> Lavin Entrepreneurship Advocacy Program (LEAP)

SDSU and USD School of Law Form Unique Partnership With Duane Morris Law Firm to Offer Assistance to Student Entrepreneurs

“Having access to work with Lavin and the Duane Morris LEAP program was absolutely amazing! They gave me the opportunity to get one provisional patent and two trademarks, something I would not have been able to do without their help (or at least it would have been much, much harder). They gave me a better taste of what it’s like to be an entrepreneur and for that I am forever grateful.”

- Stu Massengill, Trainer for Tony Robbins

In 2017, San Diego State University (SDSU), University of San Diego (USD) School of Law, and international law firm Duane Morris launched a program that pairs student entrepreneurs from the Lavin Entrepreneur Center with USD School of Law students and Duane Morris attorneys to offer legal assistance. It is the first business school/law school/legal firm partnership of its type in the region to combine student learning experiences with those of practicing attorneys.

“Partnering with Duane Morris and the USD School of Law provides our Lavin Entrepreneurship students access to essential legal counseling for establishing their startup businesses,” said Bruce Reinig, Interim Dean of the Fowler College of Business. “We are thrilled to participate in this innovative program that provides our students a more complete entrepreneurial educational experience.”


The LEAP program consists of four key components:

Legal Workshops: Each year, Duane Morris attorneys conduct an on campus legal workshop for Lavin students. These workshops cover common legal pitfalls of startups, including tax, employment, intellectual property, entity formation, and ownership issues. “As a longtime board member of the Lavin Entrepreneurship Center, I felt this was a tremendous opportunity for us to support startups as a firm and individually,” said Duane Morris partner Michelle Hon Donovan. “Not only is it a win for the students involved, but it allows our attorneys the chance to assist these emerging ventures, which has an incredibly positive impact on the San Diego community.”

The Duane Morris LLP Clinic: Once per semester, Duane Morris opens up their offices to meet with the Lavin entrepreneur students. Through this program, students have the opportunity to meet with different specialist attorneys to handle any legal issues that may arise, as well as offering general legal advice on their business matters. This is a great way for the students to learn how to work with an attorney in setting up a business on a strong legal foundation. Each Lavin student is also paired with a USD School of Law student who accompanies them through each meeting with the Duane Morris attorneys. This provides training for the law students and provides for a smooth transition in the event that entrepreneur becomes a USD Entrepreneurship Clinic client. “The Duane Morris partnership really helped me make sure that when I start a business, I am doing it legally,” said Tammy Nguyen a LEAP participant. “In respect to writing up contracts and employing people for my business, the advice was invaluable.”

USD Entrepreneurship Clinic: The USD School of Law students are able to assist Lavin entrepreneur students on a rolling basis with basic legal research and assistance with corporate filings through the on campus USD Entrepreneurship Clinic.

Duane Morris Pro-Bono Legal Services: For issues that fall outside the scope of the USD clinic, Duane Morris takes on discrete legal matters on a pro bono basis.


“This is an exciting partnership to foster entrepreneurship in San Diego,” said Stephen C. Ferruolo, Dean of USD School of Law. “It demonstrates the types of collaborations that have made San Diego so vibrant a center of innovation. As a former startup attorney, I know the value of pairing lawyers with entrepreneurs. As Dean, I am pleased to be able to work closely with my colleagues at SDSU’s Lavin Entrepreneurship Center.”

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