Starting and running a small business present many big challenges for hopeful entrepreneurs. While they may be equipped with the brilliant ideas, spreadsheets or products ready to sell that will help them achieve success, these entrepreneurs still face significant legal hurdles that require expertise that they simply cannot afford. That’s where Northeastern Law’s Community Business Clinic (CBC) can make an impact. As the law school’s primary transactional law clinic, the CBC assists businesses in underserved communities on a range of business law matters, including entity formation, nonprofit tax exemption, contracts, employment and trademarks.

This clinic is a win-win for small businesses and law students. Under the direction of Professor Evan Darryl Walton (above), CBC students gain real-world practice experience by providing free, business-related legal services to start-ups, small businesses and nonprofits, especially those in economically disadvantaged neighborhoods. The demographics of recent clients demonstrate the diversity of CBC clients: women (60%), racial minorities (60%), immigrants (15%) and returning citizens (3%).


Here are a few examples of the real-world impact of the CBC, which has recently advised:

  • a venture capital incubator for BIPOC and women entrepreneurs and its connected nonprofit on employment agreements, nondisclosure agreements and board agreements
  • an established elderly focused nonprofit organization on its current bylaw procedure and how to effectively amend its bylaws from a membership structure to a non-membership structure
  • an upstart online media and social networking platform engaged in advocacy for people with disabilities on entity formation and post-formation
  • an education enhancement nonprofit organization on entering into a fiscal sponsorship relationship with a prominent fiscal sponsor, and on complying with laws and regulations related to selling products to children
  • a start-up fashion brand of luxury handbags on entity formation, trademark registration, independent contractors and copyrights
  • a budding Generation Z consulting firm on entity formation, employment concerns involving labeling workers as volunteers and immigration considerations for F-1 visa students working for the company
  • a nonprofit organization focused on helping the formerly incarcerated in establishing strong governance and employment practices
  • a nutrition-focused nonprofit organization on bringing state annual report filings up to date and how to complete and file the federal application for tax-exempt status
  • a youth-focused nonprofit organization through a review of its client relationship documents and the potential risks involved with entering into a partnership and hiring third-parties
  • a for-profit business focused on advancing Latinx and Hispanic representation in STEM through career coaching on entity choice and formation


Students  represented a range of business entities: 12 for-profits, nine nonprofit organizations and five social enterprises. CBC clients had a variety of goals including, but not limited to, helping the elderly or returning citizens, advancing diversity in STEM or health fields, creating Gen Z-focused innovations and workplaces, and creating a secondary source of income to improve their families’ lives. 


Professor Hemanth Gundavaram (left), Northeastern Law’s director of clinical programs, and Professor Darryl Walton, at the TCC Conference in June.

In June, Northeastern Law’s clinical program hosted the 19th annual Transactional Clinical Conference (TCC). The theme for 2023 was “Pivots into Practice: Learning, Doing and Innovating in the Pandemic’s Wake.” Law school clinicians from across the country gathered to discuss the challenges and opportunities for transactional lawyers, notably those working in underinvested and under-resourced communities, particularly Black, brown and immigrant communities.


In 2024, the CBC has plans for increased impact for our clients and the community. Beyond continuing our semester-long client representations, the CBC is working with Northeastern and community partners on special initiatives.

Projects on the horizon include:

  • one-day clinics advising nonprofits on tax exemption and birthing specialists on entity formation
  • a series of questions and answers addressing foundational business law topics to extend the access to educational information to a broader audience
  • outreach to make small business owners aware of new federal beneficial ownership reporting requirements


Clinic Director