Report Index


Erik Gordon
Clinical Assistant Professor, Zell Lurie Institute
Director, Zell Entrepreneurship and Law Program

Over its first 18 months, the Zell Entrepreneurship And Law (ZEAL) program has strengthened the entrepreneurial culture at the University of Michigan by providing free legal counsel to start-up ventures on campus and ramping up entrepreneurship education for law students who want to represent entrepreneurial businesses or become entrepreneurs themselves. “ZEAL is a sign of cross-campus progress,”says Erik Gordon, director of the program, which was launched in January 2012 through a $5 million gift from Zell Lurie Institute co-benefactor Sam Zell, J.D. ‘66. “The Law School has joined the Ross School of Business and the College of Engineering in developing a major entrepreneurship center that serves both graduate and undergraduate students throughout the entire Michigan campus.”ZEAL's Entrepreneurship Clinic, which is run by law students working under the supervision of faculty who are experienced attorneys, has extended its outreach over the course of the year by adding office hours at the Zell Lurie Institute, the Center for Entrepreneurship and TechArb. “All start-ups need legal guidance to help them form the right type of business entity, create ownership and employment agreements and make intellectual-property assignments,”Gordon explains. “In the past, students with great entrepreneurial ideas and technical and business talent lacked access to that guidance. Now, ZEAL provides the critical missing piece of the entrepreneurial equation.”Among the student-led start-ups that have benefited from the Entrepreneurship Clinic's pro bono services are Fetchnotes, a note-taking application for mobile phones, and Focus Solutions, which is bringing a digital personal trainer to market. ZEAL's speaker series, which is open to all U-M students, has hosted appearances by prominent experts from law, business and finance, including Jon Sobel, the CEO of SightMachine, and John Denniston, a partner at the Silicon Valley venture-capital firm Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers. The program also has launched six entrepreneurial-studies courses designed to introduce law students to venture finance, private equity, entrepreneurial business, negotiations, real-estate entrepreneurship and exit strategies. “The U-M is putting the pieces together to be the powerhouse in entrepreneurship,”Gordon says. “It's happening here and now.”