Assisting startup and developing community organizations and social enterprises to create a legal/business structure starts as a collaboration with the client to develop or refine their goals and strategies, to help determine what structure is appropriate, drafting the formation documents consistent with their values, and providing materials and support to ensure that the work is sustainable over time. This clinic teaches both the strategic and the drafting aspects of social enterprise lawyering.

(Formerly the Community Solutions Clinic)

The clinic prioritizes work that advances equity and/or supports members of marginalized communities, particularly in the Central and Southwest Virginia area. (Click on the enrollment form linked to the right to see past and planned projects.)

The clinic is available in both the Fall and the Spring, and students may take either or both semesters of the clinic, in any order. There are no prerequisites, but students may find Corporations, Nonprofit Organizations, or similar courses to be helpful background.

In the Fall semester, student teams collaborate with social entrepreneurs and community organizations to develop a strategy to bring their ideas for change to fruition. Clinic teams learn and apply leadership and planning skills to help local activists and organizations develop and refine their goals for social impact; research and synthesize data, best practices, and strategies that successful organizations use to achieve those goals; provide legal advice and information related to those goals; and recommend initiatives and an appropriate legal structure as a vehicle for their work.

Each project culminates in a final presentation of research, recommendations, and next steps to the client, with supporting deliverables, in the last week of the semester.

In the Spring semester, student teams work with clients to execute their strategies and draft associated legal documents. This may include drafting and filing articles of incorporation or organization, drafting bylaws and associated policies, assisting with obtaining tax-exempt status or establishing relationships with fiscal sponsors and other partners, drafting other legal documents or templates, and developing related guides, FAQs, and other materials to allow the organization to sustain its work over time.

Teams engage with clients throughout the semester, assist with or provide instructions for initial filing, and create a package of deliverables including organizational documents and agreements that they present in an advising session with the client at the end of the semester.

Depending on client need and student interest, students may also have the option of working on a strategic project in the Spring alongside drafting projects.

To enroll in this clinic prior to the lottery, students must rank the clinic in the clinic lottery within the timeline set by the Student Records Office. Students selected for the clinic through the clinic application/lottery process will be automatically enrolled prior to the regular course lottery. Any seats remaining will be open to enrollment during add/drop.

The positions that the clinic takes on behalf of its clients are independent of the views of the University of Virginia or the School of Law.

Sarah Shalf
Professor of Law, General Faculty
Director of Clinical Programs
Skills Taught
Structured, team-based problem-solving; assessing both legal and nonlegal regimes and solutions; working collaboratively with clients and stakeholders; other professional skills, such as communication and team/meeting management, planning and staging work
Course Credits
4 (3 for advanced clinic in spring)