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New UA Partnership Prepares Students for Entrepreneurial Economy

Eller College of Management’s McGuire Center for Entrepreneurship and the James E. Rogers School of Law launch Entrepreneurship/Law Exchange with Mock Law Firm course.

A new program bringing together the McGuire Center for Entrepreneurship within The University of Arizona’s Eller College of Management and the James E. Rogers College of Law promises multiple benefits to students preparing for the 21st century knowledge economy. As entrepreneurial activity is pushed to the forefront of economic development, legal issues, including the protection of intellectual property, have become a critical focus of legal and entrepreneurial discussions.  It is expected that this partnership will have a far-reaching impact.

With startup funding from the Kansas City, Mo. based Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation, students from four areas of the law school — intellectual property, entrepreneurial law, corporate law, and tax law — will create a mock law firm. The firm will serve as mock counsel to venture teams from the McGuire Entrepreneurship Program.

Entrepreneurship students will learn how to engage the legal community throughout all stages of venture planning. They will develop an understanding of the common legal issues surrounding new ventures, including intellectual property, early in the venture planning life. In addition to other elements of the venture plan (financials, marketing, etc), these students will be prepared to plan strategically, operationally, and financially for intellectual property (IP) and other relevant legal issues.
“Law students will gain practical experience counseling clients involved in simulated start-up ventures. They’ll learn how to apply their legal skills and knowledge in a context that requires them to integrate their knowledge from multiple areas of law (corporate, tax, IP, securities); and they’ll develop the substantive legal and business knowledge and skills needed to work with entrepreneurs and start-up companies,” explains Sherry Hoskinson, director of the McGuire Center.

Launched this summer, the partnership goes beyond existing models. “Many law schools currently use the law clinic model, where students serve the local small business community in a limited capacity.  This model has a number of benefits, but we believe that our model provides a unique alternative.  For example, it provides broad experiential learning opportunities, the opportunity for longer-term engagement between a legal team and a venture team, and a different type of emerging business with perhaps a higher level of sophistication, including technology innovation,” said Darian Ibrahim, associate professor in the Rogers College of Law.

Hoskinson and law professors David Adelman and Ibrahim see the partnership between the McGuire Center and College of Law as just the beginning, with opportunities that extend beyond teaching into research. “A rich economic literature exists on the relationship between IP law and fostering innovation,” Adelman points out.  “There could be much greater crossover between work on IP policy and the economic and legal work examining small businesses and innovation. Our collaboration with the McGuire Center for Entrepreneurship affords us a unique opportunity to pursue research that spans these fields.”

Ibrahim, who has been working with other legal scholars around the country to stimulate growth in the area of law and entrepreneurship, said, “There isn’t all that much interdisciplinary work in this area, but interest is building among scholars. I feel like we’re on the precipice of something that’s really about to take off.”

Updated: 09/14/2006