Penn Law School. Photo via Penn.
Penn’s Entrepreneurial Law Clinic helped transform an empty grocery store on 48th and Spruce into a food business incubator.
It was part of their pro bono work for their client The Enterprise Center. Now, aspiring cooks and culinary businessmen and women can rent kitchen space at the Dorrance H. Hamilton Center for Culinary Enterprises to advance their ventures.
The Penn Entrepreneurial Law Clinic is one of the oldest transactional legal clinics in the country, dating back to 1982 when it started under a joint grant for Penn Law and the Wharton School. The clinic was conceived as a one-stop shop for small business in Philadelphia, where they could receive legal and business help free of charge, said Penn Law professor Praveen Kosuri, who runs the clinic. Today, the Entrepreneurial Law Clinic is run independently out of the law school and has two full-time staff, including Kosuri. Drexel also has an entrepreneurial law clinic that focuses on early-stage startups.
About 16 law students, usually third-years, work at the clinic at any given time. Their work in the clinic is classified as a class, and they receive academic credit for their time. The clinic is one of eight within the law school—it’s also the biggest and, according to Kosuri, the one that’s in highest demand among students looking for real-world work experience.
“We view ourselves as a practicing law firm,” said Kosuri.
The clinic helps small businesses with every aspect of running a business that does not involve litigation. By offering their services pro bono and taking on clients who are positioned to make an impact in their Philadelphia community, Kosuri believes he and his students are helping revitalize the city.
The law clinic has also worked with Wash Cycle Laundry, an environmentally and socially conscious laundry delivery service that graduated from Good Company Group in 2012, as they grow their client base. According to Kosuri, they recently signed a contract with the Philadelphia VA Medical Center.
Right now, he says, the need for the services they provide exceeds their ability to provide it, a sign that Philly’s start-up community is growing.
“There’s a great ecosytem for social ventures and social entrepreneurship in Philly,” Kosuri said. “And we just want folks to know we’re a part of that.”-30-
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