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Channel, UNC Law School Aid Wilmington Small Businesses

By Audrey Elsberry, posted May 16, 2024
Chakema Clinton-Quintana (middle), director of Channel, addresses the crowd at its first event in partnership with UNC Law School. (Photo courtesy of Channel)
Channel, an inclusive small business center powered by Live Oak Bank, partnered with the University of North Carolina School of Law Institute for Innovation to host three legal clinics for Wilmington small businesses and nonprofits.
 
Chakema Clinton-Quintana, the director of Channel, connected with UNC Law about how to fill the gaps in what the organization provides to Wilmington small businesses. The partnership that grew from these conversations began in March, and the resources are open to all who need them, she said. The three clinics at Channel are Startup NC Law Clinic, Community Development Law Clinic and Intellectual Property Clinic.
 
UNC Law offers clinics that provide business owners one-on-one conversations with the school’s third-year law students, overseen by university faculty. The partnership’s first event, the Intellectual Property Clinic, served as Channel’s kickoff event on March 12, introducing small business owners to the professors and dean of UNC Law Martin Brinkley.
 
The clinic was not only a welcoming gathering to UNC Law but also educated small business owners like Lynne Jones, owner of LJ Design Studio, on issues like trademarks, Jones said.
 
“I definitely left with tons of information,” she said. “One thing in particular was knowing that with a trademark, your right of use can actually trademark your company without you having to pay the fee.”
 
The next event, Startups NC Law Clinic, will happen June 10, and Channel will post the registration link on their Facebook page, Clinton-Quintana said. UNC Law’s Brinkley will expand on the legal basics of starting a business.
 
“We all think that we know what the startup basics are, but from a legal perspective, sometimes we don’t,” Clinton-Quintana said.
 
UNC Law’s Institute for Innovation focuses on starting new businesses, and the school’s officials see a lot of new businesses coming out of New Hanover County,  said Aaron Gard, executive director of the Institute for Innovation.
 
Gard said his organization does not want to only give its resources to the Triangle region. Partnering with Channel allowed the law students and faculty to reach the coast’s businesses. One of the law school’s alumni had a connection with Live Oak Bank, which is how the two entities got connected, he said.
 
“Wilmington is an area that we want to get to, to help folks outside of where we are physically,” he said.
 
Free resources for small businesses are a cornerstone of UNC Law’s clinics. It is also very advantageous for small businesses, Jones said.
 
“To hire a lawyer to help you with your contracts and things like that, it’s very expensive,” Jones said. “So for them to offer that for free is definitely an asset to any business.”
 
UNC Law clinics will be back in the fall on Oct. 17 and 18, Gard said, for Pro Bono Hours at Channel’s office through UNC Law’s Pro Bono Program.
 
“One thing that I’m really excited about is the partnership in general,” Clinton-Quintana said. “To be able to get some free resources for our small business owners to keep them in the know, educated and growing their businesses, is what I love the most about this entire piece.”
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