Jump to Footer

Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship

A Unique Resource for Legal and Business Expertise

The Center for Innovation & Entrepreneurship is a resource for small business development in the Pioneer Valley region. Combining the resources of the University’s Colleges of Arts and Sciences, Business, Engineering, School of Pharmacy, and the School of Law, the Center for Innovation & Entrepreneurship offers personal, professional assistance to entrepreneurs in the business startup stage, free of charge through the Small Business Clinic and community outreach events.

Small Business Clinic

  • Small Business Clinic

    The clinic provides legal services to entrepreneurs and small businesses in Hampden and Hampshire counties who are unable to afford legal services. Generally, those with household incomes greater than $100,000 are not considered eligible for services. We are currently accepting applications for the upcoming semester. If you are interested in the Clinic's services, please click the "Would you like to apply" button below. For more information, please contact us at 413-782-1469.

     

  • Client Testimonial

    Small Business Clinic Provides Free Legal Service to Start-Up Companies in the Community

    Small Business clients Jim and Beth Angelos share their experience working with the clinic students and how valuable the services were in advancing their business.

  • Client Testimonial

    Small Business Clinic Client states, "The clinic changed my life"

    Small Business Clinic client Shaunia Swinton shares her experience receiving legal services from the Small Business Clinic.

  • Client Testimonial

    Small Business clients gain step by step instructions while participating in the Small Business Clinic

    Kathy and James Andrade share their clinic experience as first time business owners. The clinic provided them with a detailed understanding of the legal steps they needed to take for their business.

Learn More About the Clinic

What We Do

Law students work on transactional (i.e. non-litigation) legal matters that are typical in the start-up phase of a business including choice of entity, employment policies, contract drafting, regulatory compliance, and intellectual property issues relating to trademark and copyright. The Small Business Legal Clinic is also part of the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office Law School Certification Program, which allows law students to practice Intellectual Property Law before the USPTO under close supervision of the Clinic Director. The clinic's second goal is to assist local entrepreneurs and ultimately act as a catalyst to the economic development of western Massachusetts.

What We Do Not Do

We do not assist with business litigation, draft business plans, develop loan packages, or prepare tax returns.

What is our Selection Process

We provide legal assistance to start-up companies in the greater Springfield area that are unable to pay market rates for legal services and that fit into our other selection criteria.  The clinic strives to serve as many organizations as possible, but we cannot meet all the requests for our services.

For businesses with well-defined legal issues but which for some reason cannot be served by the Small Business Clinic as a regular client, the Clinic offers a one hour walk-in consultation. At the walk-in consultation, the clinician and students meet with a business person to discuss the legal matter in detail and provide some feedback to help the businessperson get the assistance they need. Although the Clinic cannot perform the legal work necessary to resolve the matter at the consultation, the interview frequently resolves confusion and helps ensure that the matter will be resolved appropriately.

Contact

For any questions, please contact our Clinical Programs Office at 413-782-1469.

Application

If you are interested in utilizing the Clinic’s services, please fill out an application:

  • Online Application: we have just added an online application, making it even easier to apply to the Small Business Clinic. Apply now.
  • If you would prefer a paper version, please contact Marie Fletcher at 413-782-1469 or mfletcher@law.wne.edu.

FAQ

Q. WHAT DO WE DO?
A. The Small Business Clinic offers free legal services to small businesses located in the greater Springfield area.

Q. IS THERE AN APPLICATION PROCESS?
A. Yes. Prospective clients must complete a short application that asks entrepreneurs to describe their specific area of concern. The application process will conclude with an interview with the students and faculty member. Applicants are accepted into the program based upon the complexity of their concern, the estimated time it will take to complete the project, and their business income level.

Q. WHO IS ELIGIBLE TO RECEIVE SERVICES?
A. Businesses are eligible if their projects can be concluded within an 11 to 14 week timeframe.The Clinic is intended for entrepreneurs and small businesses who cannot otherwise afford to retain a lawyer. Thus, there is also an income threshold that businesses must meet in order to be considered.

Q. WHAT IS THE ROLE OF STUDENTS?
A. School of Law students, under the supervision of faculty members, work in small groups to assist local small business owners in resolving their legal issues or needs. Students work directly with the entrepreneurs throughout the 11 to 14 week semester session. Students also give presentations on legal and business topics throughout the year.

Q. ARE THE STUDENTS SUPERVISED?
A. Yes. The students work under the supervision of a School of Law faculty member who is also a licensed attorney.

Q. WHAT IF I HAVE A MORE IN-DEPTH ISSUE/PROBLEM?
A. If clients have a more in-depth issue or problem that cannot be resolved by the Center's students, they may be referred to local attorneys who have agreed to be listed as a resource. These additional services may have fees attached.

Q. WHERE IS THE CLINIC?
A. The Small Business Clinic is office located in the School of Law, in the Blake Law Center at Western New England University, 1215 Wilbraham Road in Springfield, MA. The Small Business Clinic is located on the 1st Floor of the Blake Law Center in room 119.  Please call 413-782-1469 with any questions.

Information Sessions

  • Information Sessions

    In the past the Center has offered Information Sessions several times a year, presented by established business consultants and legal professional. Most recently, the Center alternated between two series: one year a series on Financial Literacy for Small Business and the next year a series called Mini Law School for Small Business. Both series are presented by experts drawn from the community and the University and are designed to give small business owners a good overview of important topics. Before adopting the Financial Literacy/Mini Law School rotation, the information sessions included topics such as: forming a legal entity, intellectual property protection, ABCs of nonprofits, marketing research, financing, succession planning, franchising, buying and selling a business, and dealing with government red tape. 

The 1-2-3s of Financial Literacy Presentations

The Center for Innovation & Entrepreneurship at Western New England University has hosted a series of talks called "The 1-2-3s of Financial Literacy for Small Businesses."  The series is a complete curriculum of information sessions designed to help business owners with little or no business background get up to speed with useful business concepts. The sessions are accessible, practical, and interactive. Read more about these sessions in Business West.

The program in 2013-14 followed a hypothetical business, Coffee2Go, as its owners thought through some of the important issues in starting and running their proposed drive-up coffee kiosk business. The series worked with a draft business plan that had been prepared for Coffee2Go.

Presentations were delivered by experts in the business community and on the Western New England University faculty. Each session of this series stands on its own, so you can pick and choose the sessions most relevant to your particular business situation by clicking on the links below.

  • Basics of Financial and Business Planning
    Presenters: Dr. James McKeon, Western New England University College of Business and 
    Dr. Lynn Walter, Western New England University College of Business

  • Accounting Basics: Understanding Financial Statements
    Presenter: John O’Brien III ’74, President, J.M. O’Brien & Company, and Trustee, Western New England University

  • Introduction to Tax Issues for Small Businesses
    Presenters: Paul Mancinone L’92, CPA, Esq., Founder and President, Paul L. Mancinone Company, P.C., and Trustee, Western New England University and Eric J. Gouvin, Dean and Professor of Law, Western New England University School of Law

  • Cost-Effective Marketing
    Presenters: Dr. Lanny Spotts, Western New England University College of Business, Karen Utgoff, Principal, Karen Lauter Utgoff Consulting, Market-Oriented Strategy, and Megan Lynch,
    CEO/President, Six-Point Creative Works 

  • Managing Credit and Banking Relationships
    Presenters: Leslie Ross Lawrence, Senior Vice President, Chief Credit Officer, NUVO Bank & Trust Company, Sharon Czarnecki, Assistant Vice President, Westfield Bank. and  Eric J. Gouvin, Dean and Professor of Law, Western New England University School of Law
  • Insurance: Risk-Management Techniques for Small Businesses.
    Presenter: Ben Garvey, Vice President, The Insurance Center of New England

Recently, the Center has offered information sessions on a wide range of legal and business topics of interest to small businesses and entrepreneurs. To see a list of these previous sessions, click here.

Mini Law School Presentations

The Center for Innovation & Entrepreneurship at Western New England University hosted monthly talks on basic business law for small businesses. The Mini Law School series was part of the Center's ongoing series of information sessions designed to help business owners with little or no business background get up to speed with useful business concepts. The sessions are accessible, practical, and interactive. Read more about these sessions in Business West (pdf).

Here is an archive of the last Mini Law school for Small Business Series:

  • Bankruptcy
    Presenters: George llias Roumeliotis, Esq., Roumeliotis Law Group, P.C.
    Justin H. Dion, Esq., Bacon Wilson, P.C., Attorneys at Law
    Kara S. Rescia, Esq. Eaton & Rescia
  • Intellectual Property Law Basics
    Presenters:  Peter Irvine, Esq. Peter Irvine Law Offices
    Leah Kunkel, Esq. Law Offices of Leah Kunkel
    Michelle Bugbee, Esq., Solutia Inc.
  • Legal Issues in Finance
    Presenters: Scott W. Foster, Esq., Bulkley Richardson
    Michael D. Sweet, Esq. Doherty, Wallace, Pillsbury and Murphy, P.C.
  • Contracts, Sales, Collections, and Dispute Resolution
    Presenters: Jennifer A. Rymarski, Esq., Morrison Mahoney LLP
    David A. Parke, Esq., Bulkley Richardson
    Kyle R. Guelcher, Esq., The Law Office of Kyle R. Guelcher
  • Employment Law Basics  
    Presenters: Rebecca Bouchard, Esq.,  Doherty, Wallace, Pillsbury & Murphy
    Charles R. Casartello Jr., Esq., Pellegrini, Seeley, Ryan and Blakesley P.C.
    Arnold “Al” Lizana, Esq., University of Connecticut, Division of Diversity & Equity   
  • Current Tax Issues Facing Small Businesses and How to Handle and Audit
    Presenters: Paul Mancinone, Esq., Paul L. Mancinone Company, P.C.
    Michael Matusczak, Internal Revenue Service
  • Legal Aspects of Risk Management and Choice of Legal Entity
    Presenters: Michelle Feinstein, Esq., Shatz Schwartz and Fentin, P.C.                         
    Prof. Eric Gouvin, Western New England University School of Law

In previous years, the Center has offered information sessions on a wide range of legal and business matters.  To see a list of them, please click here.

Extreme Business Makeover

  • Business Makeover

    The EXTREME Business Makeover showcases a business plan, submitted by a small business/entrepreneur in the community, that needs some reworking. Experts in the fields of law, accounting, marketing, and finance critique the actual business plan and offer advice on operations, marketing, legal matters, profitability, and much more. In front of a live audience, the panel of experts transforms the plan into a finished product.

Conferences

  • Conferences

    The Center has hosted a number of conferences featuring scholars and policymakers exploring issues relating to entrepreneurship or community development, and discussing the challenges facing small businesses and start-ups. 

Past Conferences

Conference 2011: The Entrepreneurial University 
The Law and Business Center for Advancing Entrepreneurship hosted a conference titled "The Entrepreneurial University." The keynote speaker, Chief of Staff at the United States Patent and Trademark Office Andrew Hirshfeld '93, discussed "The U.S. Patent System – Past and Future."

He explained that “under the current system, which is a first to invent system, priority is based on the date of invention. Date of invention is somewhat ambiguous, it could be by people’s notes that they have. It is not something that is out in the public. It is not something a competitor could look at a patent application and say ‘I know what their date of invention is.’ So it’s really a difficult term. Under the first to file system which will go in place in March 2013, we will now look to the effective filing date, it's much more easy to understand, easy to see, and puts everybody on a level playing field.”

Hirshfeld went on to say that “first to file is somewhat of a misnomer, it’s not what people initially associate it with, it’s not just a race to the patent office. It’s my opinion that as time goes on and there is more of an educational component, people will be much more comfortable with this new system and realize that this is not only cheaper, but more objective, its quicker, its faster, its much more certain.”

Conference 2010: Fiduciary Duties in the Closely Held Business 35 Years after Wilkes v. Springside Nursing Home
The Western New England University Law and Business Center for Advancing Entrepreneurship presented a truly outstanding program examining fiduciary duties in closely-held businesses.

In 1975, the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court decided the case of Donahue v. Rodd Electrotype, holding that shareholders in closely-held corporations owe each other fiduciary duties similar to those owed by partners to each other.  The following year, the Court decided Wilkes v. Springside Nursing Home, Inc. to further refine that idea. In the 35 years since those decisions, the law of business organizations and the law of fiduciary duties have evolved significantly.

This conference featured leading scholars of business organization law discussing the impact of those cases in on the development of the law.  We will also have the lawyers who argued the Wilkes case on hand to provide the back story on the case. An article describing the conference can be found here.

Conference 2009: Women, Ethnicity, & Entrepreneurship
This Conference featured scholars, practitioners, and policymakers exploring issues relating to entrepreneurship, community and economic development, and discussing these challenges as they relate to small businesses and start-ups. The keynote speaker wasBeverly Holmes,Chair, Center for Women's Business Research and President, BA Holmes & Associates.

Conference 2008: Entrepreneurship in a Global Economy
International policy makers, scholars, and practitioners explored global issues relating to entrepreneurship and community development, and discussed the challenges facing existing small businesses and start-ups.

Conference 2007: Current Issues in Community Economic Development (II)
This conferences featured discussion on issues in Community Economic Development.  The keynote speaker was Andrea Silbert a nationally recognized advocate for nonprofit entrepreneurship and cofounder and former CEO of the Center for Women & Enterprise (CWE). The CWE, created in 1995, is the largest nonprofit entrepreneurial training center in New England. Under Ms. Silbert’s direction, CWE helped in the creation of over 14,000 jobs and $400 million in new wages for small business with a focus on assisting disadvantaged women.

Conference 2006: Current Issues in Community Economic Development
This conference featured panel discussions on The Future of the Community Reinvestment Act, The Impact of Professional Sports on the Local Economy, Eminent Domain and Public Use Takings After Kelo v. New London, and Barriers to Access to Financial Services for Disenfranchised Groups.