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The Legal Clinic at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville’s College of Law is providing entrepreneurs and community members with the legal assistance they need to make their goals a reality.

Aspiring tech entrepreneurs are receiving financial support for their innovative start-up ideas with support from Oak Ridge National Laboratory’s Innovation Crossroads program. Tech start-ups also receive mentoring from UT’s Spark Innovation Center.

Law students Landon Foody and Rebecca Hanniford meet with Professor Brian Krumm
Law students Landon Foody and Rebecca Hanniford meet with Professor Brian Krumm.

What entrepreneurs haven’t always received is the legal assistance they need to get their start-ups off the ground. That’s where Associate Professor of Law Brian Krumm saw an opportunity for collaboration.

“These entrepreneurs need to consider the type of legal entity they want to form, they need to explore financial options, and they often need advice on intellectual property issues,” Krumm said. “Our clinic and our students are in a position to help them with that.”

Law student Jesse Ramoya, Professor Eric Amarante (standing), and Steve Hillis, President of American Support & Humanitarian African Children’s Foundation
Law student Jesse Ramoya, Professor Eric Amarante (standing), and Steve Hillis, president of American Support & Humanitarian African Children’s Foundation

Through a new partnership, Business Law Clinic students under Krumm’s supervision are working directly with scientists to commercialize their cutting-edge technology, offering legal advice, and drafting a wide array of transactional documents.

Third-year law student Eric Salama, of Kingsport, Tennessee, said the experience of partnering with entrepreneurs in this way is rewarding.

“It is incredible to be a law student working with such sophisticated clients on a variety of complex issues touching on corporate, finance, real property, and employment law in the context of an early-stage business,” Salama said.

Law student Eric Salama
Law student Eric Salama

Associate Professor of Law Eric Amarante’s Community Economic Development Clinic is also providing law students with real-world experience through the assistance they’ve been offering Maryville College student Betty Asha.

A refugee from South Sudan, Asha has been raising money to help others cross the border to find safety in Ugandan refugee camps.

For the past several years, Asha has fielded dozens of calls on a daily basis from those in need. When the work became too much for one person to manage, her friends and supporters aspired to help her through a nonprofit foundation. They quickly learned that drafting the necessary IRS documents would require legal assistance.

The foundation’s president, Steve Hills, asked the Community Economic Development Legal Clinic for assistance. Amarante recruited third-year law student Jesse Ramoya, of Nairobi, Kenya, to take the lead representing the group. Ramoya began drafting bylaws and articles of incorporation and helping the group apply for tax-exempt status with the IRS.

Ramoya said he’s been inspired by Asha’s determination and selflessness, and he is grateful for the opportunity to assist her and the foundation with their mission.

The Community Economic Development Clinic “helped us to create an opportunity to change lives. And for that, I will ever be appreciative and thankful,” Hills said.


Rachel McClelland (865-974-6788, rachel.mcclelland@utk.edu)