Robin Feldman, director of the Institute for Innovation Law at UC Hastings, thinks of the Startup Legal Garage at UC Hastings as a reboot for law school.
"We went to our constituents," Feldman says. "We went to law firm hiring partners, we went to students thinking of going to law school, and we spent a long time researching what people need. That's how we created this structure."
At the two-year-old clinic, students provide free legal advice to Bay Area start-ups under the supervision of an outside attorney. They may delve into corporate, intellectual property, or privacy law. And they are exposed to client management challenges of all kinds.
"You're interacting with clients through regular meetings, email, on the phone," says Gabor Brasnjo, a participant in the program's first year who is now an attorney in Arnold & Porter's Palo Alto office. "You learn through that process how to manage that relationship, how to address their concerns."
This fall the clinic will expand from 24 students a year to as many as 60; so far, 18 firms have been involved, and more are likely to join. But is it helping graduates get jobs? There's not much data yet, but Feldman says it's helping students forge important connections. "Employers have been very interested in and enthusiastic about the experience of our students in the Startup Legal Garage."