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I&E Academy Advises Entrepreneurs On Legal Help

Rosie McKinley and Katie Hasnain of Duke Law’s Start-Up Ventures Clinic give advice at the Duke I&E Academy. Photo by Pilar Timpane
Rosie McKinley and Katie Hasnain of Duke Law’s Start-Up Ventures Clinic, give advice at the Duke I&E Academy. Photo by Pilar Timpane

The Duke Innovation & Entrepreneurship Initiative kicked off its Spring 2017 I&E Academy with a session Tuesday night titled “I Have An Idea. Do I Need A Lawyer?”

Both students and members of the wider community can take advantage of the academy, and about 20 attendees showed up Tuesday to learn about when startups should seek legal advice.

The session was facilitated by Darrell Fruth, senior lecturing fellow at Duke Law and supervising attorney at Duke Law’s Start-Up Ventures Clinic, as well as two law students who work in the Start-Up Ventures Clinic.

The clinic provides legal advice to early stage companies that haven’t yet raised a significant amount of capital. The clinic often hosts confidential office hours in Duke I&E’s space, the Bullpen.

Although some things are possible to do on one’s own – such as running a Google search to make sure a company name hasn’t been used before – there are certain times when a startup company would benefit from consulting a lawyer, said law student Rosie McKinley.

There are pivotal moments to seek legal help, such as when leaving one’s current position to form a company, forming a company or working with contracts, McKinley said.

Although contract law is a complex area of law – even informal contracts, such as notes on napkins, can sometimes be legally viable – McKinley advised companies to bring in a lawyer any time it needed documents with specificity.

And because the Triangle is a booming area for entrepreneurship, there are many lawyers who focus on services for emerging companies, with some offering package deals such as formation, vendor agreements and financing documents.

Paul Triulzi, a master’s student in liberal studies with a certificate in environmental entrepreneurship, attended the session. Triulzi got a patent for an environmental product in 2013 after starting the patent process in 2009, and now he is considering launching a business around the product.

He said the session helped him consider his next steps and also reflected the experiences and challenges he’s faced so far.

Some in the audience were new to entrepreneurship. Joey Santoro, a freshman who is applying to the I&E Certificate, said he attended because he is interested in the field. “The legal implications of running your own business can be super confusing and intimidating, so I decided to come,” he said.

The next I&E Academy session, “Perfecting the Pitch,” will be facilitated by Andy Roth, co-founder of RocketBolt. It will be held Wednesday, March 1 from 5:30 to 7 p.m. Another session, “The Art of Risk Taking,” will be held Wednesday, April 5 from 5:30 to 7 p.m.

All I&E Academy sessions take place in 270 Gross Hall.