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Speakers at the 2012 Kellogg Business-Law Conference included K&L Gates partner Larry Eppley, who served as general counsel for Potbelly Sandwich Works during its IPO.

Speakers at the 2012 Kellogg Business-Law Conference included K&L Gates partner Larry Eppley, who served as general counsel for Potbelly Sandwich Works during its IPO.

Untangling the Web

Experts at the Kellogg Business-Law Conference offer Internet entrepreneurs practical and legal advice

By Daniel P. Smith

2/20/2012 - Esther Barron maintains footing in two distinct worlds.

In one, Barron’s a professor at Northwestern University’s School of Law, a position that compels her to embrace a legal mindset.

In the other, Barron is the co-founder of Elezar, a handbag collection sold at high-end boutiques, department stores and online.

And Barron recognizes the two worlds don’t always play nice.

“Lawyers tend to be conservative, while business people tend to be more risk-taking,” Barron said.

The inaugural Kellogg Business-Law Conference, however, looked to bridge those gaps and place both parties on the same plane.

Hosted at Northwestern University’s James L. Allen Center on Feb. 8, the conference attracted more than 100 students, attorneys and business leaders around the theme “Legal Challenges in Entrepreneurship and Small Business Ownership.”

Barron served a fitting moderator for the conference’s timeliest panel — “Marketing and Selling on the Internet” — which provided both practical and legal insights for upstart ventures with an online presence. Presenters included:

  • DLA Piper partner Gina Durham, who urged entrepreneurs to consult an attorney to adopt strong terms of use and privacy policies at the onset. “The more forethought, the better,” she said. 
  • crowdSPRING co-founder Ross Kimbarovsky, who noted that privacy policies and user agreements need to detail what the business can or will do long before the business takes such actions. Furthermore, Kimbarovsky said, owners should always highlight major policy changes to minimize risk. 
  • Kirkland & Ellis partner Vladimir Khodosh, who advised operators to be mindful of data storage, noting that the ease of copying and storing data elsewhere sparks significant liability concerns. 
  • GiveForward CEO Desiree Vargas Wrigley, who acknowledged that cash-strapped online startups will rarely be able to comply with all laws, particularly those across jurisdictions. Even so, she said, “Keep going with your business, do your best to comply and be responsive when something does arise.”

The afternoon conference began with a keynote address from K&L Gates partner Larry Eppley, who served as general counsel for Potbelly Sandwich Works during its IPO.

A second panel, meanwhile, offered entrepreneurs advice on working with attorneys. Moderated by Kellogg senior lecturer of business law Mark McCareins, the panel included a pair of Kellogg alumni: American BioOptics co-founder Andrew Cittadine ’98 and Meltzer, Purtill & Stelle LLC partner Roger Stelle ’67.

Attendee Miguel Pina ’11 said the conference underscored the deep relationship between law and business that he will have to consider as he pursues entrepreneurial plans in the retail space.

“There are legal issues that I didn’t know about or wasn’t considering,” Pina said. “I now have a better sense of what to expect and how to make the business my own.”