U-M Law student focuses on entrepreneurship

By Lori Atherton
Michigan Law Communications

Joseph Morrison, Jr., arrived at Michigan Law with an interest in practicing corporate law, but after discovering that “Ann Arbor and Detroit have a young and vibrant entrepreneurial community,” his interest in entrepreneurial and venture capital–related law was piqued.

“Detroit and Ann Arbor are doing big things, and the University is focused on uniting engineering, business, and law students and creating an environment where we can foster the entrepreneurial spirit,” Morrison said. “You feel like you’re getting in on the ground floor of a real boom here.”

The 3L—who is poised to graduate in December—took Financing Research Commercialization with Professor David Brophy in U-M’s Stephen M. Ross School of Business, where he had an opportunity to meet local lawyers, venture capitalists, and entrepreneurs, who shone a light on the thriving entrepreneurial activities in southeast Michigan.

“When I came to Michigan entrepreneurship wasn’t on my radar, because I didn’t know about the community in southeastern Michigan,” said Morrison, who hails from the Washington, D.C., area and graduated with a finance degree (BSBA) from the University of Richmond Robins School of Business. “I became more interested once this community showed itself to be more vibrant than D.C.”

In addition to his Commercialization class, Morrison took Entrepreneurial Exits with Professor Erik Gordon, director of the Zell Entrepreneurship and Law (ZEAL) Program, and is currently taking Investor Protection with Professor Alicia Davis and Negotiating Entrepreneurial Issues with Lecturer Alyssa Martina.

He is also enrolled in the Entrepreneurship Clinic, where he and other students are gaining practical experience by representing a client in the business incubator stage. “A lot of the clinic’s clients are trying to figure out where they want to incorporate,” Morrison noted, “but some of the clients are past that point, too. They’re trying to figure out how to develop their product, bring on employees, and structure their board.”

Morrison hopes to stay involved with the clinic after he graduates, since he’ll be working with Honigman Miller Schwartz and Cohn, LLP in Ann Arbor. The Ann Arbor office, headed by David Parsigian, adjunct clinical assistant professor of law in the Entrepreneurship Clinic, focuses on corporate and patent law and counts both entrepreneurs and venture capitalists among its clients.

“The creation of a company or the building of a new product and working through the struggles is just a really interesting way to spend your time,” Morrison said. “When you’re a lawyer representing an entrepreneur or a venture capitalist, you’re functioning not just as a lawyer, but as an advisor. You get a huge range of issues, and I feel the diversity is a valuable thing to have in a career.”

His advice for students that may be interested in entrepreneurship and law? Get involved with the local entrepreneurial community.

“You can take a law class and it will spark your interest,” Morrison said, “but until you get out and meet some entrepreneurs, you don’t really know if they’re who you want to be working with once you’re done with school. Go to a meeting where local entrepreneurs come in and pitch their ideas. Talk to them or shoot them an email. It’s an awesome community that puts a practical side to your legal education. I recommend it to anyone who has an interest in entrepreneurs or starting their own business.”