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Law and the Entrepreneur

This course will highlight the critical legal and business issues entrepreneurs face as they build and launch a new venture. We will explore real world scenarios, and address the legal and business issues that entrepreneurs face, from the moment they conceive of the "million dollar idea" to all of the important junctures along the path to success.


Course at a Glance

About the Course

Are you a passionate entrepreneur with a new business idea, but feeling intimidated by the law?  Or perhaps you are a lawyer or aspiring lawyer looking to break into the exciting world of start-ups?  This course addresses the legal aspects of entrepreneurship, and is appropriate both for entrepreneurs and lawyers who hope to represent entrepreneurs. Entrepreneurs face many challenges as they pursue a new business idea.  With the right legal tools, they can take steps that provide significant legal protections and avoid future liability.  Among other subjects, the course will cover American law on choice of entity (corporation, limited liability company, partnership, sole proprietorship), selection of a company name and trademark, protecting intellectual property of the business with patent, trade secret, trademark and copyright law, structuring agreements among owners, venture capital and other equity and debt financing arrangements, and the relationship between attorneys and entrepreneurs. In addition to discussing applicable legal rules, the course will focus on practical steps entrepreneurs and their lawyers can take to build and protect a new venture.  The goal of the course will be for students to have a better understanding of practical ways they can protect a new venture and spot potential issues from a business-legal perspective.

Course Syllabus

Week One

  • Introduction to Entrepreneurship Law
  • The Personality of the Entrepreneur
  • Leaving an Employer to Start a Business

Week Two

  • Choosing and Forming an Entity
  • Agreements Among Owners

Week Three

  • Intellectual Property: trademark, copyright, patent, trade secret, and nondisclosure agreements

Week Four

  • Financing a New Venture

Week Five

  • Hiring Workers and Employment Law

Week Six

  • Conducting Business Online
  • Final Thoughts

Recommended Background

The course is designed for students interested in learning about the business-legal aspects of entrepreneurship regardless of educational background.

Course Format

The course subjects are presented in the same order a typical entrepreneur would encounter them when starting a new business.  There are four or five short video lectures each week, along with reading assignments and a quiz.  In addition, there is a case study flowing through the entire course, which illustrates each week’s legal principles in a practical context.


  • Will I get a Statement of Accomplishment after completing this class?

    Yes. Students who successfully complete the class will receive a Statement of Accomplishment signed by the instructor.

    Northwestern Law School

    Professors Barron and Reed teach at Northwestern Law School, which has a national reputation for innovation in legal education. Barron is the director of the Entrepreneurship Law Center, and Reed is assistant director of the ELC and co-director of the largest and most successful JD/MBA program in the country. In 2014, the Law School will launch the Master of Science in Law program, a one-year degree program designed to allow engineering, science, and medical professionals the opportunity to study entrepreneurship from a business-legal perspective. The MSL program enables STEM-trained entrepreneurs to develop and protect their intellectual property and navigate the regulatory environment, so that they might bring their ideas to market.