Thanks to professor Nathan Hammons and a group of Marquette Law School students, it’s becoming a little easier for Milwaukee entrepreneurs — particularly those in the central city — to get their ideas off the ground.
Hammons, the director of Marquette’s Law and Entrepreneurship Clinic, previously worked in private practice as an attorney for entrepreneurs and startup businesses. He came to Marquette to pass that knowledge along to today’s law students through a combination of classroom sessions and work with real-world clients.
Nearing the completion of its third full year in operation, the clinic has helped approximately 70 clients per academic year with basic legal needs such as setting up a business entity, establishing partnership agreements, fundraising issues, contracts, leases, and intellectual property issues such as trademark and copyright.
“It’s very challenging for people to do it themselves, and it can be very expensive to do it as well,” Hammons says. “That’s where we focus on entrepreneurs who can’t afford to pay an attorney. That’s where we can really help them launch their new businesses without running into challenges paying a lawyer.”
For many of the law students in the clinic, it’s their first time working with a real client.
“After they get over being nervous working with live clients, I think they find it fun, challenging and rewarding,” Hammons says. “We finally get them out of the classroom working with live clients who are putting their all into starting a business in Milwaukee. Our clients are passionate. Our students take it very seriously.”
The clinic serves traditional businesses such as restaurants and corner shops to high-tech businesses such as app companies or water technology companies. They emphasize taking clients from the central city and underserved communities.
“My experience at Marquette has been amazing,” says Trueman McGee, founder of Milwaukee-area food vendor Funky Fresh Spring Rolls. “Nathan and his very knowledgeable students have directly impacted my business with their legal counsel. From updating my catering contracts to helping me complete my trademarks, they have given me an abundance of legal help.”
About a third of their clients have a Marquette connection.
“The reality is that the Marquette Law Clinic is more like one of our startup’s cofounders than just a helpful service — its value is that foundational to our success,” says Nate Conroy, Arts ’12, who founded the educational technology company STEMhero. “We’ve received intellectual property protections, finalized contracts with strategic partners, secured top talent and pitched to investors because of the legal horsepower these law students provide. I can draw a direct line between our earning repeat customers and getting those legal millstones right.”
Paige Peters, a graduate student in the Opus College of Engineering, is the founder of a water technology company, Rapid Radicals, that is developing wastewater treatment solutions.
“Working with Nathan and his students in the clinic has been such a rewarding and necessary experience for me as I’ve built Rapid Radicals,” Peters says. “From council on business structure to drafting agreements and contracts, they have provided sound guidance every step of the way and continue to be a remarkably valuable resource as a graduate student entrepreneur.”