Brooklyn Law School’s CUBE program offers students new ways into the legal field
Brooklyn Law School (BLS) has become one of the preeminent law schools in the country in sending students into alternative legal career paths. At the heart of that effort has is its Center for Urban Business Entrepreneurship (CUBE), which has been working to connect students with Brooklyn’s incubators, accelerators and co-working spaces.
CUBE is a program that provides clinical courses at the school and hosts public programs that highlight the startup industry and lawyers roles within it.
Last Thursday CUBE hosted an event titled, “The Evolving Definition of Workspace: Exploring the real estate and legal challenges faced by NYC’s co-working spaces” where a panel of experts who discussed the rapid growth of the startup community and the legal challenges it faces.
“We can’t get everyone in our community to go to the incubators so we decided to bring them here to our turf,” said professor Jonathan Askin, who serves as CUBE’s Innovation Catalyst.
In addition to Askin, the panel included Rebecca Birmingham, general counsel and head of development at New Lab/Macro-Sea; Mark Jackson, general counsel at Two Trees Management Co.; Livia Corredor, co-director of legal affairs for Forest City Ratner; Kai Feder, co-chair of P/PREP and senior account executive at Yoswein New York; Anisha Steephen, community development officer at LISC; Joseph Tazewell, the regional director for NYC at the Empire State Development; and Mark Anthony Thomas, senior VP at New York City Economic Development Corporation.
Askin explained that he helped to start what would eventually become CUBE approximately 10 years ago after he had left one of the big Manhattan law firms. He explained that he felt like he wasn’t learning skills to ready him for a changing economy and didn’t feel connected to the community.
“Our core mission is to be this connector to the incubators, co-working spaces and accelerators,” Askin said of CUBE. “If we could be that neutral arms broker for the incubators and co-working spaces that’s a valuable function for law schools to serve.”
CUBE’s goal is to ready law school students for an environment where lawyers are, more than ever, going into alternative fields. Askin explained that Birmingham, one of the panelists and a 2011 alumnus, is the perfect example of what the program is trying to accomplish.
“She was general counsel of Macro-Sea, who decided to set up her shop in the New Lab and now she’s general counsel to New Lab. She has her desk right in the middle of New Lab and she’s watching everything grow.
“I want our students to play vital roles in shaping these new ventures,” Askin continued. “It’s exposing students to what the 21st century environment looks like, to be self-sufficient, self-promoters, and to understand the role of the lawyer in the new world. Our goal is to train the students to think like the startups and how to maneuver like the startups.”
Last year, CUBE provided more than 17,500 hours of pro bono services to startups and has become the de facto counsel for many small companies in Brooklyn. BLS’s role in this industry has now become so large that they are regularly referring work to alumni once startups begin to receive funding.
“Essentially, Jonathan has positioned the law school to serve as the de facto outside general counsel to many of these incubator programs and their constituents,” said John Rudikoff, CUBE CEO and managing director.
“Jonathan and I will travel with students to incubators all over the borough and we tell them that this is the office of the future. This is what their practice is going to look like. You are going to be in a coworking space, an incubator space, you are going to sit down next to a client and help them out with a budget as best you can.”
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