What business expense do most new business owners underestimate?

“The line item in the budget for legal expenses is frequently half of what it needs to be,” says Mark Need, clinical associate professor of law and director of the Elmore Entrepreneurship Law Clinic (the Clinic), a joint venture that began in 2005 between IU’s Maurer School of Law and the Kelley School of Business.

For some local entrepreneurs, the Clinic is the first place to go for legal help. And not just because it’s free.

The Clinic focuses on new ventures, assisting startups with everything from the basics of entity-formation issues to more complex matters. And, Need says, even the simplest of business issues can become complex relatively quickly.

Say someone has developed a new product or idea. If needed, the Clinic can help determine if patent or other intellectual property protection is available, review the obligations of any prior employment relationship, negotiate ownership with investors, draft employee and operating agreements, and so forth.

“My charge from the law school is to run the clinic as though I were the managing partner of a small law firm,” says Need, who practiced law in Indianapolis for 14 years before joining the Clinic in 2006. His interns (at least eight each semester) are mostly students in their fourth and final years of the joint JD/MBA program. “This is a high horsepower group,” Need says. “They get excited about projects at the intersection of business and the law.”

But most clients aren’t just looking for yes or no answers to the issues they face. “They’re looking for solutions,” Need says. “And the Clinic students are very adept at solving problems.”

After an introductory meeting with Need, the client meets with one or two Clinic associates at the client’s business or, if preferred, at the Clinic’s secure meeting space at East 4th Street and Indiana Avenue.

Last year the Clinic also started an “open” clinic—a weekly, walk-in session for entrepreneurs to get help with legal issues. Interested entrepreneurs can contact Need at [email protected].