UB launches law center for entrepreneurs

Monday, March 2, 2020

Source: University at Buffalo News Center

Starting a business involves planning, making key financial decisions, and completing a series of legal activities. As a startup, the operation of a new business is all-consuming. Taking care of the legal technicalities should not be a distraction, but an important part of new business formation. Getting a lawyer who can handle new business challenges just got easier for startups. Entrepreneurs, meet resources.

UB’s office of Business and Entrepreneur Partnerships and the School of Law have partnered to launch the Entrepreneurship Law Center, also known as the e-Law Center. The center is part of a larger initiative, UB’s Innovation Hub, which directly supports the growth of Buffalo Niagara’s innovation economy by encouraging and driving ideation and startup formation.

“Launching this program is very exciting. Our team welcomes the collaboration to create a best-in-class educational experience for the next generation of transactional lawyers that also support a critical need in the startup community,” said Christina Orsi, associate vice president of Business and Entrepreneur Partnerships.

As entrepreneurship across Western New York continues to thrive, access to applicable law services is needed. Startups don’t often have the resources they need to navigate the many legal requirements necessary to get their idea off the ground and position themselves to grow into the fabric of Buffalo Niagara’s innovative and reinvigorated business community.

Innovation Hub, which was established last May as part of a $32 million award from New York State to UB, is providing initial funding for the e-Law Center.

To meet the needs of Buffalo Niagara’s startup economy, the center is implementing a multipronged approach. It is:

  • Providing legal expertise to help talented innovators within the UB community move forward
  • Encouraging commercialization research to activate business opportunities across Western New York
  • Helping develop a more diverse startup community
  • Connecting students with exposure to ground-level business development and access to experiential learning opportunities related to startup formation, intellectual property and venture investment.

“You have all these different components,” says Matthew Pelkey, director of the e-Law Center. “There are the founders, the entrepreneurs coming up with ideas and executing them, but there are also the professional services and vendors they need, as well as educators and academics, and investors – the finance piece to help fund them for growth. All of these things have to work in tandem.”

“We are hoping to increase the number of entrepreneurs and increase the number of businesses started,” says Pelkey, an adjunct professor in the School of Law and UB alumnus. “This will hopefully, in turn, create successful companies that will create jobs and provide opportunity for Western New York to grow.”

Getting the right legal support to establish a startup correctly can be a challenge because startups often can’t afford legal services. The e-Law Center fills that gap while providing hands-on learning experience for UB law students. This next generation of attorneys will learn first-hand how to support startup company growth.

“This has been a big issue,” says Tim Dee, associate director of technology transfer in Business and Entrepreneur Partnerships. “We didn’t have anywhere to turn for them to go for proper legal assistance when they didn’t yet have funding in place.”

With UB’s Technology Transfer office working with the e-Law Center, the two entities are starting to close this gap between UB-born innovation and its mobilization into a viable business entity. Legal matters like entity selection, financing and licensing can all be facilitated through the e-Law Center.

The e-Law Center builds off the successful technology transfer law program UB has been running for years. With leadership at UB’s Technology Transfer office, law students were given an opportunity to work on intellectual property work for UB technologies. This part of the program is also expanding with the e-Law Center. In fact, a past UB law student tech transfer intern, Jordan Wallbasser, just joined the center to enable more students to learn about the critical roll intellectual property can play in helping commercialize new innovations.

The e-Law Center is already having a significant impact.

“The impact it’s having—especially the fellowship for students—is incredibly rewarding,” says Pelkey. “So there’s this economic development piece and commercialization piece that’s important, but to be able to provide students an opportunity to have exposure to a career path they may have never considered before, match them with a job they never thought they could pursue, and really open those doors as a mentor? It’s very difficult to even put into words how rewarding that is.”

The Innovation Hub supports moving innovative, technology-driven solutions to the market through startup formation and growth in our region, having a wide-ranging positive local, national and global impact.

To learn more about UB’s Entrepreneurship Law Center, visit the Innovation Hub website and law services for startups website.

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