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Villanova University School of Law launches Center for Law, Entrepreneurship and Innovation and Interdisciplinary Mental and Physical Health Law Clinic

$1.25 million gift from Charles Widger ’73 provides initial funding for both Center and Health Law Clinic

New initiatives further the School’s strategic commitment to experiential learning and interdisciplinary study

Widger headshot

Villanova, Pa.— Villanova University School of Law (VLS) announced today the launch of its new Center for Law, Entrepreneurship and Innovation and the Villanova Interdisciplinary Mental and Physical Health Law Clinic. A $1.25 million gift from Charles Widger ’73, founder and executive chairman of Brinker Capital, and his wife, Barbara, provides initial funding to launch and shape the programs and services of both the Center and the Health Law Clinic. These initiatives support the University’s Strategic Plan by strengthening the School’s curriculum and enhancing experiential learning offerings.

“The creation of the Center for Law, Entrepreneurship and Innovation and the Villanova Interdisciplinary Mental and Physical Health Law Clinic advances our strategic vision by broadening and deepening our students’ understanding of the law and its reach,” remarked John Y. Gotanda, Dean of the Villanova University School of Law.  “We are grateful to Chuck and Barbara for their generous gift, which provides a strong foundation upon which these programs can grow.”

“My wife, Barbara, and I are gratified by the opportunity to support two key elements of Villanova Law’s strategic plan,” said Mr. Widger. “We are confident that this new Center will make our graduates even more distinctive, equipping them with the knowledge, skills and experience required to be productive practitioners in law firms, for business enterprises and for not-for-profits. We also have a deep belief in the importance of the Mental and Physical Health Law Clinic, which will make a difference in the lives of those with mental and physical health challenges who face legal issues related to their care.”

Center for Law, Entrepreneurship and Innovation

The Center for Law, Entrepreneurship and Innovation transforms the educational experience at Villanova Law by providing students with the knowledge and skills in the areas of business and law, which are critical for lawyers practicing in today’s highly competitive market. The Center serves as a resource where Villanova law students can gain this wide-ranging experience through experiential learning and case study programming as well as innovative curriculum offerings.

The centerpiece of this new initiative is the Clinic for Law and Entrepreneurship, a partnership with Villanova University’s Center for Innovation Creativity and Entrepreneurship (ICE Center). Utilizing the expertise at both the Law School and Villanova School of Business, the Clinic provides legal services to start-up ventures and budding entrepreneurs and serves as a resource for the Law School, the University, and the Delaware Valley region. Specifically, the Clinic affords students hands-on experience in business law, while supporting the entrepreneurship and innovation of start-up companies, non-profits and individuals working with the ICE Center. Participating students, working alongside experienced attorneys and faculty with interdisciplinary expertise, will assist entrepreneurs on a wide range of business-related legal matters, including corporate formation, intellectual property, contracts, labor compliance, and tax.

Recognizing the interdisciplinary nature of today’s legal practice, significant coursework will be added in the 2013-14 academic year under the umbrella of the Center for Law, Entrepreneurship and Innovation. New week-long modules and seminars on business-related issues—including Financial Skills for Lawyers and Time Management—will be added as part of the School’s core curriculum for JD candidates.  Through the Center, the Law School is partnering with industry experts, such as Franklin Covey and Thompson Reuters, and with leading law firms, both to design these innovative courses, as well as to utilize their considerable expertise to teach these important skills.

Additional programs being explored for inclusion as part of the Center include a Law and Business Case Study Partnership Program, a comprehensive online resource portal to support entrepreneurs navigating the legal aspects of the business world, a leadership forum for business, industry and law, and an Executives-in-Residence program.

Villanova Interdisciplinary Mental and Physical Health Law Clinic

The Villanova Interdisciplinary Mental and Physical Health Law Clinic provides an opportunity for students to provide legal services to the community, as well as gain valuable hands-on experience by representing low-income persons with issues at the intersection of law and medicine. The Clinic is a collaboration between the Law School and Villanova’s College of Nursing, whose graduate students, working alongside law students, provide medical expertise in an effort to overcome barriers to clients’ access to physical and mental health services and treatment. Together, the Law School and the College of Nursing will offer clients an interdisciplinary team of legal and medical advocates to assist them in navigating the complexities of government assistance programs, the law, and the courts. This new multidisciplinary clinic is one of only a handful of its kind in the U.S.

Students participating in the Clinic work on a broad array of legal issues with cases focusing on litigation against government agencies and health insurers to secure income and health benefits for qualified persons, and representation to determine surrogate decision-making authority. The Clinic places special emphasis on service to persons with mental illness, including those who face incarceration or anticipate release from prison. The goal is to avoid the need for incarceration and reduce recidivism by assuring that those individuals have in place the supports necessary to meet their special needs. Begun as a pilot program in spring 2013, the Clinic has successfully obtained a motorized wheelchair for a child with quadriplegia, prevented a reduction in home health nursing for an elderly person with Parkinson’s disease, and secured “wraparound” services—individualized community-based services focused on the strengths and needs of the child and family—for a child with autism spectrum disorder. Visiting Professor Michael Campbell—co-founder of the Pennsylvania Health Law Project and its former Executive Director—serves as the Clinic’s director.

About Charles Widger

Founder and Executive Chairman of Brinker Capital, Charles Widger has over 30 years of experience working with investors in strategic investment planning, and manager search and monitoring.  He is Chair of the Villanova University School of Law Board of Consultors, a past chairman of the board of trustees of Gettysburg College and is chair-emeritus of the Money management Institute, the $2.7 trillion managed account industry’s association.  Mr. Widger is a board member of One Thousand and One Voices, an Africa focused private equity fund.

Earlier in his career, Mr. Widger practiced law in Pennsylvania in private practice and served as an assistant attorney general for the Pennsylvania Department of Justice.  He is a graduate of Gettysburg College and Villanova University School of Law, and holds an L.L.M. in Taxation from Boston University’s School of Law.  Mr. Widger also served as a Lieutenant in the U.S. Navy.

About Villanova Law’s Clinical Program

Villanova University School of Law offers students opportunities to hone their legal skills through hands-on experience in six clinics—Civil Justice Clinic, Clinic for Asylum, Refugee and Emigrant Services (CARES), Clinic for Law and Entrepreneurship Farmworker Legal Aid Clinic, Federal Tax Clinic, and the Villanova Interdisciplinary Mental and Physical Health Law Clinic. Participating students refine their interviewing, counseling, negotiation and litigation skills in an experiential setting, while exploring the role of the attorney as ethical professional.

Since 1842, Villanova University’s Augustinian Catholic intellectual tradition has been the cornerstone of an academic community in which students learn to think critically, act compassionately and succeed while serving others. Founded in 1953, Villanova University School of Law is rooted in academic excellence, academic freedom, inclusion and respect for human dignity. The Law School, which is accredited by the American Bar Association, provides broad-based legal education, and its award-winning clinics and Lawyering Together Program provide free legal aid to those in need.

Notable Law School alumni include Hon. Kelly Ayotte (U.S. Senator, New Hampshire); David C. Chavern (Executive Vice President and Chief Operating Officer, U.S. Chamber of Commerce); Michael R. Haswell (Head of Business Development, Commerce, Google Inc.); Jeffrey S. Moorad (Chairman/CEO, Moorad Sports Partners); Hon. Edward Rendell (Former Governor of Pennsylvania); Hon. Marjorie Rendell (Judge, U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit); Joseph T. Sebastianelli (President and CEO, Jefferson Health Systems); and Richard Trumka (President, AFL-CIO).