In college, Grant Reid and some friends worked to revive a coffee shop almost bankrupted by an embezzlement scandal. With their lawyers’ help, they navigated myriad legal issues and, over four years, rebuilt a profitable business and expanded it, opening new locations. Reid’s fascination both with the legal issues and the attorneys’ role in the coffee shop’s turnaround brought him to Duke. “I came to law school to experience the legal side of business,” he says. The Start-Up Ventures Clinic gave him a platform for exploring just that.
Reid felt lucky to work with HyTower Energy as his first clinic client. The three Duke MBA students behind HyTower were working on a venture to convert abandoned water towers into electrical generators. “We had good chemistry,” Reid says. “I was a first-time lawyer, they were first-time entrepreneurs. We learned a lot together.”
Reid, along with clinic partner Kristen Wolff ‘11, drafted articles of incorporation, non-disclosure agreements, intellectual property assignment agreements and other documents vital to a young company’s growth, all under the supervision of Clinical Professor Andrew Foster, who then directed the clinic.
“The clinic mimicked a law firm,” Reid says. “I’d interact with the client, go back to my desk and draft a business plan or a form agreement, and then bring it to Professor Foster, who, like a partner at a firm, would mark it up and suggest changes.”
HyTower Energy won the Duke Start-Up Challenge in 2011, which gave its founders $50,000 to further their business goals. “It was a thrill,” Reid says of the company’s early success. Spending his 2L summer at Wilson Sonsini in Palo Alto, Calif, Reid introduced the principals to legal contacts on the West Coast. The Fuqua graduates ended up putting their HyTower Energy plans on hold and launched a second venture in Silicon Valley.
“The clinic was great,” he says. “It got my feet wet and provided invaluable hands-on learning and experience. I have plenty to learn, but feel more confident in my ability to dive right in on ‘day one’.”
Now that Reid will soon be a Wilson Sonsini associate, his old HyTower friends might be some of his first clients.
“Corporate law is a relationship business,” he says. “The Start-Up Ventures Clinic is a great way for Duke Law students to develop legal skills and instincts to assist entrepreneurs and to nurture lasting relationships with entrepreneurs and other members of the ‘entrepreneurship ecosystem’ at Duke and the Raleigh-Durham community.”