Law School Never Taught Me to Be an Entrepreneur

Nicholas Allard

I am not an entrepreneur, not by my standards, or anyone else’s. I am a lawyer and lobbyist. Now I am Dean of a law school that has a reputation for innovation and training lawyers to work with startups, but I am still no entrepreneur.

I did not “risk the farm” to start a business. But, I’ve worked side-by-side with dozens of entrepreneurs, helping them deal with business regulations and legislative inequities, find legitimate and legal ways to work around outdated rules, structure their businesses to comply with myriad laws — and find opportunities in legal changes.

For example, in 1996, I had input in the Telecommunications Act that opened the door for competition in communications. In opening the door for competition, we grew the pie.

Think about it. Today, we live in a mobile, on-demand, interconnected, global world of variety unbounded by borders, imposed schedules, and distance — a world in which my students cannot conceive of waiting to see their favorite TV show or movie.  Grandparents watch grandchildren grow up hour-by-hour from afar over an iPhone photos and videos. Parents call their children on campus to tell them there is a contagious disease outbreak before their kids know about it. Brooklyn Law students enroll in a business course on entrepreneurship online taught at Stanford for free. And, every toddler knows how to hold a mobile phone, or order pizza from his dad’s iPad.

The year 1996 was simply one starting point of change. My colleagues and I have been privileged to address many other legislative and regulatory issues including cyber business, healthcare, and energy — all in helping level the playing field for free and fair competition. Simply put, those of us who work as lawyer/lobbyists have been there to answer the entrepreneur’s battle cry: “There is a better way!” We worked to open competition, enable technological deployment and expand entrepreneurs’ horizons.

Still, no one taught us how to work with an entrepreneur. I, for one, had to learn it all myself along the way. But, even my on-the-job training did not result in my learning to be an entrepreneur. I do not think it can be taught. Not at least the creativity, fearlessness and drive that is innate to entrepreneurs.

So, while I admit that entrepreneurship cannot be taught, we have had the chutzpah to start a Center for Urban Entrepreneurship Program (CUBE) at Brooklyn Law School. We are embedding law students right into working with entrepreneurs in DUMBO (the hot tech startup area) in Brooklyn.

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