Wayne Law entrepreneurship program helps Detroit thrive


 Wayne Law alumnus Dan Gilbert, chairman of Rock Ventures and chairman and founder of Detroit-based Quicken Loans Inc., speaks to students Monday, March 3, at Wayne Law.

Wayne State University Law School students involved with the expanding Program for Entrepreneurship and Business Law have their fingers on the pulse of the city of Detroit and its growth.

• Students working in the program’s Business and Community Law Clinic and Patent Procurement Clinic regularly offer free legal services and advice, assisted by experienced attorneys, to qualifying Detroit area startups and nonprofits. Students get real-world experience and education while enterprise to revitalize Detroit benefits.

• The patent clinic, in its first five semesters, has reviewed 102 client applications, conducted 53 patent searches for clients and filed 20 utility patent applications and one design patent application. U.S. Patent and Trademark Office actions have been received for six of the filed patent applications, said Adjunct Professor Thomas Helmholdt, who teaches the clinic. “Based on the work done by the clinic so far, I would conservatively estimate that the clinic has performed pro bono services for the community that would be worth at least $300,000 in the private sector,” he said. The clinic is the only one of its kind in Michigan affiliated with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office.

• Students attend monthly meetings of Open City – a free forum for Detroit’s aspiring and established small business owners presented by D:hive in partnership with Detroit Creative Corridor Center and Model D magazine. D:hive and the center are Detroit business accelerants, promoting growth and problem solving in the city. Each month’s event includes a panel of speakers.

• Students take part in a Speakers Bureau, which gives presentations twice a month for the Third District of the Detroit City Council in the office of Councilman Scott Benson. The audience is local entrepreneurs, and legal issues they may face are what the students talk about – offering free advice to help the city grow and prosper.

• The Program for Entrepreneurship and Business Law was a sponsor, with TechTown, Prosperous Detroit, the Center for Empowerment and Economic Development and Score Detroit, of the recent Detroit Entrepreneur Week, an event to help the city’s small-business entrepreneurs or those who’d like to join their ranks. Speakers throughout the week focused on topics such as neighborhood business associations, real estate law, tax requirements and resources for businesses. The event ended with a closing reception – and a chance to network – at Wayne Law.

• Business clinic students were a part of an ad hoc committee advising Detroit Councilwoman Raquel Castenada-Lopez on a recent city agreement to transfer land to the Downtown Development Authority to advance a proposed new Detroit Red Wings arena downtown known as the Olympia Development.

A broad array of coursework takes place, too, to teach students about business law, and a variety of expert speakers bring their expertise to Wayne Law regularly.

Speakers in business law courses this semester have included:

• Mark Bennett, a 1990 alumnus and founder of MJBennett PLLC: Strategic Legal and Advisory Searches, spoke of his firm’s work helping entrepreneurs reach their goals.

• Dan Gilbert, a 1987 alumnus, chairman of Rock Ventures, chairman and founder of Detroit-based Quicken Loans Inc. and majority owner of the NBA’s Cleveland Cavaliers, talked about the role of entrepreneurship in Detroit.

• Robin Kinnie, manager of business and development for the Center of Empowerment and Economic Development and an organizer of Detroit Entrepreneur Week, discussed funding options for Detroit startups with the students.

• Michelle Lee, deputy director of the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, spoke of trends in patent law.

• Tifani Sadek, founder and managing attorney at Sadek Legal Services PLC, spoke of her practice offering legal solutions for startups, small businesses and entrepreneurs.

• Michelle Visser, a 1991 Wayne Law alumna who is a partner with Rader Fishman & Grauer, brought her expertise on trademark and copyright law to the students and showed them how to conduct a trademark search.

“Wayne Law also offers numerous internships with businesses, and extracurricular and co-curricular activities designed to prepare students to represent entrepreneurs – or to become entrepreneurs themselves – while supporting entrepreneurship and business development in metro Detroit,” said Assistant (Clinical) Professor Eric Williams, director of the Program for Entrepreneurship and Business Law.

For example, the program sponsored two teams for this year’s National Transactional LawMeet. One team placed first in in drafting and negotiating in regional competition at Western New England University School of Law in Springfield, Mass., and will move on to the national competition in April in New York City. The other team placed second in drafting and negotiating at a regional contest hosted by Northwestern University Law School in Chicago.

“Today’s business world is characterized by relentless and rapid innovation,” Williams said. “The key to success is an education that includes the knowledge to identify opportunities, as well as the skills to seize them.”


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