The innovation and entrepreneurial spirit of the Centre County region will be gaining a lot more legal protection thanks to a new entrepreneur program coming to the Penn State Law School.
The program will consist of a new course and an Entrepreneur Assistance Clinic.
Tom Sharbaugh, a partner at the Morgan Lewis & Bockius LLP law firm in its Philadelphia office and Penn State alumnus, will be the professor of the course this fall, titled “Representing the Entrepreneur.”
“[We will cover] all the legal issues with early stages of starting a business,” Sharbaugh said.
Issues include formal agreements among founders, human resources and basic intellectual property matter, among others, Sharbaugh said.
The course will be open to all fourth semester law students and up Sharbaugh said and has two goals: to “give students practical skills with early stage companies,” and to “contribute to the entrepreneurial activity in the community by providing legal representation.”
At the heart of the new entrepreneurship program is the creation of an Entrepreneur Assistance Clinic, set to open in the spring of 2016. The clinic will allow for law students to gain experience by representing “entrepreneurs, startups, and nonprofit organizations,” according to the clinic’s website.
“This is really exciting,” Todd Erdley, president and CEO of Videon, a State College based company, said.
“One of the biggest problems [in starting a business] is what you don’t know…there’s nuances of how you do things that only seasoned lawyers know how to do,” Erdley said.
The new clinic comes after Penn State President Eric Barron announced in January a $30 million investment towards student success and economic development.
“President Barron’s push [for entrepreneurship] provides impetus for this,” Sharbaugh said.
Some faculty members at Penn State said they also see the new program as beneficial to the community as well as the students.
“With that said, I also see it benefitting our community’s local laws firms since once people understand the value added to their business, I believe they will continue to seek out legal advice beyond what a Penn State law student may be able to offer,” Linda Feltman, coordinator of Global Entrepreneurship Week, said via email.
Students will be able to provide direct service to people under the supervision of a licensed attorney, Sharbaugh said.
There will be prerequisites, he said for students participating in the clinic including the completion of the new course, Representing the Entrepreneur.
One local company potentially looking to recruit interns from Penn State’s Law School is Erdley’s Videon.
Erdley said he is “very excited” about the possibility to recruit interns from Penn State Law.
“Penn State has a plethora of resource partners, such as the SBDC, ready and willing to work with student entrepreneurs,” Feltman said. “Too many students tend to not ask questions or seek advice until they are in so deep that it is difficult to unwind a situation. Ask early and ask often.”