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UC Law Partners with urban business accelerator MORTAR


Entrepreneurship and Community Development Clinic at the College of Law cultivates new partnership while providing students real-world client counseling experience.

Cincinnati, OH—The Entrepreneurship and Community Development Clinic (ECDC) at the University of Cincinnati College of Law has launched a new partnership with MORTAR, providing legal services to startup business owners while providing law students with opportunities to use and enhance their lawyering skills.

“We’re excited to announce that the ECDC has now partnered with MORTAR, one of Cincinnati’s newest business accelerators,” said Lew Goldfarb, Director of the ECDC at the University of Cincinnati College of Law. “Partnerships like these are great for the community. Entrepreneurs and small businesses benefit from critical legal services they may not otherwise be able to afford and students develop their legal skills.”

MORTAR, based in Over-the-Rhine, targets non-traditional entrepreneurs from underserved urban communities and offers them the opportunity to build or expand a business through a nine-week entrepreneurship course.  MORTAR graduated its first class of 15 entrepreneurs this April. This summer, students from UC will work under the supervision of Goldfarb and local practicing attorneys, providing legal services for MORTAR graduates. 

"For many small business owners, being able to afford appropriate legal counsel is a dream - but thanks to UC law we are able to connect MORTAR program participants to the valuable resources and knowledge they need to guide them in the right direction,” said MORTAR co-founder, Allen Woods. “This partnership is an essential component in our mission to remove barriers to entry for nontraditional entrepreneurs, increasing their chances for success." 

Mortar and the ECDC hope to expand the partnership beyond the summer months, offering year-round legal assistance to future students and graduates of Mortar.  Dana Higgins, recent MORTAR graduate and owner of vegan/Jamaican soul food catering start up, JameriSol, has already begun leveraging the partnership.

“As a new business is forming it is important to have legal representation so that once your business is up and running you have operating agreements, intellectual property protection, and a separation of personal and business assets,”  said Higgins. “Having input from soon-to-be lawyers is a priceless opportunity that benefits them and us.”

Since 2010, the Entrepreneurship and Community Development Clinic (ECDC) has provided valuable "hands-on" training to 108 law students, representing 153 local businesses on nearly 700 legal matters - providing nearly $1 million of free legal assistance for the benefit of the local economy.

"In addition to gaining some valuable practical experience, it's important for our students to gain an appreciation for pro bono service,” said Goldfarb.  Undoubtedly, their experience working with MORTAR and some of its companies will help accomplish that."

UC law students participating in the Mortar Summer Fellowship in Entrepreneurship work collaboratively at the College of Law as well as one-on-one with clients at MORTAR’s Vine Street office in Over-the-Rhine.  Law student John Sarra recognizes the impact his work, and that of MORTAR, can have on this rapidly changing neighborhood.

“While the expanding entrepreneurship spirit in the Over-The-Rhine neighborhood and elsewhere is great for the city, not everyone has been able to reap the benefits. This program will assist individuals who otherwise might not have the means to turn their ideas into successful businesses,” said Sarra.

For UC law students, the opportunity to leverage their legal skills to help an individual achieve their goal of starting a business can be a personally rewarding experience as well.

"My mother opened her own business when I was ten years old,” said Cindy Moore. “I saw firsthand the struggles of an entrepreneur - now I get the chance to help make the journey for other entrepreneurs a little less difficult.”

Goldfarb, who taught MORTAR’s first legal class this February with two of his students and volunteers on the nonprofit’s Board of Advisors, acknowledges the partnership as an important part of Cincinnati’s start up eco-system.  

“Cincinnati is quickly becoming an entrepreneurial hotbed,” said Goldfarb.  “The more partnerships we can form to provide resources for entrepreneurs and startups, the better and more vibrant our city will be. That’s good for Cincinnati, and good for our students and graduates.”

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About the Entrepreneurship and Community Development Clinic at the College of Law

The Entrepreneurship and Community Development Clinic partners local law students with small business owners and aspiring entrepreneurs, representing them on transactional legal issues critical to their success. Client services include assistance and counseling on entity selection and formation, regulatory compliance and licensing, advice on trademark and copyright protection, and lease and contract review, negotiation, and preparation. Through its work, the ECDC hopes to give students a tremendous learning experience and to contribute to the economic development and revitalization of Cincinnati and surrounding communities.