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UA Law’s SEED clinic lends a hand to young entrepreneurs

On Oct. 23, fifth and sixth graders at The Lippman School in Akron heard from two Akron law students, who explained and answered questions about how to set up and how to form a limited liability company (LLC), what a copyright protects and the legal considerations involved in creating a trademark and company name.  The lesson was part of a continuing entrepreneurial project that was begun when the students were in second grade.  (Photo courtesy of The Lippman School).

SHERRY KARABIN
Legal News Reporters

Published: November 10, 2015

Fifth and sixth grade students at The Lippman School in Akron took a break from their regular curriculum recently to learn the basics of intellectual property, copyright, trademark and other legal concepts.

Taught by two students from The University of Akron School of Law, the lesson was part of a continuing entrepreneurial project that was begun when the students were in second grade.

“Three years ago, our second graders began the task of trying to make the playground safer for the younger children in the school,” said John Bennett, embedded technology specialist at The Lippman School. “They presented ideas to the school board and asked them to fund the project.

“One of the school board members was Michael Litt, who owns the Nervous Dog Coffee Bar, and he suggested the students raise the money through a coffee fundraiser.”

The students jumped on board quickly, said Bennett, but instead of selling bags of coffee with the Nervous Dog logo, they designed the bags themselves and came up with their own custom blend and tagline, “Enjoy Our Blend With A Smile.”

“This entire project is what’s known as problem-based learning in which students are presented with a problem and through guided instruction the students solve the problem,” said Sam Chestnut, head of school. “In doing so they create their own content and gain a personal understanding of what they are learning. What this means is that instead of simply being told to read a book, the students may seek out the content on their own with a more purposeful goal in mind.”

Fast-forward to today and the students have raised money through coffee sales for the school and the Akron-Canton Regional Foodbank. Now they’re preparing to take “The Lippman Blend” to market, once they master a few legal concepts.

 

That’s where the Small Entrepreneur and Economic Development (SEED) Legal Clinic at The University of Akron School of Law comes in. Run by director, Gary Spring, a clinical professor of law, it provides low-cost legal assistance to emerging businesses in northeast Ohio, while allowing law students to gain hands-on experience at the same time.

“What sets Akron Law and the university as a whole apart is that we stress experiential learning,” said Spring. “Our students perform in an exemplary fashion in working to benefit our community, while gaining the practical skills necessary to be a success in their field.”

 

The Lippman School is one of the clinic’s clients and on Oct. 23, student lawyers Tim Chippy and Jennifer Duman spent the morning at the school explaining and answering questions about how to set up and how to form a limited liability company (LLC), what a copyright protects and the legal considerations involved in creating a trademark and company name.

 

Chippy, a 2L, said the students seemed “really engaged. They also seemed to grasp the concepts at least at that moment. 

 

“They were most interested in talking about trademarks,” said Chippy. “They want to put a trademark on the coffee so they can protect it. Being asked to provide this type of information to fifth and sixth graders is something I would not have imagined doing in a million years. We were never involved in anything like this when I was in school.”

Duman said she was impressed by the questions the students asked and “how excited they were to learn about intellectual property.

“Akron Law strives to prepare students to be practicing lawyers, including preparing students to effectively communicate with clients,” said Duman, a part-time law student who graduates in December.

“Working with the students allowed us, as law students, to learn how to communicate difficult legal information to an audience who does not have our education or experience, while also addressing their questions and concerns,” said Duman. “Opportunities to work with local students and other members of the community are a wonderful reminder of the knowledge, encouragement and hope that we as lawyers can share with our communities.”

In addition to getting a handle on the legal concepts, the students are working with Bennett to develop a website for the business.

“The kids recently heard from a graphic designer, who addressed creating logos and trademarks,” said Bennett.

Their learning experience also included Skype chats with marketing experts in Washington, D.C. and the creation of their own market survey to determine what kind of coffee would yield the highest sales.

The various steps allowed Bennett to develop his entrepreneurial coffee/charity curriculum, which uses coffee sales as the basis for teaching students to create and market a product along with the importance of giving back to the community.

Last year, the school received a $5,000 grant from the Burton D. Morgan Foundation, which works to champion the entrepreneurial spirit. The funding has enabled Bennett to continue to develop his curriculum.

“Neither the coffee or the curriculum are ready for prime time yet,” said Bennett. “But we are hoping to be able to unveil both in the near future.”


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