HLEP Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)
Please review the following frequently asked questions before submitting your own questions. If your question is not addressed here, you can reach out to us at firstname.lastname@example.org or submit your question online.
Q: Can I get general legal advice for my start-up?
A: The scope of the project depends on your particular questions, but “general legal advice” is a bit broad. The best HLEP applications outline a few specific legal issues that a team of students, with support from a licensed attorney, can satisfactorily answer within the project timeline. At the beginning of the client engagement, the project team and client will define the specific legal issues to be addressed. We cannot provide ongoing legal advice throughout the course of the project cycle.
If the application deadline for the semester-long project cycle has passed, but are looking for help on a discrete legal question, we may be able to help through our On-Site program. Our On-Site staffers can answer questions related to:
- International student founder
- Intellectual property
If you have a question in one of these issue areas, contact us now!
Q. Do you offer transactional services?
A. Although we can provide research assistance and advice on transactions, we do not provide transactional services (e.g., filing incorporation paperwork, contract drafting, patent prosecution). For transactional services, we suggest you consider the Harvard Transactional Law Clinics.
Q. Does HLEP charge fees? My team has complicated legal questions and the research may take extra time.
A. As a pro bono student practice organization, HLEP does not charge clients—all of the legal advice provided is free. There are limits on how much assistance an HLEP team can provide over the course of a semester.
Q. What sort of qualifications do the legal advisors have?
A. Our client teams are comprised of 4-5 Harvard law students and 1-2 attorney advisors. The advisors are licensed attorneys working at leading law firms in Boston or New York. Our law student team members undergo general legal ethics training and support from our in-house supervising attorney, Linda Cole.
Q. I am a Harvard employee and my co-founder graduated from Harvard Medical School in May—does our affiliation with Harvard make us eligible for your services?
A. Our charter with the law school requires that at least one person on the team must be a current student at Harvard or MIT. Because neither of you is currently enrolled as a student, we cannot provide assistance at this time.
Q. Our company received $100,000 for winning the Presidents Challenge, but we are still broke college students receiving need-based financial aid—can you help us?
A. Yes, we can still assist ventures that have secured limited funding or prize money. We generally do not assist ventures with more significant funding, such as a full Series A.
Q. My venture is a for-profit. Can I still apply to HLEP?
A. Yes, HLEP welcomes applications from both non-profit and for-profit entities.
Q. Because HLEP gives free legal advice, will non-profit applicants be favored, all else equal?
A. No, this has no bearing on the decision-making process. Non-profit and for-profit ventures are given equal consideration. When reviewing your application, HLEP prioritizes compelling legal questions where we think we will be able to make the biggest impact on your company. We focus our assessment on the substantive legal issues associated with your project.
Q: When does the client application open?
A: We begin a new project cycle at the start of each law school semester. Applications generally open at the outset of the semester (in mid-August for fall and late January for spring).
Q: What is the applicant pitch event? When is it?
A: This is your opportunity, as a prospective client, to pitch your HLEP project to our law student members and attorney advisors. Though not required, pitching increases your chances of being selected as a client. We typically hold this event about three weeks into the semester. Presentations can include a slide deck and should, at minimum, explain who you are, what your company does, and what legal questions you have.
Q. Why do you only take applications twice a year?
A. Due to the comprehensive and research-intensive process of providing legal guidance, we operate on an 8-10 week project cycle for traditional HLEP projects. We match teams of students and attorneys to clients best suited to their strengths and interests.
Q: I missed the client application deadline but really need legal advice about my startup. Can I still get free assistance?
A: Yes! HLEP is proud to introduce a new program where experienced HLEP law student members, under the supervision of a licensed attorney, will host legal office hours for student entrepreneurs who have one-off legal questions. You are invited to meet with our representatives to determine if we can provide assistance, and if so, you can expect advice in about one week. Check our On-Site page for a schedule of office hours.
Q. What is HLEP’s acceptance rate?
A. We typically receive 20-40 applications per semester and can accept anywhere from 12–30, depending on student and attorney availability.
Q. I missed the application deadline for the spring semester—do I have to wait until the fall semester to be considered?
A. Unfortunately, we are only able to take on new semester-long clients twice a year—at the beginning of each of the fall and spring semesters. However, you may still be eligible for legal support through our On-Site program. If you are interested in receiving these legal service, contact us now.
Q. Our venture needs immediate legal assistance for one quick question—do you have any representatives available to assist?
A. Yes, this is exactly what our On-Site program does.
Applicant Pitch Event
Q. What is the “pitch event?”
A. As part of the HLEP application process, entrepreneurs are invited to pitch their ideas and legal questions to our law student members and attorney advisors. The attorneys and students have the opportunity to ask questions, which often increases the applicant's chance of being selected as a client and provides an additional value-add for the applicants.
Q. Can all applicants participate in the pitch event or do some projects get eliminated in advance?
A. Yes, all applicants are welcome to pitch. Since the client application is due after the pitch event, you are welcome to attend the event and then decide whether you'd like to submit an application for our services.
Q. Am I assigned a specific time to present at the pitch competition?
A. Entrepreneurs are not assigned specific times to pitch and therefore should arrive at the start of the event. The timing is tight (usually about 2-3 minutes to pitch and 1-2 minutes for questions). If you have a scheduling conflict that requires leaving early, please email us to make arrangements in advance.
Q. Is the pitch event mandatory? I have an unavoidable schedule conflict.
A. Pitching is optional, but it is a great way to showcase your venture and clarify your specific legal needs. We encourage teams to attend if at all possible. We’ve found that attending the pitch event significantly increases applicants' chances of being accepted.
Q. Our organization has an event coming up and would love to reach out to students through your newsletter. What is the publishing date for your next newsletter? Who is the best contact?
A. Our newsletter usually goes out on Sunday evenings throughout the semester. You can send requests to share event info directly via email to email@example.com. We generally share entrepreneurship-related events from the broader Harvard and MIT community. We generally do not share commercial (e.g., law firm) events, other than events hosted by our sponsors.
Q. How can I get updates about HLEP speakers and events?