By: VJ Vesnaver, J.D. ’19
Working with The Harvard Law Entrepreneurship Project (HLEP) was one my most meaningful and fulfilling experiences during my time at HLS. I came to law school with the intention of gaining the skills necessary to help early stage companies navigate mission critical legal questions. HLEP gave me an opportunity to develop and hone those skills almost from day one. 1L year can be a bit of a grind. For students interested in corporate and transactional law, it can be especially draining since the required curriculum has limited relevance to your career interests. SPOs like HLEP offer a phenomenal opportunity to step outside of the classroom as a first-year while using your newly acquired legal knowledge to add value on real client projects with help from actual practicing attorneys at firms like Cooley, Goodwin, Fenwick, and Wilson Sonsini.
During my first semester of law school, I worked with a group of four other students as a team leader on my first HLEP project. Our client was an early stage non-profit organization working to build a legal-tech platform that enabled prisoners to easily file post-conviction petitions with the court. Their product allowed prisoners to continue their legal process on their timeline and with limited resources. Our client had tons of interesting questions about how to build their product in a compliant fashion and we were thrilled to be able to help so early in our legal careers. We also were incredibly lucky to be working with two seasoned attorneys from Cooley on this project. We were learning and developing new skills every step of the way. Our client was ultimately able to use our advice to shape the development of their product and to assist in fundraising efforts with outside donors. Seeing the immediate impact of our work on an actual client’s business model was truly inspirational. I was hooked.
After my rewarding experience as a team leader during the fall semester, I joined the HLEP board as the Director of Operations that following spring. This gave me the incredible opportunity to serve in a leadership position as a first-year student, while also providing exposure to the full range of interesting projects that were coming through our doors at HLEP. In my time as Director of Operations (and later as President), I was repeatedly blown away by the diversity of clients that our students were working with. We had clients ranging from a company working to launch a network of satellites into space (my first introduction to “space law”), to a team at Harvard College working to re-imagine how we interact with online news media, to a founder launching a children’s clothing line. We’ve had students join client teams as co-founders and client companies fall apart and disappear mid-project. There was truly never a dull moment.
I was drawn to HLEP because of the amazing exposure to interesting startups and hands-on legal work, but there is no doubt that I stayed because of the people. HLS is a huge place with seemingly unlimited opportunities to engage and learn. It’s completely amazing, but it can also be a little overwhelming. Finding a group of students with similar interests was crucial to my well-being and made me instantly feel that I had a community to return to whenever I began entertaining creeping doubts about my path at school or in my career. I made many of my best law school friends through HLEP, and found that there was truly no better way to engage with other people interested in the world of innovative startups and the unique legal challenges they face.
I’m incredibly grateful to have had the opporutnity to be a part of such an awesome orgniazation while at HLS. I’m headed to BCG in Seattle after HLS to work as a management consultant. While this is a bit of a pivot outside of the world of start-up law, the client management skills, creative problem solving practice, and leadership experience I gained through my work with HLEP will be an invaluable resource as I embark on this next phase in my career. Thanks so much to Linda Cole and everyone within the TLC and OCP for helping us build such an impactful organization at HLS. I can’t wait to continue working with HLEP as alum in the years to come.