Now in its 7th year, the Startup Legal Garage enables UC Hastings students to work with early stage Tech and BioTech companies to provide them with corporate and intellectual property legal services under the supervision of leading attorneys throughout the Bay Area. LL.M. student Simren Delaney discusses her experience in this unique program.
“I first learned about the Startup Legal Garage when I was researching LL.M. programs available in the US. My decision to attend UC Hastings was based, in part, on the Startup Legal Garage program. In particular, I was interested in how students worked with attorneys from the Bay Area providing much needed advice to early-stage startup companies.”
Due to her technical background in Chemistry and her work experiences in the field of Australian patent law, Simren applied for and was accepted into the Biotech module of the Startup Legal Garage. Professor Robin Feldman, who founded and oversees Startup Legal Garage, noted, “Every year, we see students with strong STEM backgrounds coming to UC Hastings for Startup Legal Garage. Among this highly talented group, Simren is a star.”
In the Biotech Module (there is also a Corporate Tech Module), students provide companies with a patent landscape analysis. These startup companies may then use this advice to determine whether a particular action, such as testing or commercializing a product, can be done without infringing the valid intellectual property rights of others. “We provide companies with information they can actually use to evolve their technology in their own unique direction.” This analysis is crucial for companies in the early stages. “One of the worst things for a company is for patent infringement issues to arise when a company is selling at a production level in large quantities. We want to catch any potential problems when these companies are making compounds on a bench in a laboratory and not when they’re producing products by the truck load.”
According to Simren, the Startup Legal Garage exposes students to the real experience of what it’s like to be starting out in the intellectual property industry. The Startup Legal Garage accomplishes this by assigning each student each semester to a specific project focused on a life science startup that has applied to the program, a practicing intellectual property attorney, and a student team member. “First, you meet with a client and obtain an invention disclosure to understand the invention. Then, search strings are developed and narrowed with the help of your supervising attorney. These search strings are entered into a patent database and a number of references are retrieved. After reviewing the references with your team member, you prepare a slide deck or an advice letter under the supervision of the attorney. I have been told that the final work product produced by students from these projects are at a standard that startup companies can use to present to interested third parties.”
To earn the 10 credits offered for the year, students are enrolled in a weekly seminar focused on patent law and must complete and log an average of 12 hours of work per week on their assigned project. Simren encourages students to enroll in the Startup Legal Garage before deciding to become an IP attorney. “I can't emphasize enough how my experience with the Startup Legal Garage accurately describes what life is like when you work as an attorney in the patent field. Everything I experienced in the program was similar to my experiences of working in the industry.” Simren’s experience with the Startup Legal Garage has made her more resolved to work in the IP industry in the US.
The Startup Legal Garage teaches students to become partners in enterprise and more than just “the lawyer in the room.” In a new approach to legal education, students bring sanitized versions of their deals into the classroom, which allows faculty to harvest hypotheticals in real-time and to bring the teaching of legal doctrine alive: an innovative education for an innovative community.
Tech Module. The Tech Module accepts clients through an open application process held twice per year. Past participants have come from Y Combinator, Hackers/Founders, Women 2.0, Black Founders, Latino Startup Alliance, Open Technology Fund, Code for America, the Stanford Graduate School of Business, and many of the University of California campuses.
BioTech Module. The BioTech Module accepts clients through an open application process. The majority of our past participants have come from The Institute for Quantitative Biosciences (QB3).
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.