"We strive to give our clients more than they expect."
In the Fall 2005 semester, the SMU Dedman School of Law Small Business Clinic began providing free legal services to small businesses and non-profit organizations that couldn’t afford legal fees. Trademark services were added to the Clinic in the Fall 2014 semester.
Our Mission and Goals
Our mission continues to be to provide free legal services to new and existing small businesses and non-profit organizations that cannot afford to pay legal fees. Our goal is to provide our students with the experiential learning to become competent transactional lawyers. Our law students gain experience and learn necessary skills by actually representing real clients in real legal matters as associate members of the State Bar of Texas.
Description of Work
The Small Business and Trademark Clinic operates as a law firm, providing law students interested in transactional law with practical skills and training in many areas used by business lawyers in private practice.
Our law students (associate members) assist small businesses and non-profit organizations with various legal matters that these entities and individuals face. Associate members advise clients regarding the start-up of their businesses and assist in preparing necessary legal documents. Associate members also form and give advice to non-profit organizations. Associate members learn how to work with clients by acquiring hands-on experience in representing clients with their business and trademark needs, including at the United States Patent & Trademark Office (“USPTO”).
As part of the USPTO law school clinic certification program, our associate members actually practice Intellectual Property Law before the USPTO under the strict guidance of a law school faculty Clinic supervisor. In the Small Business and Trademark Clinic, our associate members draft and file trademark applications and gain experience answering Office Actions and communicating with trademark examining attorneys for the applications they have filed.
Services Offered to Clients
The Small Business and Trademark Clinic and its associate members (law students) offer a wide range of services, including:
- Start-up services for non-profit organizations, including assisting in applying for tax-exempt status
- Start-up services for small for-profit businesses, including counseling on organizational structure and operations
- Preparation of various documents used in the formation of new businesses
- Negotiation and drafting of legal contracts and documents used by small businesses and non-profit organizations
- Legal advice regarding the implications and use of various contracts, leases and other documents
- Review of contracts presented to small businesses and non-profit organizations by third parties
- Preparation of Copyright and Trademark applications
The Client's Role
Prospective clients should apply for representation by completing an initial application. This is the first step in the Clinic’s consideration of whether or not to accept the client. The completed application should be scanned and emailed to firstname.lastname@example.org or faxed to 214-768-1760 or mailed to SMU Dedman School of Law, Small Business and Trademark Clinic, P.O. Box 750116, Dallas, TX 75275-0116. Please keep in mind that there is a WAITING LIST for Clinic legal services.
The application will be reviewed by a faculty member and, if it meets Clinic requirements, the prospective client will be called for an initial telephone screening. After the telephone screening, an in-person interview will be scheduled with one of our associate members. The interview is a required step before the Clinic will determine if it will offer to accept the applicant as a client. Decisions to offer representation to clients are based on a number of factors, such as the nature of the case, the caseload of the Clinic, the educational needs of the associate members, and whether we believe the Clinic can properly assist the client. The Clinic only represents those who cannot afford to pay private lawyer fees.
After the in–person interview, the Clinic Director, in consultation with the associate member who conducted the interview, will make a decision about whether the applicant will be accepted as a client. Once a prospective client has been tentatively accepted, the client must enter into a formal engagement agreement with the Clinic and pay an administrative fee of $25.00. At that point, the applicant will become a client of the Clinic.
Clients are expected to communicate with the assigned associate member in a timely manner, including reviewing drafts of documents and attending any necessary meetings. While there is no fee for services (other than the $25.00 administrative fee), clients will be responsible for paying all costs or filing fees required by applicable governmental entities (such as the filing fees mandated by the IRS or the application fees required by the Patent & Trademark Office and the Copyright Office), along with any related out-of-pocket expenses incurred by the Clinic.
We reserve the right to terminate any relationship at any time if we believe it is required by the Rules of Professional Conduct or if we determine that the client is not cooperating with the associate member or fails to pay required filing fees or other costs.
Importantly, we do not give legal advice or answer questions unless and until the person seeking advice is a client who has been formally accepted by the Clinic, has signed the engagement letter, and has paid the $25.00 administrative fee. Any comments or information provided prior to or outside the formal Clinic-client relationship (including as part of the telephone screening and in-person interview) do not constitute the giving of legal advice and do not operate to create an attorney-client relationship.
The Small Business and Trademark Clinic is located on the SMU campus in the lower level of Storey Hall, which is located at the southeast corner of Hillcrest and Daniel Streets.
SMU Dedman School of Law also offers assistance to low income individuals in its Tax, Patent, Civil, Criminal Defense, Consumer Advocacy, Family Law, Crimes Against Women, Actual Innocence and Child Advocacy Clinics. For information on these Clinics, you can call 214-768-2562.
Faculty and Staff
Kandace D. Walter
Director and Associate Clinical Professor of Law, Small Business and Trademark Clinic
Criminal Justice, Innocence, Patent,
Small Business, Tax, and Trademark Clinics
SMU Dedman School of Law
P.O. Box 750116
Dallas, TX 75275-0116
SMU Dedman School of Law
3315 Daniel Avenue, Suite 30
Dallas, TX 75205