In the past year, Southwestern has undertaken a series of innovative initiatives aimed at strengthening its students’ practical skills, building hubs of entrepreneurship, and creating further connections in the legal community.

After several months of planning, on June 6, 2017, Southwestern launched the six-session seminar series,How to Start and Build a Law Practice.

Kimberlina N. McKinney of KL&C Partners and Jaia Thomas, Esq. teach the course in partnership. Both attorneys have first-hand experience with the unique challenges and issues involved in forming a law practice.Before graduating from law school, Ms. McKinney desired to open up her own practice but did not have the tools or understand how to sustain/grow a law practice. After about 3 years of practice, she opened KL&C Partners, a boutique entertainment firm catering to production companies and studios.

Six years ago, Ms. Thomas, an entertainment and intellectual property attorney, decided to leave her job at a large New York law firm and launch her own solo firm. “I knew how to practice law, but I didn’t know how to run a business,” Thomas said. “It was a lot of trial and error, and I made a lot of mistakes along the way.”

Ms. Thomas’spersonal experience prompted her to write a magazine article a couple of years ago titled, “Why Every Law School Should Teach Entrepreneurship.” After hitting it off with each other at an industry event, Kimberlina and Jaia sparked the idea of creating a course to guide law students through the dos and don’ts of opening a law office.

The seminar, complimentary to current Southwestern students, is designed to provide participants with the tools needed to launch and support their own law practices, whether as a solo or as a small firm. Topics covered in the evening class include business formation, marketing strategies, electronic filing and document preparation. The students learn about the practical and ethical issues related to billing, trust accounts, collections and client interaction.

This summer, the instructors invited 15 fellow attorneys to come to speak to the class about their experiences. They also provided a digital toolbox for students with resources they can use, as well as an extensive reading list. A reception culminating the end of the series is planned for July 25.

Ms. Thomas earned a bachelor’s degree from Colgate University before heading to law school. She has taught as an adjunct professor at UCLA and American University, and has guest lectured at Vassar College, Georgetown University and Carnegie Mellon University. She has been cited as a legal expert in The New York Times and USA Today and is a regular contributor for Entrepreneur Magazine.

Ms. McKinney has also been extremely vital in the preparation and presentation of the course material. She is an experienced transnational attorney who focuses on issues related to the entertainment and digital media industries. She is currently an adjunct professor at California State University, Northridge in the business law department. Ms. McKinney received her law degree from UCLA School of Law and holds a B.A. in Sociology and Black Studies from Scripps College.

Southwestern has received incredibly positive feedback from the seminar’s current students, and plans to continue offering the course during winter and/or summer intercession. The seminar nicely compliments Southwestern’s traditional curriculum on the subject of entrepreneurship and launching a solo practice. According to Assistant Dean, Shar Poormosleh, “How to Start and Build a Law Practice:” is one of a series of initiatives recently launched by the Career Services Office aimed at specialized skills-based programming with a particular focus on connecting students with the legal community in a meaningful way.”


by: Kimberlina McKinney

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