Small business owners, entrepreneurs and nonprofits now can turn to the USC Gould School of Law for free legal advice.
The USC Small Business Clinic � manned by law students under the direction of professor Michael Chasalow � has opened to help fledgling business owners with issues ranging from contracts and general business agreements to licensing issues, incorporation or unforeseen legal problems.
Chasalow, a business law professor and consultant to a variety of start-up companies, said USC’s Small Business Clinic is designed to provide second- and third-year law students with real-life experience while helping business owners ward off future problems and lawsuits.
“The goal is to prepare law students for the business world,” said Chasalow, who has taught at USC Law for nearly a decade. “Working at this clinic will give future transactional lawyers a leg up. The Small Business Clinic is a safe place for students to hone their skills.
“When you get your first assignments in a law firm and you don’t know what you’re doing, it can be overwhelming. You don’t want to confess your ignorance. This is a place where you can ask questions and get training without fear, so when you go out into the real world, you have had some very valuable practical experience.”
Chasalow is hoping to attract a variety of small businesses ranging from mom-and-pop retailers to Web site designers and child care centers.
“Often small business owners don’t think about hiring an attorney until they are in trouble,” he said. “We’re offering services to them to protect them from problems before they arise.”
Five law students are signed up to work in the Small Business Clinic this fall semester, and another eight students will work in the spring.
The Small Business Clinic is one of six clinics at USC Law that combine classroom exercises with client representation. Others focus on intellectual property, post-conviction, children’s legal issues, employment law for nonprofits and immigration.
“USC’s clinical training programs are designed to develop lawyering skills of the highest quality,” said Scott Altman, vice dean. “The USC Small Business Clinic will only help expand our relationship with the business world. With Michael’s expertise, we are confident that this new clinic will provide an important service to the community and push the law school to higher levels of excellence.”