After three successful years providing legal assistance to start-up entrepreneurial ventures, Duke Law’s Start-Up Ventures Clinic will move forward under the leadership of Jeff Ward in the coming academic year. Ward, a former supervising attorney of the Law School’s Community Enterprise Clinic, has advised small businesses, start-up entities, and corporate clients over the course of his career.
The clinic, founded in 2011, offers students an experience that combines the Law School’s commitment to entrepreneurial education with a chance to gain valuable practical training. Clinic clients are seed and early stage ventures that have not yet raised significant amounts of outside capital, and students work on a variety of legal matters including new entity formation, founder equity and vesting, shareholder agreements, intellectual property assignment and licensing agreements, and other issues that new enterprises face in their start-up phase. Kip Johnson, who directed the clinic through its launch phase, will continue to teach courses in the Law and Entrepreneurship curriculum, mentor students, and advise on enriching the business law offerings at the school, said Andrew Foster, director of the Law School’s clinical programs.
“The Start-Up Clinic has been a great success, and we could not have gotten to this point without Kip,” Foster said. “I thank him deeply for his leadership in this work.”
"Kip Johnson launched something special, and I'm thrilled to be able to keep the clinic moving along the same trajectory," Ward said.
Students who have participated in the clinic so far, worked with a wide variety of clients, many of them from the Research Triangle. Ward said he plans to continue to take advantage of the opportunities afforded by proximity to the Triangle, a hub for entrepreneurship which provides business, employment, networking, and mentorship opportunities for law school students.
"In the coming years, the Start-Up Ventures Clinic will aim to integrate itself into the innovation ecology here at Duke and in the Triangle,” Ward said. “Eventually, I'd hope for the state of North Carolina to count the clinic among its most valuable resources for energetic entrepreneurs."
Foster, who has worked closely with Ward in the Community Enterprise Clinic, said he thinks Ward is ideally suited to move the Start-Up Ventures Clinic forward. “Because of the range of his experience, and because of his enthusiasm and leadership, I think Jeff Ward is the right person to continue the success of the clinic,” Foster said.
After earning a JD/LLM in International & Comparative Law from Duke Law School, where he graduated magna cum laude and Order of the Coif, Ward served as a Public Interest Law Initiative (PILI) Fellow at the Community Economic Development Law Project of the Chicago Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, Inc. He counseled small businesses and non-profit organizations regarding corporate structure, intellectual property matters, real estate transactions, personnel and employment issues, and contractual matters and, in partnership with the City of Chicago Department of Business Affairs, he provided legal and planning advice to start-up entrepreneurs.
As an associate with the Chicago office of Latham & Watkins, Ward focused on M&A and capital markets transactions.
Upon his return to Duke Law, Ward worked as supervising attorney for the Community Enterprise Clinic, where he supervised projects for entrepreneurial clients and organizations devoted to community economic development. He also maintains his own law practice, counseling start-ups and offering corporate and transactional legal services to for-profit and nonprofit business entities.
The Start-Up Ventures Clinic dovetails with the other entrepreneurial education opportunities at the Law School, Ward said.
“We have the LLMLE and the JD/LLMLE, so I think that students who are interested in working with start-ups and entrepreneurs can come here and know that this is available as a capstone experience. They could take Kip Johnson’s Venture Capital Financing class, or Advising the Entrepreneurial Client with Erika Buell, and know that they are building a skill set toward a practical experience that is the final piece for their education.
“I want students to leave here with impressive practice readiness and a range of connections in the entrepreneurial community. The path to practice as counsel to start-ups, as in-house counsel with innovative tech companies, or as a member of the firms that serve the Triangle's burgeoning entrepreneurial community is going to be shorter than ever for Duke Law students."
Ward will begin serving as clinic director on July 1.