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Business with a Heart

At Loyola’s Business Law Clinic, students sharpen transactional skills while serving clients who are reshaping their communities

NATRINA KENNEDY ONCE DREAMED of becoming a neonatologist. During her early college years, she took a job at a medical office that treated primarily affluent women.

“I was born and raised on the South Side of Chicago, and I realized that my family and friends did not have access to quality care or resources like the women I came across every day in my work,” she recalls. “I quickly learned there were other ways to help improve health outcomes in my community beyond being a physician.”

Kennedy started the Women’s Health Initiative (WHI), a501(c)(3) not-for-profit organization dedicated to decreasing health disparities while empowering women through education and supportive services. She is one of 120-plus clients per year who receive high-quality pro bono legal services from students participating in Loyola’s Business Law Clinic (BLC).

1999

Year the business law clinic was founded

120+

Number of clients per year who receive high-quality pro bono legal services through the business law clinic

8 to 12

Number of clients that each student clinician handles

Practical skills, real-life clients

A transactional law clinic that maintains a long waiting list of clients, the BLC gives students the chance to develop essential lawyering skills in an interactive, live-client environment.

“We’re empowering law students to advocate on behalf of their clients,” says Professor Patricia H. Lee, who joined Loyola’s faculty last fall and serves as co-director of the BLC and executive director of the Business Law Center.

While it helps clients who might not otherwise afford legal counsel, the BLC also has multiple benefits for students, notes Lee. “Our student clinicians work on their transactional skillsets, reflect on their own career goals, become comfortable meeting with clients, and learn about the financial and other constraints often faced by people trying to effect change in their communities,” she says.

The BLC includes both a seminar—sometimes featuring Loyola law alumni as guest speakers—and a client service component. Under the guidance of supervising attorneys, each student usually handles between eight and 12 clients, at least one of whom is a new client.

Student clinicians handle entity formation and registration, tax exemptions, labor and employment matters, organizational and financial document drafting, and zoning and license applications. In keeping with Loyola’s mission of serving society’s most vulnerable populations, the BLC has always specialized in assisting social change- and health-focused clients. Among the Chicago area organizations that seek BLC assistance, many are taking creative approaches to addressing specific challenges they see in their communities.

Saving hearing, one pair of ears at a time

Audiologist Jenna Paley calls herself a blue-sky thinker and innovator, so when she became concerned about the lack of accessible and engaging education about hearing protection, she jumped into the breach.

Her for-profit business, Project Decibel, helps other audiologists teach people in high-noise jobs not covered by U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration regulations—like music industry professionals, bar staff, and airline industry employees—to protect their hearing. Project Decibel creates and disseminates educational materials and hearing protection equipment with the support of partners such as the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences’ MusiCares Foundation and the music rights organization BMI.

Students at the BLC helped Paley reincorporate her business and, with the pro bono co-counsel of alum Justin Gingerich (JD’15) of Chicago firm Howard & Howard, drafted a website privacy policy for Project Decibel.

Dual JD/MBA student Joe Oliver brought his business expertise to helping Paley’s thriving business grow. Oliver advised Paley on a unique project: collecting ear measurements from a wide range of people to help companies that manufacture earbuds and similar products to improve their fit and design.

“We measure what’s called ear geometry—the physical dimensions of the external parts of the ear—in people from all over the world” who vary in age, gender, and ethnicity, Paley says. Because manufacturers until recently have relied on measuring on-staff volunteers, she says, most existing data are demographically limited. “To collect this data, I have to physically see and touch each person; it can’t be done remotely.”

Because the BLC helped Paley address legal issues necessary to move forward on data collection, “I saw 1,000 people I wouldn’t have been able to see without the clinic’s help,” she says.

Through his not-for-profit organization Youth Development Center of America, Anthony Morris provides mentoring to kids and adolescents within structured settings like basketball nights.

Inspiring young entrepreneurs

Anthony Morris started working odd jobs when he was only 8 years old. Now a successful public speaker and life coach with a background in counseling, Morris is turning a lifetime of entrepreneurship into creating opportunities for young people through his not-for-profit organization, Youth Development Center of America (YDCA).

At a variety of locations across Chicago and the south suburbs, the YDCA provides mentoring and guidance for children, adolescents, and young adults within structured settings like basketball nights, volunteer events, and Saturday seminars. The YDCA’s goals are to encourage entrepreneurship and financial literacy; reduce crime; and boost social, educational, and character development. “Our

high school graduation rate is 100percent, and three-quarters of our students return to be mentors themselves,” Morris says.

Morris originally came to the BLC for help revising bylaws. He stayed to ensure that his for-profit public speaking business followed legal requirements for remaining separate from the YDCA.

Clare McKeown, a 2L this past year, worked with Morris on a project that illustrates the BLC’s value-added approach. She put together a list of grant-writing resources that immediately benefited Morris and also became a resource for future BLC clinicians.

Clinic experience taught her “how nuanced client problems are,” McKeown says. “Although you do a lot of the same tasks over and over, no two clients are exactly the same. It instilled in me how much time it takes to get to know someone and their issues.”

Morris says he felt the students’ investment in helping him succeed. “My antenna’s always up when I talk to people: ‘Is this person really excited about what I’m doing?’ You don’t have to motivate BLC students,” he says. “They’re already interested in what you’re trying to achieve.”

Youth and teens learn about health issues through the Women’s Health Initiative. The not-for-profit organization receives pro bono legal services through Loyola’s Business Law Clinic.

Taking aim at health inequities

Natrina Kennedy, who founded the Women’s Health Initiative (WHI), earned a Loyola bachelor’s degree and is now a student in Loyola’s Master of Public Health program. The WHI’s newest program, the Color of CARE, is built on her capstone master’s project. CARE, which stands for Culture, Active Selfcare, Resilience, and Education, is a five-year initiative that addresses chronic and toxic stress, depression, and poor mental health outcomes among African-American women aged 15 to 45 living on the South Side of Chicago.

“The Color of CARE’s goal is to reduce the number of frequently stressed days among African-American women by building resilience, encouraging active participation in healthy self-care practices, mental health education, and increased social support through connection to culture and community,” Kennedy says.

Kennedy has worked with four BLC clinicians, who have performed tasks ranging from developing her website’s privacy policy and terms of service to filing required forms with the Internal Revenue Service to drafting vendor contracts for a fundraiser. “Each student had different strengths and brought something unique and valuable to the table,” she says, “and I think they learned from me, too.”

Cameron Woolley, a 3L clinician this past spring, worked with businesses at all stages of development. “I worked with one from the conceptual stage all the way through formation and creation of a management structure,” he says. “Natrina’s organization was already well established when she came to us, but we were still able to help with advanced matters,” he says. “I like that the BLC can help small businesses and not-for-profits at all stages of their development.”

Without the BLC’s help, Kennedy says, “I’d have been stuck at square one and wouldn’t have accomplished half of what I’ve been able to do.” –Gail Mansfield

Editor’s note: Starting in March, the COVID-19 pandemic created a unique set of challenges for the BLC and its clients. Many clients struggled with mandatory closures and sheltering in place. Some became difficult to reach or, uncertain about their economic situation, asked to put their legal projects on hold. At government offices such as the Illinois Attorney General and the IRS, communication methods changed and response times lengthened. Working from home, BLC students persevered and continued to serve clients in their remote settings.

From Loyola Law Magazine 2020

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As a student in Loyola’s Business Law Clinic, you will have the opportunity to develop essential lawyering skills in a professional, interactive live-client environment. You will work under the direct supervision of licensed attorneys to represent entrepreneurs and small business owners, as well as individuals who are seeking legal assistance with not-for-profit organizations. Learn More

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