Best Practices

U.S.SourceLink: How Can the Legal Profession Keep Up with Entrepreneurs?

Published Sep 23, 2014

That’s the question that faces lawyers and entrepreneurs as technology evolves and the economy becomes more entrepreneurial. And that’s the question that the Innovation Practice Institute (IPI) was created to answer.

Launched in 2008, IPI re-imagines how the legal profession can advance regional economic development and puts that into practice with cutting-edge research, new classroom models, community engagement, and hands-on mentoring.

As part of the University of Pittsburgh Law School, IPI trains law students to represent — and to be — innovators and entrepreneurs in the 21st century.

How (and why) did they do it? Conveniently for us, they share all. Pittsburgh’s NPR News Station interviewed IPI faculty and staff about how "The Innovation Practice Institute Innovates Law School Education.”

Innovators need lawyers.

Studies of high-velocity entrepreneurial ecosystems such as the Silicon Valley confirm that lawyers play a critical role in the economic success of those regions.[i] Such lawyers serve as crucial connectors among universities, researchers, entrepreneurs, investors, accountants, tax advisors, real estate developers and underwriters. 

Lawyers need to be innovative.

Lawyers representing entrepreneurs must offer not only traditional “counseling” services but also innovative forms of delivering those legal services that position lawyers as partners of entrepreneurs.

IPI meets the needs of lawyers and innovators. 

IPI is an entrepreneur in legal education, in the legal profession and in the legal services industry. IPI succeeds through novel and unique collaborations among universities, the practicing bar, the startup community and the not-for-profit and government sectors. 

How they do it.

IPI addresses these challenges through a growing set of opportunities and partnerships, including:

  • Innovators, Esq.:  Weekly lunch and learn programs are open to all students and members of the Pitt Law community, with guest speakers from the many worlds of law and innovation.
  • Start Smart Law:  Through partnership between IPI and Project Olympus at CMU, Start Smart offers presentations on legal topics of interest to entrepreneurs and workshops in which law students and entrepreneurs partner to advance new ventures.
  • Experiential learning opportunities:  Practicums, internships and externships at Pitt’s and CMU’s technology transfer offices, startup incubators, Pitt’s Center for Medical Innovation and in Pittsburgh’s thriving arts and entertainment industry provide hands-on learning opportunities.
  • The IPI Leadership Forum: Leadership training brings together Pitt Law faculty, staff, students and alumni.
  • Courses in law and business: Courses include Copyright, Trademark and Patent Law; Commercializing New Technologies; Law & Entrepreneurship; Understanding the Legal Services Marketplace; Law, Entertainment & Social Enterprise; and New Technology Commercialization: Public Policy Strategies.
  • Coaching for Pitt Law students entering business plan competitions.
  • Cutting-edge research: How are knowledge, information and other shared intellectual resources governed?
  • Access to international law opportunities through Pitt’s Center for International Legal Education.

The future of entrepreneurship will need more lawyers.  IPI meets this need by producing lawyers who lead, rather than impede, the advancement of innovation.  For more info on IPI go to