Startup Law: Sustainability

Stanford law students, working under the supervision of the Stanford attorney teaching team, provide pro bono legal assistance and support to non-profit and for-profit startups focused on climate, sustainability, and impact.


The program is open for engagements all year. The program typically supports:

  • Formation / incorporation, including social and sustainable enterprise structures
  • Founder equity issuance
  • Founder IP assignment to corporation
  • Hiring advisors and consultants
  • Fundraising (convertible notes, SAFEs, or equity <$5M)
  • Legal research & issue spotting
  • Referrals to specialists (immigration, patent, trademark)
Business meeting


“You get to understand the entrepreneur's mindset and their motivations at the early stage, setting you up to be familiar with the core legal documents, business decisions, and interpersonal relationships.”

2L Student

“Beyond helping us on legal matters, the students have truly been thought partners on a higher level. They have saved us so much time – and money. They ask great questions, have incredibly valuable feedback, and they go above and beyond their legal calling. They are really interested in us as people and in the success of the company at large.”

Client: Carbon Credits

“I'm leaving this class with applicable skills, a better understanding of startup law and sustainability, and more deeply examined thoughts about the kind of life I hope to live and the impact I hope to have on the world.”

2L Student

“Thank you so much for your valuable support as we start up our venture. I'm grateful and will be happy to return this favor in the future. It has been easy to work with everyone, and I can see the quality of work completed.”

Client: BioTech

“Thank you all so much! It was wonderful working with all of you! I will share information about the program with my founder groups and spread the word on this wonderful opportunity for founders.”

Client: Sustainable Fashion

“If you are interested in EC/VC, this is a fantastic opportunity to gain first-hand experience assisting clients from formation to fundraising. As a 3L, this has been my favorite class at SLS.”

3L Student

“This class is an incredible learning environment with unique access to clients, professors, and other classmates.”

3L Student

“This is an invaluable opportunity to try transactional work with a social purpose.”

2L Student

“The class has made me really excited to practice law.”

3L Student

“Thanks for your patience and for all the great work. It is of great help for us.”

Client: Decarbonization



Robert Bartlett

  • W. A. Franke Professor of Law and Business
  • Professor of Finance (by courtesy), Stanford Graduate School of Business
  • Senior Fellow, Stanford Institute for Economic Policy Research
  • Faculty Co-Director, Rock Center for Corporate Governance

Barton Thompson

  • Robert E. Paradise Professor of Natural Resources Law
  • Senior Fellow, Woods Institute for the Environment
  • Professor, Doerr School of Sustainability

Law course is a win-win-win for students, startups, and the planet

Photo of Stanford lecturers Molly Melius, JD '10, and Sam McClure, JD '17.


A unique hands-on class teaches Stanford Law School students how to counsel early-stage companies that are tackling pressing environmental issues. Startup Law: Sustainability, conceived and co-taught by lecturers Molly Melius, JD ’10, and Sam McClure, JD ’17, takes a win-win-win approach to teaching SLS students about what it means to be a lawyer for a sustainability-focused startup.

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