Thursday, August 20, 2015

          Opening Tech’s Doors to Women of Color

          A partnership between UC Hastings’ Startup Legal Garage and the pioneering nonprofit Black Girls Code is a win-win for both.

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          Professor Alice Armitage, Kimberley Bryant and Peter Burns '00.

          When Kimberly Bryant founded Black Girls Code four years ago, her vision was clear: She wanted to get more women of color into the technology sector by offering free programming classes.

          The organization took off, sponsoring boot camps and hackathons across the country, but its legal structure was a mess. “It’s hard to afford lawyers these days,” said Alice Armitage, head of UC Hastings’ Startup Legal Garage, especially for a new nonprofit like Black Girls Code. So the two teamed up. The legal garage would provide Bryant free legal help; Bryant would give UC Hastings students a chance to get their hands dirty.

          For Shaila Nathu ’15, working with Black Girls Code was a way to explore her interest in intellectual property law through real-world work with top lawyers in her field. Nathu spent her last year of school partnered with supervising attorney and UC Hastings alumnus Peter Burns ’00 from tech law giant Cooley. Nathu and her mentor worked with Bryant to assess the startup’s legal needs, then got to work drafting privacy and terms of use policies, along with photo and video releases. “It’s important to get those skills and learn to navigate work with a firm,” Nathu said, adding that knowing the ropes is especially valuable since it’s precisely the work most first-year associates do at corporate firms.

          Tweet: @UCHastingslaw Startup Legal Garage partners with @blackgirlscode @alitage @techlawgarage Read more:

          The program brings benefits to everyone involved. Burns remarked that associates at his firm had the valuable opportunity to give Nathu advice not just on legal tasks, but also on topics such as life at a big law firm and networking tactics. “It has been a pleasure working with the Startup Legal Garage and Black Girls Code,” Burns said. “It provided several of our attorneys with an opportunity to do interesting work, help an exciting entrepreneurial client, and mentor the next generation of lawyers.”

          About the Startup Legal Garage

          Now in its 5th year, the Startup Legal Garage is an innovative program in which law students provide legal work for early stage Tech and BioTech startups. The work is supervised for free by outside law firms, while the professors teach accompanying doctrinal and skills classes. Last year, the program included 57 supervising attorneys and 60 law students, who provided legal work for 65 startup companies. Startup Legal Garage companies come though the program's partnerships with numerous incubators including Y Combinator, Stanford Business School, QB3 (the incubator for UCSF, UC Berkeley, and UC Santa Cruz), Girls in Tech, and Black Founders. With a particular focus on promoting women entrepreneurs, Startup Legal Garage has received one of the inaugural "Innovator Awards" from the American Lawyer publications, was honored by the Association of American Law Schools as one of its "Innovative & Other Outstanding Programs," and has been featured in the American Bar Association Journal and other news outlets.

          Read more inspiring stories about how UC Hastings is making a difference in the upcoming UC Hastings Magazine, available in mid-September. 

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