Partner Spotlight: Albany Law School

Start-up Pro Bono Legal Assistance

A vital benefit for startups and entrepreneurs is understanding the value of working with an attorney and being provided with qualified legal assistance.

Innovate 518 is able to make these critical services available to the startup and entrepreneurial community through a partnership with Albany Law School’s Community Development Clinic. The Clinic is the only Innovate 518-affiliated partner providing pro bono legal services.

Albany Law students participate in intake meetings with clients and program staff of Innovate 518, the region’s innovation hotspot, who has referred a number of clients to the Clinic.

“We know that lawyers can play a critical role in the evolution of a start-up venture,” said Professor Edward W. De Barbieri, director of the Community Development Clinic. “Thinking through complex legal issues is what we teach our students to do by doing, by grappling with these challenges here in the clinic and through other coursework at the law school.”

The Clinic—part of the Clinic & Justice Center—launched last December to provide vital assistance to Capital Region clients who cannot afford to pay for legal services.

And it’s been a busy year: in Spring 2017 alone, the Clinic provided brief legal advice or full representation to more than 40 businesses and nonprofits; presented a series of workshops in partnership with the Community Loan Fund of the Capital Region on commercial leasing, basics of employment law, and doing business online; and laid the foundation for its students to pursue careers in business or nonprofit law.

“The Community Development Clinic at Albany Law is an essential partner in Innovate 518. It assists startups that cannot otherwise afford legal representation, and provides them with the utmost professional service to achieve the goals of their business or organization,” said Maria Pidgeon, associate director of Innovate 518. “At the same time, it provides students with real-world practice and rich learning experience to develop the skills and ethics essential to practicing law ethically and competently.”

As for the clinic’s impact on the start-up and entrepreneurial community, De Barbieri said, “for small business clients, clinic representation will result in a more streamlined entity formation and start-up phase, leading hopefully to faster staffing and sales.”