CHAPEL HILL — What does it take to be an entrepreneur? It takes drive, ambition, patience and persistence to identify a need and create a business to fill that need. It also takes access to legal resources.


The William R. Kenan Jr. Charitable Trust recognizes that early-stage legal counsel is critical to the success of new for-profit and nonprofit ventures. To ensure that these ventures have access to legal counsel, the Kenan Trust has made a $1.53 million gift to support the establishment of a clinical entrepreneurship program at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill’s School of Law.


The program will provide rigorous, hands-on training for the next generation of public-spirited lawyers while also filling gaps in North Carolina’s entrepreneurship ecosystem. In addition, the N.C. General Assembly has appropriated $465,000 in recurring funds to support the program.


The new program will serve business and social enterprise entrepreneurs on the campuses of UNC-Chapel Hill and N.C. State University, in partnership with UNC Kenan-Flagler Business School, NCSU’s Poole College of Management, as well as the innovation and entrepreneurship infrastructures on both campuses. The UNC School of Law also intends to identify one or more economic incubators in under-served parts of North Carolina that the entrepreneurship program can support.


In addition to providing educational opportunities for law students, the program will fill the one consistent gap across all start-up settings: a lack of access to legal counsel. Legal advice for early-stage businesses and nonprofits, which typically have limited resources, is hard to find. In an effort to control costs, too many entrepreneurs never consult a lawyer and come to regret it. Failing to consult competent counsel exposes a new business or nonprofit organization to a variety of risks. For clients of the program these risks will be lowered, giving them a greater chance of thriving and expanding. In the end, students, start-up businesses, communities and the state’s economy will end up benefiting.