The Clinic is designed to meet two important needs:
1. To provide current law students interested in business law with a clinical program that will expose them to the practical and substantive legal problems of counseling small businesses and nonprofit organizations.
2. To offer much needed legal advice to segments of the small business community in the DC metropolitan area. Clients are seen by appointment only.
Since 1977, the Clinic has provided free start-up legal services to Washington, DC area entrepreneurs, nonprofit groups, and artists including short-term counseling in a broad range of business maters such as corporations, limited liability companies, partnerships, contracts, commercial lease review and basic intellectual property law (e.g., trademark and copyright).
The Clinic also provides direct legal assistance, counseling, representation, and informational materials to new and existing nonprofit organizations and groups whose mission is to help low-income individuals and communities pursue economic empowerment and self-help initiatives. Through its historical relationship with Washington Area Lawyers for the Arts (WALA), the Clinic also represents individual artists and groups (e.g., musicians, dance and theatre companies, and film and video makers). The clinic also helps WALA with law and policy research.
How the Clinic Accepts Cases:
The Clinic is a free service and one of only a few small business legal clinics in the DC area. Most of the Clinic’s clients are microbusinesses comprising of 1-5 persons with less than $35,000 in start-up capital. The Clinic’s services are in high demand and resources allow us to handle a limited number of cases each semester by appointment only.
We choose clients according to a range of factors which include the variety in our case load, the number of clients we already represent, and the complexity of the client’s case. Preference is given to clients who have developed a written business plan. If we are unable to help a client in a given semester, we may be able to place the client on a wait list so that they may be assisted the following semester or refer the client to another legal resource.
The services provided by the Clinic take place during the George Washington University Law School’s academic year (i.e., from September through April of each year). If the work is not completed by the end of the academic school year, the work will be completed over the summer by Clinic faculty or summer interns who are supervised by Clinic faculty. The Clinic does not accept new cases in the summer.
Legal Services Provided:
- Drafting Articles of Incorporation
- Drafting Bylaws for Corporations (for profit and non-profit)
- Creating Limited Liability Companies
- Reviewing Leases
- Conducting Legal Research on Specific Problems
- Business Licenses and Permits
- Trademark and Copyright Applications
- Contract Drafting And Contract Review
- Application for Federal Tax-Exemption Status
The Clinic does not handle litigation. Additionally, the Clinic does not draft business plans, engage in financial negotiations, develop loan packages, prepare tax returns, or engage in complex business transactions. For these types of services, we recommend that clients seek the services of an accountant or tax advisor.
To Obtain Representation:
Please contact the Clinic to talk to someone about your business needs or by sending an email to GWUSBC@law.gwu.edu.
The client must complete an application before he or she is eligible for consideration:
Application for Legal Assistance [pdf]
The clinic requires all prospective clients to come in for an initial consultation before we will accept a case. After the initial consultation, the director in conjunction with the students who conducted the interview, will make a decision on whether the clinic can accept the case. A prospective client will be notified by telephone, email or U.S. mail of our decision. Whether or not we can accept a case depends on a variety of factors such as the complexity of the case, the size and variety in our case load, and whether the client has a business plan.
The Client's Role:
Once a case has been accepted, the client is responsible for filing all legal papers with the appropriate government agency and paying any filing fees. The Clinic will prepare a Retainer Agreement with the client, specifying the scope of legal work to be completed. Clients agree to be represented by law students working under the supervision of a licensed attorney. Due to the educational nature of the Clinic, the client is expected to commit to actively engaging in the legal assistance process by maintaining communication with the Clinic students assigned to their case with corrections or feedback, and attending scheduled Clinic meetings or calling the Clinic or the student(s) assigned to their case if they should need to cancel a scheduled meeting. We reserve the right to end our relationship with the client if he or she is not complying with our requests for information or neglects to call when they cannot attend a scheduled meeting.
Legal services are provided on a short-term basis. We will keep the information clients discuss with us confidential. However, there may be instances where we will seek the client's permission to share information for the client's benefit with other organizations such as loan programs or the media. Cases will be discussed by students enrolled in the course and with the supervising attorney and the fellow.
The clinic cannot serve as ongoing legal counsel for a business. Draft or final documents can usually be delivered within several weeks, depending on the complexity of the case and the client's diligence and attention to the case.