Entrepreneurs need more than bright ideas and seed money. They may excel at technology or marketing, but they also must set up a company, negotiate contracts with financial backers and handle other legal tasks — expertise that even many attorneys lack.
As part of the university’s Innovation and Entrepreneurship Initiative, Duke Law School has begun filling that gap with programs that are training attorneys to meet the special needs of startups and other new ventures.
“I got to law school and realized fairly quickly that the traditional path wasn’t for me,” says Daniel Pratl, a Rutgers Law graduate who in May received one of Duke Law’s new LLM degrees in law and entrepreneurship. Spending two semesters with faculty experts and local entrepreneurs “gave me a chance to work with people from different kinds of start-ups with very different goals and experiences. Those experiences allowed me to take a step back, see the bigger picture and figure out a path forward.” Pratl is now a business strategy consultant with Red Hat, the open-source software company based in the Research Triangle.
Elizabeth Youngkin parlayed an internship she obtained through the program into a position at Clinipace, a local contract research organization where she serves as in-house attorney and team leader. Youngkin manages the contract startup process for global clinical trials, using legal skills ranging from negotiation to regulatory analysis.
“Through the program I met scientists and entrepreneurs on the verge of commercializing their ideas,” she says. “I had an opportunity to study alongside fellow entrepreneurially-minded attorneys and learn from their diverse experiences, including skills for advising entrepreneurs and small businesses.”