Clients in the law school’s Intellectual Property and Transactional Law Clinic call it a “godsend,” a “lifeline.” Students say taking the six-credit course is the best decision they’ve ever made.

In its first semester last spring, the clinic and its J.D. candidates contributed an estimated $219,000 worth of services to the Richmond community, based on hours of legal work, according to Clinic Director John Carroll, L’95.

As a teaching law firm, the Intellectual Property and Transactional Law Clinic helps individuals start businesses and it addresses contracts and licensing needs. The clinic also serves artists and inventors who want to protect their creations, and assists companies looking to assign or acquire intellectual property rights. It builds on the popularity of the School of Law’s Intellectual Property Institute.

“This role lets me help both students and people with pressing legal needs in their businesses and nonprofits,” Carroll says. “I help the students interact with their clients, and turn theory into practice. That’s our hallmark at the School of Law. And being part of the community is an important aspect of The Richmond Promise, the University’s strategic plan.”

Last fall, Wiley Grandy, L’11, worked with Boatwright Memorial Library employee Joanita Senoga, C’06, to form a U.S. nonprofit to raise funds and support educational institutions like the Circle of Peace School she founded in her native Uganda. The school is seeking to complete the purchase of property that will allow it to expand and serve more children.

Senoga was his primary client, says Grandy, who called enrolling in the clinic probably the best decision he’s made at law school. “She’s so deeply committed to children. I’m happy I can help her help others.” He admitted to some nervousness when dealing with his first legal matter, but “that anxious feeling has gone away as I’m getting to know my clients.”

For Senoga, who borrowed funds to assist in the property purchase, the free legal assistance was priceless. “I’m blessed that these law students are here,” Senoga says. “I’m giving; I want to work with others who want to be giving back.”

In the spring semester, Jim Stubbs, L’10, a CPA, put his accounting background to use in determining rights and royalties for songwriter Kelli Lieder, who sought counsel before she could commercialize a children’s musical project.

“I never expected searching on the Internet [for free legal help] that I would find such a gold mine,” Lieder says. “It was a godsend.”

To these early successes, the clinic adds another. The University of Richmond School of Law has been invited as one of 16 participants in a pilot program that would grant a provisional right for students to practice before the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office. “Generally that’s only open to bar-certified lawyers,” Carroll says. “The trade-off is we must be available to the Trademark Office between the semesters and during the summer. I’m hoping that this means the opportunity to serve the community will increase.”

Along the way, students have helped to create a thriving law firm, serving on marketing and operations committees, and addressing the small and large issues any start-up faces. “We aimed for this to be a client-based experience, but it also has been providing law firm management as well. The combination is natural,” says School of Law Dean John G. Douglass. “It was an added element. The whole thing has reached beyond my expectations.”

This article by Marilyn J. Shaw originally appeared in the winter issue of Richmond Law magazine. Read the full article.