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The University of Wisconsin Law School is launching a new initiative in an attempt to better connect with the business world.

"At a state level, I think there is a misperception in a variety of communities that the law school is either indifferent to business law or is hostile to it, and that's just not true," says Jonathan Lipson, a UW-Madison professor of law and the director of the school's new Business Law Initiative. "So this initiative is, in part, an effort to show folks who think we don't take business law seriously that we do and to raise our profile in this area.

"It's part of a concerted effort to better connect faculty and students with business lawyers, because a plurality of our students probably go into some form of business law once they graduate. That's where most of the jobs are."

The initiative is being formally launched during the Wisconsin Law Review Symposium, which runs Friday and Saturday at the Wisconsin Institutes for Discovery. This year's symposium is focusing on the evolution of the nature and role of in-house and general counsel in the legal departments of businesses, and will give students an opportunity to interact with internationally known scholars and attorneys.

Moving forward, Lipson says he hopes to continue to develop and grow connections between the law school and UW-Madison's School of Business and economics department, among other corners of campus.

"There are a series of courses that are historically mostly business law courses, such as commercial law, corporate finance, bankruptcy or securities law," he says. "But at a more general level our students also need to understand the basics of how a business operates and what its legal needs are. So part of what I hope we do here is continue to do what Wisconsin already does best, which is work well with other disciplines. Business law certainly has many interdisciplinary aspects."

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The Business Law Initiative also will work closely with other law school programs and centers, including the Program in Real Estate, Land Use and Community Development, and the Law and Entrepreneurship Clinic.

Lipson adds the initiative also came together as a way to honor former Law School Dean Ken Davis, a highly regarded business law scholar who headed the school from December of 1997 until May of this year.

"I think the law school has a history of very good business law work, but it hasn't really made an effort to promote it or organize it internally," says Lipson. "We already have first-rate teachers and scholars doing important business law work. In part, we want to make sure others know this as well."