Innovation Clinic to provide legal guidance for startups

Law School students to gain experience advising CIE entrepreneurs

Nikki Kidd
Associate Director of Marketing & CommunicationsChicago Innovation Exchange

Entrepreneurs at the Chicago Innovation Exchange in need of legal guidance will now be able to turn to the newly established Innovation Clinic at the University of Chicago Law School. The CIE, the Law School and the law firm Perkins Coie announced today that they have teamed up to create the new legal clinic, which will offer startups legal advice and helpful resources, and provide a workshop series for local entrepreneurs.

UChicago Law School students will staff the clinic, working directly with entrepreneurs in the CIE’s Business Incubator program. The students will assist with common legal issues that startups face such as incorporation, founder’s agreements, intellectual property licensing, employment agreements and contracts. The Innovation Clinic will give the law students direct experience in technology and startup law, two rapidly expanding legal fields.

Salen Churi, assistant clinical professor of law, has been named the inaugural Bluhm-Helfand Director of the Innovation Clinic, and will oversee the collaborations between the student teams and entrepreneurs. Attorneys at Perkins Coie will offer specialized subject-matter expertise to law students in their work with CIE startups. Perkins Coie attorneys also will lead a public workshop series aimed at helping entrepreneurs approach common legal issues.

“Legal guidance provides entrepreneurs with the stable footing they need during a company’s early growth stages,” said Perkins Coie partner, Steve Ducommun. “Through this partnership, we will be able to foster great ideas and support new business growth in Chicago, while building long-term relationships with the region’s most promising entrepreneurs,” he added.

John Flavin, executive director of the Chicago Innovation Exchange, said, “Our entrepreneurs will benefit from Perkins Coie’s tremendous expertise and resources as a longtime industry leader in the West Coast startup space. This clinic also strengthens our relationship with the University of Chicago’s world-class Law School, home to some of the best clinical faculty and most accomplished law students in the country,” Flavin added.

Churi, the founding director of the clinic, teaches courses on entrepreneurship law and recently served as associate director of the Institute for Justice Clinic on Entrepreneurship at the Law School. A UChicago Law School graduate, Churi previously practiced corporate law, with a focus on mergers and acquisitions, private equity and technology transactions.

“Our students have expressed a great deal of interest in working with emerging companies, and the Innovation Clinic will give them practical experience with startup clients that will prepare them for success in this growing field,” said Churi. “The CIE is driving explosive growth, and I am excited to offer our students the opportunity to contribute to that.”

The Innovation Clinic is just one in a series of new resources available to the CIE’s members, including the recently launched CIE Fab Lab, a digital fabrication and 3D-prototyping workshop.