina General Assembly has also appropriated $465,000 in recurring funds to support the program.

Douglas Zinn, executive director of the William R. Kenan Jr. Charitable Trust, said the trust is excited to support the entrepreneurship program that will train law students while strengthening North Carolina communities and the state’s economy.

“We are thrilled and inspired by the investment in the education of Carolina students that the Kenan Trust and the people of North Carolina, through their representatives, are making,” said Martin H. Brinkley, dean of the law school and Arch T. Allen Distinguished Professor.

The gift from the Kenan Trust supports For All Kind: the Campaign for Carolina, the most ambitious fundraising campaign in the University’s history. The gift also reinforces the School of Law’s commitment to train lawyer-leaders to address the issues and questions of today’s dynamic, ever-evolving industries, particularly in areas of growth and influence in North Carolina and beyond.

House Speaker Tim Moore said the state recognized the benefits of the proposed program, appreciated the Kenan Trust gift and chose to show its support through a $465,000 appropriation.

“Connecting the world-class legal community at Carolina with business professionals in the start-up economy is a win-win approach to higher education that will prepare law students to succeed and provide valuable legal resources for emerging companies in our state’s rapidly growing economy,” Moore said.

North Carolina is consistently ranked as one of the nation’s top five places to start a new business. Because of the rich and thriving entrepreneurial culture of the Research Triangle Park area of North Carolina and the business schools and entrepreneurial initiatives at local universities, the program
will serve a pipeline of clients from potential partners across the state.

“This gift and challenge from the Kenan Charitable Trust will catapult the School of Law onto the cutting edge of legal education,” said Larry Robbins, partner at Wyrick Robbins Yates & Ponton LLP. “From my own experience representing clients in mergers and acquisitions and startups, there is a great need for legal advice at the earliest stages.”

The program is expected to kick off in the 2019–20 academic year and will serve business and social enterprise entrepreneurs on the campuses of Carolina and N.C. State University, in partnership with Kenan-Flagler Business School, N.C. State University’s Poole College of Management, as well as the innovation and entrepreneurship infrastructures on both campuses.

Funding will support three interwoven legal clinics at the School of Law: a for-profit ventures clinic, an intellectual property clinic and Carolina Law’s existing Community Development Law Clinic, which is a longstanding, highly successful nonprofit social entrepreneurship clinic. Each clinic, supervised by a full-time member of the law school faculty, will train eight to 10 law students per semester.

Students will counsel business founders on the advantages and disadvantages of various business entity structures, form appropriate entities, draft organizational documents, capture and license intellectual property assets and seek tax-exempt status for community-based nonprofit organizations.

“Clinical education geared toward organizational clients, and the business and social entrepreneurs who establish them, is important to large numbers of our students,” Brinkley said. “The new entrepreneurship program will help Carolina Law embrace its mission by fulfilling dual goals of teaching
and service.”

The School of Law also intends to identify one or more economic incubators in underserved parts of North Carolina that the entrepreneurship program can support.

An official name will be determined during the planning process with input from current students.