Business law clinic students learning by doing

The College of Law Legal Clinic is providing budding entrepreneurs and community members with the legal assistance they need to make their business goals a reality.

Knoxville’s aspiring entrepreneurs are receiving financial support for their innovative start-up ideas with support from the Oak Ridge National Laboratories Innovation Crossroads program.

As entrepreneurial fellows, they also receive mentoring from the University of Tennessee’s Spark Innovation Center.  

But what they haven’t always received as easily is the legal assistance they need to get those star-ups off the ground. That’s when UT Legal Clinic Professor Brian Krumm reached out to see if there might be an opportunity for collaboration. 

“These entrepreneurs need to consider the type of legal entity they want to form, they need to explore financial options, and they often need advice on intellectual property issues,” Krumm said. “Our clinic and our students are in a position to help them with that.”

Through this new partnership, Business Clinic law students under Krumm’s supervision are working directly with scientists to commercialize their cutting-edge technology offering legal advice and drafting a wide array of transactional documents.  

Third-year clinic student Eric Salama said the experience of partnering with entrepreneurs in this way is rewarding. 

“It is incredible to be a law student working with such sophisticated clients on a variety of complex issues touching on corporate, finance, real property and employment law in the context of an early-stage business,” Salama said.

Professor Eric Amarante’s Community Economic Development Clinic is also providing law students with real-world experience through the assistance they’ve been offering student Betty Asha.

While a sophomore at Maryville College and a refugee from South Sudan, Asha has been raising money to help others cross the border to find safety in Uganda refugee camps. 

For the past several years, Asha has fielded dozens of calls on a daily basis from those in need. When the work became too much for one person to manage, Asha’s friends and supporters aspired to help her through a non-profit foundation. They quickly learned that drafting the necessary 501(c)(3) documents would require legal assistance.

That’s when foundation president Steve Hills reached out to the Community Economic Development Legal Clinic for assistance. Amarante recruited third-year law student Jesse Ramoya to take the lead representing the group and the clinic student began drafting bylaws and articles of incorporation and helping the group apply for tax-exempt status with the IRS. 

Ramoya said he’s been inspired by Asha’s determination and selflessness, and he is grateful for the opportunity to assist her and the foundation with their mission.

The Community Economic Development Clinic “helped us to create an opportunity to change lives. And for that, I will ever be appreciative and thankful,” Hills said.