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Professor W. Sherman Rogers

Professor W. Sherman Rogers
March 2008

Why is Howard University’s School of Law offering a course on entrepreneurship?  Law professor W. Sherman Rogers can explain.  This semester, he launched the first course at Howard’s law school that explores the role of law in the entrepreneurial process:  “Entrepreneurship, Law, and Policy.”

Professor Rogers had been interested in entrepreneurship for some time.  After all, he was a registered stockbroker and general securities principal with licenses in life and health insurance.  However, he did not consider creating a course on entrepreneurship until Howard’s Institute for Entrepreneurship, Leadership & Innovation (ELI) invited him to attend an “Experiential Classroom Seminar” at Syracuse University in the fall of 2005.  The seminar sparked ideas that helped him structure an entrepreneurship course at Howard’s School of Law.  Just before he started teaching the class, he also attended “Infusing Entrepreneurship into Your Curriculum,” a seminar co-sponsored by ELI and CETLA, which featured Dr. Anthony Mendes from the Academy for Entrepreneurial Leadership at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. This workshop also proved helpful since Dr. Mendes showed faculty how they could prepare students for entrepreneurship in any discipline.

But why is entrepreneurship important in all disciplines?  Professor Rogers explains,
“Small entrepreneurial firms are responsible for 67 percent of all innovation in the United States and have been responsible for 95% of all radical innovations since World War II.”  Moreover, he observes, start-up companies have accounted for a disproportionate share of new jobs.  While these trends alone are sufficient reasons for Howard to promote entrepreneurship, Professor Rogers cites another reason why Howard should groom entrepreneurs: “Virtually all studies,” he says, “have resoundingly concluded that business ownership and government recognition (and protection) of private property rights will play a vital role in bringing prosperity to disadvantaged groups and countries.”  What some people may not realize is that entrepreneurship includes not only ownership of for-profit businesses but also non-profit organizations that engage in “social entrepreneurship.”  Social entrepreneurship can appeal to students in the arts and sciences as well as those in professional schools.  For instance, a political science major might want to organize a coalition of restaurants to combat hunger while a chemistry major might seek to set up a mobile lab to help inner-city residents identify environmental hazards. 

Professor W. Sherman RogersWhether the ventures are for profit or not, they require a common set of entrepreneurial skills.  Consequently, Professor Rogers’ course shows students how to generate successful business ideas, turn an idea into an entrepreneurial firm, and both manage and expand the firm.  (Click here to read the syllabus.) The syllabus states, “The purpose of the course, Entrepreneurship, Law, and Policy is to teach law students (and, perhaps, students from other disciplines) how to practically apply the wide and varied body of legal principles involved in establishing and expanding a business venture.  The course will primarily explore the role of law in the entrepreneurial process in the following legal areas: corporate law, agency law, business organizations’ law, intellectual property law, small business administration law, tax law, franchise law and the law which governs efforts to raise capital.”  During the term, students write a concept statement for a business, a feasibility analysis, a business model, articles of organization, an agreement among owners, and a business plan.  The students also learn from numerous guest speakers who share insights that they gained as entrepreneurs. 

In response, Professor Rogers’ students have begun to develop their entrepreneurial dreams:  a marketing agency for athletes, a moving service for senior citizens, a Black Christian attorney network, an essay-writing workshop for prospective college students, an elder care service, a one-stop sports and entertainment firm, a music studio for piano lessons, and more.  Since his course is new, it is too early to assess the impact on the students.  However, one can only imagine what an impact the new course will have if one considers the testimony of an alumnus who benefited from Professor Rogers’ earlier efforts to instill entrepreneurship.  The alumnus writes, “I made use of [a] pamphlet you made up which consisted of graduates of Howard Law that had established their own practices.  I contacted several of these people and was able to gain valuable insight into the life of a solo/small practitioner. After thinking about it for some time, I decided to follow in the footsteps of these individuals and start my own practice as well.” 



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