There was a missing piece of the puzzle when it came to UNC’s commitment to entrepreneurship and innovation in 2019, according to UNC School of Law professor Marjorie White.
That’s why she formed the Startup NC Law Clinic. As the newest entrepreneurship support arm of the university, White said the law school has established a one-stop shop for North Carolina entrepreneurs and all their legal needs.
Law students work for the clinic as a course, which is essentially legal support offered free of charge to startups in the area. One doesn’t need any connection to UNC to use the clinic.
The types of startups that benefit from such a service range greatly in industry. White said they help early-stage business ventures of all kinds, everything from brick-and-mortar cupcake stores to cryptocurrency companies.
In every case, the Startup NC Legal Clinic can help founders assess their own legal risks.
“If someone’s doing something new and innovative, sometimes there’s regulations, or it’s not clear how they’re regulated,” White said.
UNC also has a partnership with UNC Pembroke to support entrepreneurship in rural communities.
From the startup clinic alone, UNC has trained 50 students since its inception.
“We really want to expand and just continue to find ways that we can continue to serve,” White said.
White advises startup founders to begin thinking about their legal framework early so they can avoid problems later on.
“Try to get legal input sooner rather than later,” White said. “Sometimes it’s super-important to really get that input to make sure that your business is legal, and it’s going to be structured in a way that prevents problems down the road.”
While some might equate going to a startup lawyer to visiting the dentist, White said that quality business lawyers are in fact helping founders accomplish all of their goals, not keeping them from them.
“A good business lawyer is, in fact, helping you get to ‘yes,’” White said. “They are very much enabling you and streamlining things and making sure that risks are accounted for at the right stage.”
If you’d like to use the clinic’s services or ask any questions, you can reach them by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.