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Welcome to the MSU College of Law Small Business & Nonprofit Clinic

The Michigan State University College of Law Small Business & Nonprofit Clinic enhances law students' professional development through experiential learning in the specialized transactional areas of business and nonprofit law. The Clinic trains confident and competent legal professionals to assist underserved Michigan small businesses and nonprofit organizations. Student clinicians facilitate entrepreneurial empowerment by engaging in community economic development and outreach initiatives that provide timely, quality, legally-relevant information. The Clinic also creates community and campus partnerships to expand resources available to Michigan small businesses and nonprofit organizations.

Who are we?

The Small Business & Nonprofit Law Clinic, a public interest law clinic, provides an important community service to start-up and existing small businesses and nonprofit organizations. We serve clients not only in the Greater Lansing Area—Ingham, Eaton, and Clinton counties—but throughout Michigan. We simultaneously provide a clinical education program for MSU College of Law students, extending learning beyond the classroom and into actual practice in the community. Under Michigan Court Rule 8.120, second- and third-year law students practice law under the supervision of experienced clinical faculty who are members of the State Bar of Michigan.

What do we do?

The Small Business & Nonprofit Law Clinic empowers small businesses and nonprofit organizations in the community. We provide necessary assistance during their start-up phase, their on-going continuation phase, and their expansion phase by offering quality counseling, legal advice and representation, and community education information. The Clinic promotes public awareness and understanding of business and nonprofit laws and requirements by disseminating pertinent information to business owners and community groups, and by identifying current and future legal issues. The Clinic also builds lawyering competencies through service learning in a teaching clinic designed to create problem-solving lawyers attuned to the legal needs of small business owners and nonprofit organizations.

When are we open?

We offer our services by appointment. Please contact the Clinic to set a meeting for an initial consultation.

Small Businesses & Entrepreneurs

The small-business sector is a significant and growing part of the U.S. economy—and a source of more new jobs than the large corporate sector. Moreover, the entrepreneurial focus of small business is a key component of the American business tradition. Yet, this sector has traditionally been under-served by the legal community, in part because the small-business owner is oftentimes unable to afford effective legal counsel. This lack of counsel, and hence poor planning, can often be one of the critical reasons for the failure of the business.

It is the goal of the Clinic to offer legal business counsel and services that enable the entrepreneur to run his or her business successfully. We provide business formation and development assistance, assessment of risk/liability, opinions on code compliance and financial accounting and reporting standards. We also review, prepare, and negotiate necessary legal documents. Whether you are a new start-up or an existing company, we are able to assist you with our various services.

Nonprofit Organizations

The nonprofit sector is a critical and rapidly growing segment of our societal infrastructure, particularly as government looks to it to assume an expanding responsibility for educational, social, cultural, religious, and health services to our nation’s citizens, especially those in need. Yet, the rapidly increasing and unique legal questions, challenges, and complexities faced by the non-profit sector have been largely un-addressed. These unique legal subjects range from complicated tax-exemption issues and filings, to volunteer recruitment, relationships, and liability, to board duties and liabilities, to the appropriate scope of operations of a charitable entity, naming but a few. And because of the naturally limited resources and generally small sizes of most nonprofit organizations, they frequently cannot afford to retain specialized legal services to address their needs. Consequently, very few law firms even offer any such specialization.

It is the goal of the Clinic to offer legal business counsel and services that assist the nonprofit entity in adhering to federal and state laws and regulations, as well as compliance requirements for maintaining tax-exempt status. Whether you are a small community-based grassroots organization, or a large nonprofit entity, we are able to assist you with our various services.

Legal Services

Start-up Services for For-Profits and Nonprofits

  • Counseling on entity formation
  • Drafting the appropriate organizing documents for the business entity: Sole proprietorship, Corporation, Limited-liability company, General partnership, Limited partnership, Limited-liability partnership, Nonprofit corporation, Nonprofit Association
  • Applying for tax exemptions for nonprofits
  • Understanding business licensing issues
  • Reviewing leases and other contracts
  • Counseling on business plans
  • Counseling on compliance with federal, state, and local law and rules and regulations

Legal Check-up Services for Existing Entities

  • Counseling on compliance with federal, state, and local law and rules and regulations
  • Counseling on business plans
  • Counseling on organizational structure/operation
  • Reviewing legal documents currently in use by the organization
  • Referral to accounting, legal, or business experts as needed
  • Analyzing the potential for liability given the nature of the business activity
  • Tax considerations
  • Insurance needs
  • Employment needs, compensation, and benefits

How much does the Small Business & Nonprofit Clinic charge for its services?

The Small Business & Nonprofit Clinic charges a nominal fee for its services. Additionally, the Clinic expects its clients to pay for all other fees and costs associated with representation and counsel, such as filing fees, postage, and long-distance telephone charges.

The Small Business & Nonprofit Clinic is funded by gifts, grants, and contributions, as well as substantial general operating and in-kind support from the Law College. Donations to the Clinic qualify for charitable contribution deductions and credits permitted under federal and state law.


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