By Beth Kregor
In 1997, two University of Chicago law students attended IJ’s Law Student Conference and were inspired to use their legal training to help low-income entrepreneurs earn an honest living. They brought their idea to the dean of the law school and, working hand in hand with IJ, designed a clinic that would teach law students how to help entrepreneurs overcome government red tape and get into business. It was an experiment for both IJ and the University of Chicago Law School.
In the 20 years since the IJ Clinic’s debut, this experiment has been an unqualified success. The Clinic has directly served 242 small businesses founded by low-income entrepreneurs and has trained 272 students to be thoughtful, careful counselors for those businesses. Through workshops, conferences, and trainings, we have provided vital resources to hundreds of other men and women, helping them transform their lives and bring innovation and opportunity to underserved communities.
In the years to come, we will provide top-notch legal assistance to a new generations of entrepreneurs. We will guide fresh classes of law students as they draft contracts, counsel clients, tackle regulatory barriers, and learn to become advocates for entrepreneurs. We will engage and empower new communities seeking the freedom to earn an honest living, while working to change the laws that stand in their way.
And we will do more: From launching a podcast that showcases the stories of entrepreneurs building businesses in Chicago to releasing a report that identifies the key laws and policies that hamstring Chicago entrepreneurs and outlines potential reforms, we will clear the way for more innovation and opportunity.
The IJ Clinic was founded on the belief that one entrepreneur has the power to make the world a better place. Over the next 20 years, we will empower countless more hardworking men and women to pursue their dreams and make the city a more vibrant and prosperous place for all.
Beth Kregor is the director of the IJ Clinic on Entrepreneurship.