In our final Leaders & Influencers post of the year, we chat with Jeff Glazer, clinical assistant professor with the University of Wisconsin Law School’s Law & Entrepreneurship Clinic, which provides free legal services to nascent entrepreneurs and early stage companies through the work of law students, faculty, and private sector attorneys.
Talk a little bit about what brought you to the Law & Entrepreneurship Clinic in 2011 and the work that you do there.
I started at the Clinic in a part-time capacity as a supervising attorney for the law students who were working with entrepreneurs. I had my own law office at the time, but the work they were doing at the Clinic was similar to what I was doing in my own practice, and it just seemed like a new and interesting overlap. As I continued my work there, I really started buying in to what [L&E Clinic cofounders] Eric Englund and Anne Smith were trying to do, which was to fill a market need for legal service where the only other options were self-service or no service.
As lawyers, we want people to be proactive in obtaining legal services, but we often price ourselves out of that opportunity. People tend to delay seeking legal services because they can’t afford them, even though they know that an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. At the L&E Clinic, we provide good legal services in a way that entrepreneurs can be legally proactive.
My own background is in the food and beverage industry, which is a big industry for Wisconsin and provides a good opportunity for entrepreneurship. So I’ve been concentrating on this area and thinking about how the many pieces of the food and beverage industry can work together in a more holistic way. I’m taking more of a leadership role in bringing these disparate food and beverage companies together, beyond just providing legal services. There are real opportunities in this sector, but there are also real monetary challenges to getting these types of businesses started.
What kind of entrepreneurs does the L&E Clinic work with? Do you specialize in any particular industry?
To be eligible to work with the clinic, you only have to be in the first couple of years of your business. If you meet that definition, it doesn’t matter to us if you’re a food cart or a high-tech spin-off company from the university—or anything in between. There are varying levels of service we provide depending on what it is the business needs. For those companies who are most interested into growing into something bigger, we can get them connected with a range of providers, services, and individuals that can help them do that. And we can play the role of quarterback to help those same companies survey the field and think about the things they need to do to move the ball. We don’t do this in every instance, but for companies that want it, we do provide that handheld, integrated type of service.
Any new or continued initiatives the L&E Clinic has been working on over the past year?
We’re working on an ongoing basis with tightening our relationship with [coworking space and seed accelerator] Madworks. It’s an interesting work in progress. As Madworks is starting to take more of a governance-related direction, we’re finding more opportunities for students to get involved with clients while they’re going through the accelerator.
We also moved into the @1403 startup hub about a year ago, and it’s been exciting being in that space. The organizations that have found a home here—Discovery to Product (D2P), Madworks, gBETA, the L&E Clinic—weren’t necessarily planned for this space but have gravitated and grown here organically, which really has made @1403 more effective for entrepreneurs. It’s cool to be part of the space and activity that goes on there.
What’s the single most important change you’d like to see to encourage more innovation and entrepreneurship in our community?
I think we need to have a broader discussion about what is and isn’t entrepreneurship. When people think of entrepreneurship, they tend to think about the big high-tech companies that want to grow like crazy. I think we need to bring it down and understand that entrepreneurship doesn’t only mean big and high-tech. You can be a graphic designer or a VP of Marketing who provides independent services and you’re an entrepreneur too. I think there need to be more discussions and services around supporting entrepreneurship in all its forms. These smaller businesses may not have a huge opportunity for growth, but there’s also not a huge opportunity for risk. I want to support the woodshop or food cart owner and help them make connections so they can solve whatever challenge or problem in the world that they’re trying to solve. At its heart, that’s what entrepreneurship is all about.
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