By Eli A. Shalam J.D. ’16
By the time my first semester at HLS began, I was chomping at the bit to work with the Harvard Law Entrepreneurship Project (aka “HLEP”—pronounced aitch-lep). By early October, I was placed on a team with three other law students researching the impact of independent contractor and employee classifications on a company’s business model. Our client was a company that facilitated the booking of housekeepers to clean customers’ homes*. The main issue was that the company wanted strict standards to ensure the quality and consistency of the customer experience, but did not want to risk any sort of liability if, for example, a housekeeper started a major fire in a customer’s home, a customer’s pet severely injured a housekeeper, or a housekeeper accidentally spilled cleaning supplies on priceless curios. Our job was to advise the company on whether, and how, to classify the housekeepers as employees or independent contractors.
The project began to get very real for me when one of the attorneys assigned to our team suddenly perked up during the client intake meeting and realized that her husband had just used the client’s service to hire a housekeeper during the prior week! This company was already operating in the Boston area and my team and I were in a position to directly influence their business!
That January, I applied for a seat on the Executive Board and became the organization’s Vice President of Operations—managing the team assignment and administration process, from collecting client, attorney, and law student applications, to assigning everyone to a team within their top few preferences, and ensuring that projects were completed without a hitch and to the clients’ satisfaction. One year later, I became President of HLEP during a period of huge growth. In my first semester with the organization, we had 54 students working with 12 attorneys on 14 client-projects. This past semester we had 133 students working with 39 attorneys on 30 client-projects. And every semester, as I review the wide array of client applications that we receive —an entrepreneur wildly passionate about selling his favorite beverage, two separate companies trying to build power generation plants, an alternative ice-cream store, numerous pharmaceutical companies, and investment funds — I remember the project that got me started in HELP, where I was able to work with two great entrepreneurs to revolutionize home cleaning services and the 90 other companies that we have helped since then.
*The nature of the client’s business has been altered to protect the client’s privacy.