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UC Law student guides local entrepreneurs

Asa Bell discovered a passion for helping small business owners while working with the Entrepreneurship and Community Development Clinic

University of Cincinnati Law student Asa Bell has always had a strong interest in both business and law. To explore how these two disciplines might be combined in practice, he applied to work with the Entrepreneurship and Community Development Clinic (ECDC) last summer. The ECDC provides hands-on experience to law students and legal services to local small business owners and entrepreneurs.

Asa Bell III

Asa Bell III, current student in both the UC College of Law and Carl H. Lindner School of Business

Bell met with the clinic’s founder and then-director, Professor Lewis Goldfarb, who told him about MORTAR. MORTAR is a business accelerator located in Cincinnati’s Over-the-Rhine downtown district, founded specifically to serve entrepreneurs from underrepresented groups and thereby create opportunities for residents to participate in the economic revitalization of their urban neighborhoods.

Some graduates of MORTAR’s accelerator program became clients of the ECDC. Part of Bell’s internship experience included meeting with clients and learning about their business, in order to identify what legal needs they may have.

“People really do appreciate the help that the clinic gives,” said Bell, “sometimes they may not even realize the legal issues they may have, and we are able to spot them and protect them from future liability.”

Bell found it a rewarding experience, and a great way to explore his interests in both business and law while working in a practical setting.

“The thing that I loved the most was the feeling of making a difference, helping to secure the business of a person who, 10-15 years ago, may not have been able to break into this space.”

Bell credits his father, Asa Bell Jr., with showing him the value and possibility offered by a joint degree. Bell Jr. is an alumnus of both the School of Law and the Kenan-Flagler School of Business at the University of North Carolina. When the younger Bell finished his undergraduate degree at UNC Charlotte, he wanted to study business further but also dreamed of practicing law one day. Naturally, the idea of simply doing both did not seem too far-fetched.

“It’s important for a business to spot potential legal issues and protect against them, but the solutions are not always legal; the solution may be innovative marketing, for instance. So, the two can work hand-in-hand,” said Bell.

As Bell was preparing to apply to law schools, his advisor suggested he consider UC College of Law. Seeing UC’s unique combination of high rankings and affordability, he decided to pay a visit. While here, he met with Dean Emeritus Louis Bilionis, whose description of Cincinnati and UC were instrumental in Bell’s decision to enroll.

“People here care about people. That was the impression I got from the person at the front desk the first time I entered the law school, from Dean Bilionis, and from the students I spoke with during my visit. And it’s been that way ever since.”

Bell said this experience with the ECDC has further kindled his interest in intellectual property and introduced him to the possibility of business consulting as a possible future career path. “The practical skills I gained while working under the supervising attorney, Tom Cuni, were invaluable,“ Bell said, “I feel very fortunate to have been part of the clinic this summer.”