09.22.11 — The US Department of Commerce has awarded a $500,000 grant to the School of Law to develop a university center that will provide free legal services to low-income and other underserved entrepreneurs in the region.

“The efforts of many entrepreneurs to launch new businesses fail because they cannot afford high quality legal services necessary to navigate complex regulatory requirements and protect their intellectual property assets,” said Professor Rashmi Dyal-Chand, the project’s principal investigator. She said the new center will target a number of new and emerging industries in the Greater Boston area, including clean energy, green technologies, science and health technologies, and small and ethnically diverse businesses.

“The core purpose of our work is to support entrepreneurs in economically distressed areas who have the capacity to accomplish the commercialization of technology and to achieve high growth,” Dyal-Chand said.

Legal assistance to the entrepreneurs will be primarily provided by law students, supervised by Dyal-Chand and other Northeastern law school faculty and staff.

Among the legal services to be provided:

• Researching regulatory barriers to the start-up of small businesses, negotiating with state and local governmental agencies to remove such barriers, and drafting contracts and other documentation to work around and/or remove such barriers.

• Drafting, reviewing, and negotiation of documents relating to licenses, permits, zoning and leases. 

• Drafting, reviewing, and negotiation of loan documents, including in the context of micro lending programs, loans from family members and other nontraditional sources.  

• Drafting, reviewing and negotiation of agreements relating to intellectual property rights.

• Drafting, reviewing, and negotiation of service agreements and contracts for accounting, insurance and legal services, major product purchases and/or leases. 

Research conducted by Dyal-Chand and Professor James Rowan, senior advisor, will be designed to develop a national model of clinical legal assistance in support of sustainable business creation and technology commercialization among underserved entrepreneurs.

The grant from the US Department of Commerce’s Economic Development Administration is part of a competitive, national program designed to enhance regional economic development tools that will expand opportunity and create jobs.

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