Clone of W.H. “Kip” Johnson III

July 10, 2012Duke Law News

Johnson ’94 joins faculty as director of Start-Up Ventures Clinic

"[Kip] brings a unique combination of professional experience, connections to the region’s entrepreneurial community, and commitment to teaching that will position the Start-Up Ventures Clinic to provide both important educational opportunities for students and high quality services to new ventures in the community.”

Clinical Professor Andrew Foster

W.H. “Kip” Johnson III ’94 has joined the Duke Law faculty as a senior lecturing fellow and director of the Start-Up Ventures Clinic. As clinic director, he will supervise students representing early-stage ventures on matters related to the start-up process.

Johnson, who also holds an MBA from Duke’s Fuqua School of Business, is a founding member of Morningstar Law Group, a new Triangle-area firm, where he focuses on representing clients in start-up ventures, angel investing, venture capital, and private equity. Until June 2012 he was a member in the corporate and securities practice group of Womble Carlyle Sandridge & Rice’s Research Triangle Park office, which he co-founded in 1997; he joined Womble Carlyle in 1994. He also is an active angel investor locally and in Silicon Valley.

Johnson co-taught the Start-Up Ventures Clinic with Clinical Professor Andrew Foster in its spring 2011 pilot phase.

“I really enjoyed working with the students as they tried to figure out what the start-up space looks like,” he said. “It was really a lot of fun for me to help them understand how the business angles worked with the legal issues, and how to take all of the substantive law that they had learned and help them understand how that worked in the business world.”

In the clinic’s pilot phase, students have provided legal counsel to early-stage businesses and social entrepreneurship ventures. Many are led by student teams associated with the Duke Start-Up Challenge, the Fuqua School of Business’s Program for Entrepreneurs, and entrepreneurship programs at the Pratt School of Engineering.

Providing supervised legal assistance to Duke student-based start-ups will continue to be a core clinic function, said Johnson, who hopes also to gradually build the clinic’s client base in Durham and Research Triangle Park in order to give students opportunities to work with entrepreneurial ventures “at different points along the growth curve.” True start-ups — clients just beginning to think about the commercial possibilities of their creation or idea — face legal and business issues that differ from clients with prototypes, customers, and plans for expansion, he said. “Their needs would be employment agreements, licensing agreements, international law issues — the types of things that a company in a growth phase would need to deal with.”

“Increasing the number and diversity of transactional clinical opportunities is a key element of Duke Law School’s strategic plan for our clinical program,” said Foster, who directs the clinical programs as well as the Community Enterprise Clinic. “Kip’s appointment will allow us to move this clinic out of the pilot phase and to transform it into a more robust and continuing component of the curriculum. He brings a unique combination of professional experience, connections to the region’s entrepreneurial community, and commitment to teaching that will position the Start-Up Ventures Clinic to provide both important educational opportunities for students and high quality services to new ventures in the community.”