Intersection of Law and Entrepreneurship Explored as Utah Continues to Grow as a Hub for Start-Ups

The rankings keep stacking up for Utah’s business community. Forbes magazine this month called the Beehive State “the best state for business” for the second year in a row. 

Entrepreneur magazine followed with its own ranking, naming Utah’s “Silicon Slopes” along the Wasatch Front as the top place in the country for startups to thrive. And the University of Utah in its own right has carved out a reputation as the place to be for student innovators, with the Lassonde Entrepreneur Institute fostering young inventors on campus every day.

As Utah makes it mark on the entrepreneurial map —86 of the fastest-growing companies in the country call the state home —questions about the role of law in both fostering or hindering entrepreneurship continue to emerge.

Those questions are at the center of a symposium at the U’s S.J. Quinney College of Law titled “Legal Innovation and Modern Entrepreneurship” on Oct. 30.  Business leaders, scholars, students, entrepreneurs and community members will come together to participate in the daylong discussion that will feature a variety of breakout sessions on topics ranging from challenges related to intellectual property to the intricacies of crowd source funding.

Gubernatorial candidate Jonathan Johnson, who is also chairman of the board at, will be the keynote speaker at the event. Johnson’s lecture, from 12:30 to 1:30 p.m. on the sixth floor of the law school, will touch on a number of his personal business experiences.

Johnson joined in 2002 to head its legal department. Within three months he was the fifth member of the company’s executive team. Since then, he’s held various roles, including president for five years and acting CEO. In 2014, he became the chairman of the board. His leadership has significantly contributed to’s remarkable growth from a startup to an international business with over $1.5 billion in annual sales. In the business community, Johnson has been recognized by the Salt Lake Chamber of Commerce as “Chamber Champion,” by Utah Business Magazine as the ‘Sustainable Business Award Winner for Leadership on Corporate Sustainability’’, and by the Utah Technology Council as “Trustee of the Year” for leadership on public policy issues.  He serves on various charitable and community boards, including the board of Governors for the Salt Lake Chamber of Commerce, University of Utah Hospital Foundation, the Utah Technology Council, and is the founding chairman of the Salt Lake Chamber Clean Air Task Force in Utah. He also created the Right to Try Foundation to help provide terminally ill patients aid in seeking new medicines.

The event takes place at a time when Utah’s business climate continues to skyrocket, bringing an economic bolster to the region and raising questions about the role of law in fostering such dynamism, says Jeff Schwartz, a professor at the S.J. Quinney College of Law whose research focuses on, among other things, the impact of securities regulation on entrepreneurial capital-raising.

“The topic of entrepreneurship, and how the law encourages or stymies it, have been central topics of discussion in recent years as politicians and policymakers increasingly look toward new businesses to spur economic growth,” said Schwartz, who helped to organize the symposium and will moderate two panels at the event.

“Salt Lake City and the University of Utah have become hotbeds of entrepreneurial activity, so it makes sense to bring thought leaders from around the country here to engage in a robust dialogue about the issues at stake,” he said.

For more information about the event, click here.  To register for the event, click here.