New Intellectual Property Venture Clinic Management Expanding Clinic Footprint in Northeast Ohio

Zahra Smith and Scarlett White

This summer, Zahra Smith and Scarlett White joined Case Western Reserve University School of Law’s Intellectual Property Venture Clinic(IPVC). Smith, the new IPVC director and practitioner in residence, and White,the client coordinator of the IPVC and the Ohio Patent Pro Bono Programs, are working closely with the entrepreneurs and area startups while expanding the clinic’s reach throughout the Northeastern Ohio region.

Before joining the IPVC as the new director, Smith earned a degree in civil engineering from the University of Pennsylvania before deciding to pursue a law degree from Emory University. Following law school, Smith worked in civil litigation for the city of New York and as an intellectual property lawyer with Greenberg Traurig LLP before joining a group of friends’ startup company as legal counsel.“For me, working at a startup was a great situation,” said Smith. “It was dynamic, fast paced and gave me a broad exposure to the law.Instead of being siloed into one specialization, I was more of a swiss army knife, doing a little bit of everything from working on administrative issues,business, intellectual property, labor and employment law, purchase and sales agreements, risk and data privacy.”

With some good timing, as Smith was looking to move to Cleveland with her fiancé, the IPVC director job was created with support of funding from the Burton D. Morgan Foundation. Ted Theofrastous, the managing attorney and co-founder of the clinic, saw a natural fit with Smith.“Zahra brings a lot to the table as an experienced civil engineer and intellectual property attorney,” said Theofrastous. “She was an excellent choice to take the work that we started four years ago and further build out our vision for the clinic.”

Smith is joined by Scarlett White, who left her position as a department assistant with the law school’s Milton A. Kramer Law Clinic Centerto serve as the client coordinator for the IPVC and the Patent Pro Bono Program, which works to connect inventors with volunteer patent attorneys to help remove legal barriers for area entrepreneurs.   White manages each program’s client interview and intake processes, databases and business development and outreach. 

“It’s an exciting area to work in, connecting clients with great ideas with the people that have the expertise to help them develop and commercialize their work,” said White. “Cleveland has such a strong ecosystem for startups and our clinic is working hard to make it even stronger.”

For Smith and White, their goal is to deepen the experience of the clinic’s students while expanding the law school’s footprint in the community by raising awareness of the IPVC’s services through satellite offices in Kent State, Baldwin Wallace University, Lorain County Community College and here at Case Western Reserve University, while also building out the Patent Pro Bono Program’s volunteer attorney base across the entire state of Ohio.

“We want to get the word out in the community about what we can do for them,” said Smith. “From there, our goal is to stand out though the depth of the assistance we provide clients and the quality of our instruction to students.”