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A handful of U.S. law schools are getting into the entrepreneurial spirit. Duke Law School announced last month that it will launch a new Law and Entrepreneurship LLM program next academic year, while the University of Colorado School of Law is awaiting approval of a Entrepreneurial Law LLM it hopes to debut in the fall. Courses and clinics focused on entrepreneurship and emerging companies aren’t uncommon at law schools, but these new ventures would be the first LLM programs in the United States to focus expressly on the skills attorneys need to advise start-up companies or become entrepreneurs themselves. James Cox, a law professor and the faculty director of Duke’s new LLM program, said the timing is right for these programs because students and lawyers are taking a broader view of their career prospects. “You’re increasingly finding more law school graduates who want to go out into the business world rather than go sit behind a desk at a law firm,” he said. Being an entrepreneur or counseling start-up companies requires a broad range of skills and a wide range of expertise, said Colorado law professor J. Brad Bernthal, who is overseeing that school’s entrepreneurial law program. “Start-up clients need everything under the sun,” Bernthal said. “You need to understand the key drivers of the business and help them prioritize their needs.” Instead of specializing in one area of the law, lawyers advising entrepreneurs need to know a bit of everything — employment, securities, intellectual property, tax and basic corporate law included, he said. They also need to have some transactional skills. Duke Law School Dean David Levi said that lawyers are an integral part of the business start-up process, so it makes sense to prepare students for that role. “In the entrepreneurial context, the relationship of the lawyer and the businessperson is so intertwined that a competent lawyer must understand the business and a competent business person must understand the law,” Levi said. The entrepreneurial-focused LLM at Duke and the proposed program at Colorado both incorporate a mix of classroom instruction and hands-on experience at local emerging companies or clinical experience with start-ups. Some of the classroom instruction for the Duke LLM will include quantitative skills such as accounting and financial theory, a strategy course that touches on organization behavior and financial strategy, and a course that examines the law and society as they pertain to entrepreneurial activity. Duke students will complete an externship with an emerging company in North Carolina’s Research Triangle — where a number of high-tech companies are located — or will be placed with a law firm that advises entrepreneurs. Location was a significant factor in Colorado’s decision to pursue an entrepreneurial law LLM, Bernthal said. The high tech corridor between Boulder and Denver is home to many innovative companies, he noted. Colorado’s LLM students will complete an externship with a start-up or participate in the school’s entrepreneurial law clinic. Additionally, students may take cross-disciplinary courses at the university’s business or engineering schools. Bernthal said the new LLM would be small, with perhaps three to five students in the inaugural class. He hopes to secure final approval for the program by late March. Duke’s program will likely be larger, with between 25 and 30 students, Cox said. He anticipates that about a quarter of them will be practicing lawyers who take a year off to focus on building an entrepreneurial skill set. “We’re trying to familiarize individuals with the intersections of business, law and entrepreneurship,” Cox said. “We’d like them to leave with a greater sense of self confidence about the world they are entering into.”

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