For The Record

Topping the list of reasons Heidi Field-Alvarez created a business were her love of textiles, her recognition of a market niche, and her desire to help a good cause.

But her knowledge of trademark protection? That was for another list, the one of critical legal issues with which she had no experience. That’s why a nonprofit that provides mentoring and education to small-business owners connected her with Richmond Law’s Intellectual Property and Transactional Law Clinic.

Field-Alvarez’s company, Lottie Belle, sells active wear lingerie for young adults. She funnels 20 percent of the profits to Sylvia’s Sisters, a nonprofit that helps girls living in extreme poverty stay in school by providing free hygiene products.

Field-Alvarez spent the initial months of her company launch identifying small-quantity manufacturers and vendors for online transactions. Throughout the process, “trademark protection was key for me,” she said, “because we were developing our marketing and branding. I wanted to make sure we were protected for that.”

At the Richmond Law clinic, students help clients anticipate their legal needs, said Ashley Dobbs, the clinic’s director.

“Regardless of where a business is in its lifecycle, the clinic’s student attorneys assist with typical transactions and IP issues,” Dobbs said. “Student attorneys handle all drafting, reviewing, negotiating, researching, and advising for our business and individual clients.”

In addition to helping Field-Alvarez through multiple trademark issues, students helped draft and review sales representative agreements, contractor agreements, and a website privacy policy.
But the benefits of the student-client interaction flow in both directions.

“You can think of it like a teaching hospital for lawyers,” said Dustin Knight, L’17, one of the clinic’s students. “It’s really neat, from our perspective, to go into the UR bookstore and see [Lottie Belle merchandise] and think, ‘We had a hand in helping her secure her IP rights on that.’”