Institute for Innovation

Located on Franklin Street in downtown Chapel Hill, the UNC Law Institute for Innovation provides early stage legal counsel to new for-profit and nonprofit ventures. Made possible by a generous gift from the William R. Kenan Jr. Charitable Trust and support from the North Carolina General Assembly, the Institute serves business and social enterprise entrepreneurs on the campuses of UNC-Chapel Hill and North Carolina State University, in partnership with UNC Kenan-Flagler Business School and NC State University’s Poole College of Management, as well as the innovation and entrepreneurship infrastructures on both campuses. The Institute also aims to support economic development of under-resourced communities, with an emphasis on rural North Carolina.

The Institute is comprised of three law clinics supervised by full-time members of the law school faculty:

  • Startup NC Law Clinic advises for profit startups, entrepreneurs and small businesses across a broad spectrum of North Carolina industries.
  • Community Development Law Clinic advises social entrepreneurs who seek to bring about positive social change by forming and qualifying tax-exempt nonprofit organizations.
  • Intellectual Property Clinic assists individuals and small businesses with trademark and copyright clearance, protection, and contractual matters that affect intellectual property rights.

Student Opportunities

Each year, up to 48 law school students enrolled in clinics based at the Institute have the opportunity to gain hands-on experience working with real clients who are contributing to the economy of North Carolina.

Students counsel business founders on the advantages and disadvantages of business and nonprofit entity structures, form appropriate entities, draft contracts, capture and license intellectual property assets, and seek tax-exempt status for community-based nonprofit organizations.


This institute provides rigorous, hands-on training for the next generation of public-spirited lawyers while also filling gaps in North Carolina’s entrepreneurship ecosystem.


Martin H. Brinkley ’92, UNC School of Law Dean
and Arch T. Allen Distinguished Professor of Law