These days, it feels like everyone is clamoring to get into tech (or if not into tech, at least on the right side of it), including law schools. This November, 112-year-old Brooklyn Law School will launch the Center for Urban Business Entrepreneurship, or CUBE, which aims to prepare law students for the emerging opportunities in tech.
“One of the unmet needs and growth areas for new lawyers is serving as a lawyer for new businesses,” said Brooklyn Law School Dean Nicholas Allard. “And Brooklyn is the epicenter of new businesses in the city, specifically tech.”
The center will be “embedded” with the tech community, to use the law school’s parlance, with locations at 15 Metrotech Center in Downtown Brooklyn and 55 Washington Street in Dumbo, a spot that Mr. Allard excitedly told us was surrounded by 500 new businesses “and all of them need legal services.” Brooklyn Law is keeping costs low for these set-ups thanks to rent-free spaces provided by Forest City Ratner and Two Trees.
Given the school’s proximity to the budding (or at least longed for) Brooklyn Tech Triangle and the explosion in tech entrepreneurship, Mr. Allard said the decision to focus on preparing students to work in tech was only natural.
“Lawyers are the key to success for new business—you need a lawyer who can navigate through the brambles of law. By definition every new business comes about after the law is written, so lawyers can say, ‘let’s change the law and make it better.’ You have to know what the law is and how to work within it, but what about when there is no law?”
Students can either take a single class or focus their studies at the center (much as they might focus on international law or business compliance), with a curriculum that specializes in real estate, community development, creative businesses, social entrepreneurship, technology, entrepreneurship and community deal making (how to facilitate the kinds of deals to launch community-wide projects). During the program, they will work with local entrepreneurs and tech start-ups, discovering the kinds of legal and policy issues new businesses, especially those with new technologies, face—a hands-on approach that Mr. Allard identified as one of the key features of the program.
The program will be run with an entrepreneurial bent, according to Mr. Allard. The school considers the $1.3 million it’s launching the program with “seed money” and plans to stretch it out for 18-24 months, providing metrics for “investors,” looking for ways to generate more funds and tamping down spending (the free rent will help considerably).
The law school had been guaranteed space for a year at the Dumbo and Downtown Brooklyn locations—the dean said that there had been a number of offers and the school may eventually open more locations. The school doesn’t plan to do any build-out work other than “maybe adding a few Brooklyn Law posters.”
Mr. Allard described the Dumbo space as “very funky—a mix between Google and a pizza parlor” while the MetroTech space is a traditional office—the former home of a traditional law firm.
And while law schools once prepared vast numbers of graduates to work at such traditional firms, the legal profession has changed considerably, which is why Brooklyn Law is embracing new areas and focuses, according to Mr. Allard, who incidentally built his own legal career around technology and new business.
“We want to avoid a fashion fad or a dance craze like the Nehru jacket or the Macarena. We’re not trying to be imitative, we want to find areas that we can be the best in and give our students choices” he said. “This is not for everyone, but there is a definite need and demand for these services. And it’s a fun practice for somebody who likes solving problems and wants a legal career that is adventurous.”