Enhancing the immune systems of honeybees, providing stem-cell based therapies for pets, connecting seamstresses with customers-those are some of the pathbreaking concepts behind the latest crop of startups to join UC Hastings Institute for Innovation Law’s Startup Legal Garage. This spring, 18 companies will participate in the innovative program, which gives students the chance to provide free legal services to early-stage startups under the supervision of practicing attorneys.
The latest cohort includes Nanotools Bioscience, which deploys nanotechnology to improve drug discovery; Geopogo, which creates immersive, 3-D virtual models of real places; Bouquet.ai, which offers an AI-powered assistant to simplify data analytics; and StashSmart, which allows customers to use a mobile app to temporarily store their belongings at nearby businesses. In all, the 50 students involved in the year-long program will assist a combined 40 startups this academic year. Launched in 2011 by Professor Robin Feldman, the Startup Legal Garage is designed to give 2Ls and 3Ls at UC Hastings real-world experience in startup tech law.
“We’re pushing students out of the nest a little bit,” says Professor Alice Armitage, Director of Law and Technology Programming at UC Hastings, who oversees the program. “It’s enlightening to see how much they learn and gain in confidence before they go off to practice law. It also teaches interpersonal and communication skills in a way that’s not hardwired in the law school curriculum.”
Students work with companies in two ways: In the Patent Module, students with relevant scientific experience help life science companies screen existing patents to ensure they can commercialize their inventions. In the Tech Module, students help early-stage tech startups in any industry with incorporation, contracts, terms of service, privacy policies, trademarking, and other basic corporate legal work. Companies that apply for the program are typically referred through incubators such as Y Combinator, QB3, Expat Women, and Black Founders.
Graduates of the program have gone on to work in both tech law and on the business side of startups. Hooman Yavi, who participated in the Startup Legal Garage before graduating in 2016, went on to become CFO of Re-Plate, a startup that uses an algorithm to streamline delivery of food donations. He brought Re-Plate back as a participant in the program last year.
“Most of our students won’t end up founding startups, but they are learning valuable skills that can be applied throughout their careers, whether at large or small law firms, as in-house counsel, or inside a company making business decisions,” Armitage says.