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Free UW Legal Clinic Gives A Hand To Local Startups

Law Students Helped 300 Clients Last Year

Jeff Miller/UW-Madison

A free legal clinic for entrepreneurs has helped hundreds of Wisconsin businesses open up shop.

The University of Wisconsin-Madison Law & Entrepreneurship clinic is run by a group of 20 law students. Under the mentorship of licensed attorneys, they help startups write contracts and handle patents and trademarks.

The clinic has become so popular, there’s now a waiting list for the service. Clinic director Anne Smith said these law students are kept busy.

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“Last year our students would have billed 8,300 hours of time,” said Smith. “If you multiply that by a reasonable billing rate, you get almost $2 million worth of legal services that clients got for free.”

According to Smith, the clinic served more than 300 clients last year.

While some other law schools provide free legal services as well, Smith said, “We asked other clinics ‘like ours’ how many clients they served in a year, and the closest number to ours was 50.”

The clinic opened up in 2009 and 75 percent of the startups they’ve advised are still in business today.