Students in Lawyering for Entrepreneurship (LE) recently had the chance to pitch mock business plans to professionals in the Philadelphia startup field. LE is a simulation course at Temple Law School developed by Professor Jonathan Lipson and Lex Nova attorney Matt Devine (LAW ’16) that seeks to incorporate theory and practice by exposing students to the four stages in the life of a startup: (i) formation; (ii) first financing (a convertible note purchase agreement); (iii) venture capital financing (preferred stock purchase agreement); and (iv) a strategic sale of the company’s assets.
The pitch opportunity is part of the second transaction, when teams of seven students present a vision for a business that they have conceived of, in order to persuade potential investors and startup lawyers to make an investment (no money actually changes hands, of course). The businesses themselves are the product of “elevator pitches” that the students must do the first day of class. The students vote amongst themselves, and the winners become the “founders.” Other students are assigned other roles—e.g., the founders’ former employer, counsel, etc.—along the way.
Students Cathy Butchy and Andrew LeDonne pitched their startup, “Peppercorn,” an app that would connect volunteers with volunteer opportunities, and Fatema Ghasletwala and Tyler Glass pitched “Mighty Zip,” a company which proposes to develop a magnetic (and more accessible) form of clothing fastener. Members of each team took turns making the case why their companies were going to be the next “big thing.”
This year’s pitch panel included Allison Callahan (LAW ’18), Patrick Cullen (LAW ’16), Sandra Stoneman (LAW ’97), Leigh Wood, and Chris Yaracs (LAW ’15).
Sandra Stoneman, a Corporate Partner and Life Sciences Practice Co-Chair at Duane Morris LLP, was impressed by the pitches and by the effort to expose students to the perspectives of both clients and lawyers. “In order to have clients listen to you,” Stoneman told the students, “you need to be able to advise on where the business meets the legal.”
Leigh Wood—an accomplished investor in Investor’s Circle, a large and active early-stage impact investing network with a mission to facilitate investment in for-profit entrepreneurial companies that are addressing social or environmental changes—advised students to be “lawyers who are good at getting to ‘yes,’ as opposed to [telling me] why I can’t do everything I want to do.” It was crucial for Wood that any attorney that she hired was able to say, “Here are the obstacles, but here are the solutions.”
Through its unique incorporation of practical transactional skills with groundbreaking legal theory critique, LE enables students to grow into attorneys that would add value to any startup, entrepreneurial, or business venture.
Leah Holbrook (LAW ’20) is the teaching assistant for Lawyering for Entrepreneurship this year, having survived it last year. She will be clerking this fall for Chief Justice Saylor of the Pennsylvania Supreme Court.