CHARLESTON -- The West Virginia
University College of Law has launched a program to offer legal support as
well as educational services to Charleston.
The West Side Economic
Development Project (WSEDP) is the result of the collaboration between the Entrepreneurship
and Innovation Law Clinic (EILC), which is under the university, and the Legal
Aid of West Virginia. The project intends to raise the competencies of the
local businesses. In addition, it also aims to help other community
organizations as well as nonprofit groups. Entrepreneurs are also welcome to
take part and learn from the initiative.
The West Virginia
University law students who are part of the EILC volunteered to create the
material needed to extend crucial legal advice and law-related concepts to the project.
To align their contribution with the goals of the WSEDP, the law students would
provide materials related to the economic development efforts of the community.
Priya Baskaran, director of the EILC and an associate professor of law at the university, discussed the importance of the small businesses and other local organizations in
the community. According to her, the groups plan to provide a support system
for the entrepreneurs and businesses. That is, the project’s volunteers would
be sharing their knowledge of the law and their legal services to the community.
“Small businesses and
community organizations are an important part of the economic backbone of the
state," Baskaran told The West Virginia Record. "Our plan for this pilot project is to create a healthy system of legal
services to support entrepreneurs and organizations, helping communities build
wealth from within,”
Baskaran said the project aims to serve the needs of members of the community.
However, she pointed out, simply providing the materials to solve general
concerns will not be enough.
According to the EILC director, it would be
better and more beneficial if the businessmen, entrepreneurs and organizations provide information regarding their issues. In that manner, the project’s handlers
will have better insight on how to help their clients as well as what materials to provide.
“This project must be
driven by the community,” Baskaran said. "We can create generic
materials that would be useful but we can be even more effective if we first
get a sense of the types of businesses people actually want to start. We need
to know what the entrepreneurship environment is in that area so we can build
our services accordingly.”
To gain better understanding
of the community needs, the project will gather a focus group. With the information obtained from the group, the ELIC law students would
then create different multimedia legal resources. The topics will include issues linked to licensing and forming a limited liability company. They
will also discuss what is needed to qualify for non-profit status, how to protect
one’s intellectual property, and how to legally open specific types of
The materials will include videos, comprehensive guides and even
checklists. For the convenience of their target beneficiaries, the resources
would be made available online.