Chicago: The City of Broad Shoulders, Sharp Minds & Free Legal Assistance

By January 18, 2011

By: Brooke Fallon, Institute for Justice Clinic on Entrepreneurship

Anyone who has ever tried to start a business is probably familiar with the often painful process of making important (and sometimes uninformed) legal decisions about their business. Should I file for an LLC or a corporation? How do I trademark a company name? What kinds of contracts should I be using with my clients, partners, and employees? Some individuals can afford to hire attorneys to help them with these decisions, but many entrepreneurs, just looking to make an honest living off an innovative idea, don’t have that luxury.

I work at a nonprofit organization called the Institute for Justice Clinic on Entrepreneurship, or, the IJ Clinic as we’re known by most of our friends. We’re located at the University of Chicago Law School, and have the privilege of working with some of the nation’s brightest future lawyers. One part legal lab, one part street savvy educator, and one part watchdog, the IJ Clinic is out to make the lives of entrepreneurs in Chicago a little easier.

Our mission is three-pronged. First, we offer free legal assistance to lower-income entrepreneurs who wouldn’t otherwise be able to afford legal counsel. We also offer free educational workshops and networking events that are open to all entrepreneurs. Second, we work with our law students–who assist our clients under the supervision of our attorneys–to educate and inspire them to be advocates of entrepreneurship. Lastly, we advocate for greater freedom for entrepreneurs to open businesses. Chicago is notorious for its excessive red-tape for small business owners, and we’re here to speak out against these unnecessary burdens.

Right now we’re working on a big project that might be of interest to you. We’re organizing a job fair on February 19th for start-ups looking to hire employees, interns, and independent contractors in the next 6 months. This will be a great opportunity to put your business out there, network, and possibly get some media exposure.

Our aim is to show that there are individuals around Chicago working to make jobs in this city. As the home to nationally and internationally recognized ventures ranging from McDonald’s to Groupon to Sears, Chicagoland is–and has long been–a bustling hub of entrepreneurship. All of us have been impacted by the Great Recession, yet there are people out there risking it all to create new businesses in a rough economy. Aside from the abundance of high-octane entrepreneurs in the area, Chicago is also home to a vibrant workforce and some of the nation’s top universities. We are–after all–the city that works. Our plan is to bring all of these parties into one place, and let the magic happen. If you’d like to know more, shoot me an [email (mailto:[email protected])].

Looking for other ways to get involved with the IJ Clinic? I took the liberty of writing out some suggestions:

– If you’re a lower-income entrepreneur starting a for-profit business in the area, visit our entrepreneurs page on our website and give us a call for an intake interview.
– If your business has been burdened by red-tape, rogue inspectors, or you have a nightmarish/entertaining story about dealing with City Hall (trust me, we have plenty), share your story!
– Come to one of our (FREE) events! We have two coming up this month on writing business plans
– If you’re running a successful venture, would like to share your lessons learned, or if you’re an expert in some field of business–marketing, social media, accounting, etc., and would like to impart some of your wisdom on a group of aspiring entrepreneurs, contact us: Brooke Fallon

We’d love to hear from you!