PUBLISHED:June 09, 2023

Law & Entrepreneurship students spend 1L Summer Immersion in New York


After completing a fast-track academic course focused on advising entrepreneurial clients, students traveled to New York to learn from leading law and tech innovators.

Group of people smiling in front of a painting

First-year students in the JD/LLM in Law & Entrepreneurship dual-degree program ventured to New York May 22-26 for their 1L Summer Immersion. Led by Clinical Professor Erika Buell, the students explored the many ways that entrepreneurial lawyers can have an impact.

The 1L Summer Immersion is offered after students complete the intensive Advising the Entrepreneurial Client course taught by Buell, who is also the director of the Program in Law & Entrepreneurship. Students travel to an entrepreneurial location such as Silicon Valley to connect what they learned in the classroom to how things work in practice. This was the first trip the program has taken to New York.

The Advising the Entrepreneurial Client course is grounded in the skills, experience, and substantive areas of knowledge that leading business law practitioners desire in law school graduates, which are discussed early in the course. Buell led the students through the process of taking a hypothetical company from idea to first-round venture capital investment. Topics included non-disclosure agreements, term sheets, entity selection, incorporation, intellectual property, securities exemptions, equity compensation, tax, and preferred stock terms, including liquidation preferences and anti-dilution protection.

Said Surya Korrapati JD/LLMLE ’25 T ’22: “Though I enjoyed the theory and abstraction of my 1L classes, Advising the Entrepreneurial Client was an incredible change of pace into the practical and business-focused world of legal entrepreneurship. We traveled to New York to meet and engage with venture capital investors, entrepreneurial founders, and prominent law firms. I absolutely loved the experience of seeing non-traditional legal career paths and enjoyed seeing our classroom learnings materialize in real-world applications.”

Students also met with Duke Law graduates who are now working in-house at startups and tech companies. Jeremy Muhlfelder JD/LLMLE ’18 described his journey from working as a Corporate & FinTech associate in Palo Alto, Calif., to currently serving as head of operations and legal at VRChat in Brooklyn. “I know what it's like to be an entrepreneurial law student without an idea of what paths are possible to scratch that business/entrepreneurial itch,” he said.

Throughout the week, common themes emerged: the importance of understanding a client’s business, the varied paths to a successful career, and the essential role of community, especially the Duke Law community. Practitioners stressed that the “right” career path would be different for each person. Students also deepened their understanding of what it means to be an entrepreneurial lawyer and a lawyer who has entrepreneurial desires.

“I really appreciated the diversity of people we met. I had at least one ‘ah-ha’ moment reflecting on what we learned in almost every meeting,” said Shiyue (Evelynna) Jiang JD/LLMLE ’25.

In the first meeting, with Johanna Collins-Wood ’13 T ’09, chief compliance officer and senior counsel at Bitwise Asset Management, participants delved into a discussion about corporate compliance for fintech and crypto companies. Einat Levy LLM ’12, executive vice president and general counsel of Cherre, stressed the necessity of understanding the business and working with stakeholders to help solve problems. Dani Bembry Westbrook ’20, head of legal at Loom, talked about her transition from big law into in-house practice. She also discussed lawyering in a remote company, navigating a security incident, and the impact of Silicon Valley Bank’s collapse on the broader technology ecosystem.

In addition to the academic components of the trip, the 1L Summer Immersion also provided students with opportunities to explore New York, including a docent-led tour focused on innovation and the creative process at the Museum of Modern Art.

“As a first-year law student, disentangling the web of legal practice and understanding the functional application of classwork can be a challenge,” said Cliff Gilman JD/LLMLE ’25. “The intensive class with Professor Buell coupled with intricate and personal discussions with founders, investors, and lawyers bolstered our understanding of the practical challenges and incentives in the startup world. We came away with new interests and clarity on the paths our own careers can take.”

Scenes from the JD/LLMLE 1L Summer Immersion trip