The Harvard Law Entrepreneurship Project provides pro bono legal research and analysis to entrepreneurs at Harvard and MIT. We match entrepreneurs with teams of several Harvard Law School students and an attorney advisor who work together to answer legal questions over the project cycle of six to eight weeks. Legal questions can cover a broad range of substantive subjects depending on the startup's needs, and participating entrepreneurs will receive a report summarizing the team's findings.
HLEP provides substantive legal research—answers to legal questions that you are encountering. For example, you may have concerns about your venture, your founders, university policies, or government regulation. HLEP members research these issues and provide a report describing, for example, the nuances of the question and the common legal approaches that are used in practice.
Concerns about incorporation are very typical questions that HLEP students might address, along with questions about copyright, trademark, immigration, employment, and state regulation. The scope of the project often depends on the number of jurisdictions in which you want to conduct business.
HLEP provides services to projects that are affiliated with students at Harvard and MIT. If you have a Harvard or MIT student as part of the founding or core team, that is sufficient to qualify. Our services are primarily for ventures that do not have sufficient funding to hire their own attorneys.
HLEP has an application, available twice per year at hlep.org/apply, in which entrepreneurs can describe their venture and their legal questions. We then host a “pitch competition” to put your idea in front of interested law students and attorneys. The pitch is not mandatory, but helps members get a sense of your needs.
Students and attorneys rank projects by interest, entrepreneurs are selected, and teams are assigned—a team usually consists of four or five law students along with one or two attorneys. The team holds an initial intake meeting to further discuss your legal questions, then the students research answers during the semester, usually over the course of 6–8 weeks. The work product is a written report and a final outplacement meeting at which the students and attorneys walk you through the answers to the questions raised.
The best HLEP applications outline a few specific legal issues that are addressable by a small team of students, with support from a licensed attorney, within the project timeline. We welcome ventures from all industries and sectors. We like to see passion for the project that you are pursuing—to the extent you have already made strong progress on your venture, this reflects well on your application.
Harvard Law School is committed to the full inclusion of students with disabilities in the life of the University. Students requesting accessibility resources or accommodations in any of HLS’s Clinical and Pro Bono Programs may work with Accessibility Services in the Dean of Students Office. If you are a student with a documented disability and you are requesting accommodations, please contact HLS Accessibility Services to discuss and register for accommodations.