Business law

The Pennsylvania Law Entrepreneur Assistance Clinic supports businesses in Pennsylvania


University Park, Pennsylvania — From bridal boutiques to board game stores to metal roofing contractors, more than 1,400 small businesses across 64 Pennsylvania counties have received legal support from Pennsylvania Entrepreneur Assistance Clinic (EAC) In the past year alone.

Home to 24 law students and three full-time supervising attorneys, the EAC provides pro bono representation to start-up and early-stage businesses throughout the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, both in person and virtually. The clinic is located at Happy Valley LaunchBox is powered by PNC BankIt is one of 21 LaunchBox and innovation spaces located throughout Pennsylvania that make up LaunchBox and Innovation Networksignature programme Pennsylvania invention. EAC has quickly become an important service provider for the network, providing entrepreneurs with co-working, mentorship, and business acceleration programming as well as access to other state-funded economic development partners such as PA Small Business Development Centers (PA SBDC), Penn Franklin Technology Partners, and more. that.

“EAC supports small businesses that would otherwise not be able to access legal services,” said Tom Sharpo, professor of practice at Penn State Law and director of the EAC. “By working with Invent Penn State, we have become an integral part of the statewide entrepreneurial ecosystem, and are excited to expand our reach to every corner of the state, ensuring that these small businesses have the legal services they need, when they need them, to be Successful. “.

Sharpeau added that “EAC’s mission is to help small businesses that cannot afford to hire attorneys — companies that might try to file solutions on your own online or simply put off available legal protections.”

Armstrong County local Mackenzie Kejowski, owner of MK Bridal & Special Ops LLC, is one business owner who takes credit for EAC, in partnership with SBDCto help her launch her business.

Wedding and event planner Kijowski felt something was missing at the end of 2022 after a year of medical issues. She started the business purchasing pre-existing bridal shop inventory at the beginning of 2023, and by the end of April 2023 she was moving the business then based in Johnstown to her hometown of Kittanning.

“Downtown Kittanning Incorporated (DKI) has posted online asking the community what kind of businesses they would like to see downtown,” Kijowski said. “I commented that I was looking forward to bringing back The Bridal Shop, and the community response has been amazing. I’ve been getting loads of messages, and it has fueled the excitement for me to make it happen.

In preparation for the grand opening of MK Bridal on July 17, the company has received the following support from EAC and SBDC:

  • A law student from EAC met with Kijowski in March 2023 to review business documents she already had to ensure compliance with applicable legal requirements. The student then drafted an operating agreement for Kijowski LLC and a tux rental agreement.
  • Jason Strom, PennWest Clarion SBDC Consultant, helped Kijowski formulate her business plan and approach local banks to apply for business loans.

Kijowski said since opening, the community response has been very positive, with reservations through September, many attendees, and individuals thanking her for bringing business back to the community.

“The SBDC and EAC paved the way to where I needed to go, which helped me tremendously,” said Kiejowski. “I think I would get lost in the shuffle trying to do everything myself. The EAC team and the SBDC team helped me figure out my next steps and provided me with the resources I needed to open my store doors.

PennWest Clarion SBDC Director, Cindy Nelis, said SBDC business advisors advise their clients that when making important decisions for their business, it is important to communicate with three specific professionals: accountants, insurance agents and attorneys. However, some of these services come at a cost that not all early-stage business owners can afford and so they often give up putting their business at risk.

“At the SBDC Development Centre, we can tell them the legal documents, but we can’t give them specific legal advice,” said Nellis. “This is where the East African Group really strengthens our work, because they offer free services, and instead of referring clients to someone who they have to pay for their advice, we say, you can reach out to the East African Group, and they can give you that guidance at no cost. This is why it is truly a resource we love to refer our customers to and a partnership for which we are grateful.

Last year, the East African Community achieved the following:

  • Representing more than 1,400 new clients in 64 Pennsylvania counties
  • Formation of 600 companies in addition to 14 non-profit organizations
  • 39 webinars and other educational presentations
  • With the participation of 24 law students each semester, in addition to 12 during the summer
  • Expanded referral base to more than 90 economic development organizations in Pennsylvania

“We are honored to play an integral role in the larger entrepreneurial ecosystem at the Invent Penn State, and hope we can continue to grow our people and expand our reach,” said Sharpeau. “We believe that early-stage business owners deserve access to legal expertise that will significantly reduce risks to their businesses, allowing them to contribute positively to the local economy for a longer period.”

About legal clinics in Pennsylvania

Penn State Law offers two free legal clinics to Pennsylvania entrepreneurs – the Entrepreneur Assistance Clinic (EAC) and the Intellectual Property Clinic (IPC) – both staffed by law students who work under the supervision of full-time attorneys. IPC provides intellectual property services related to patents, trademarks, trade secrets and copyrights. EAC provides advice, document drafting, and negotiation assistance to start-ups and small businesses that would otherwise not be able to afford traditional legal assistance.

Although it is actually in Happy Valley LaunchBox is powered by PNC Bank In downtown State College, the EAC serves all of Pennsylvania through video conferencing.

Potential clients interested in obtaining services from EAC must submit a intake form.

This program is supported by Pennsylvania inventionIt is a Commonwealth-wide initiative to stimulate economic development, job creation and career success for students.

This project was funded in part by a grant from the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, Department of Community and Economic Development.


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