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Get to know Jacqui Walsh, Director of the Stewart McKelvey Technology & Innovation Law Clinic

Posted by Stephanie Hurley on January 24, 2020 in News, Law & Technology Institute
Jacqui Walsh (left) works with a law student Cydney Kane (Nick Pearce photo)
Jacqui Walsh (left) works with a law student Cydney Kane (Nick Pearce photo)

Meet Jacqui Walsh, Director of the Stewart McKelvey Technology and Innovation Law Clinic at the Schulich School of Law. While Jacqui will be officially accepting clients as of February 3rd, the first cohort of student legal advisors will begin in September of this year.

Tell us a little bit about yourself and your background.

My family moved to Nova Scotia last year from Newfoundland and Labrador. It was initially a temporary move but we found we quite enjoyed it here and decided to make Nova Scotia our home. 

I have a very diverse background in social science, law, business and technology. I have worked in a law firm, as a sole proprietor, and as in-house counsel for small technology start-ups. Working directly inside the firms has given me a unique perspective of their plight to become successful growth firms. Some of the companies I worked for are still in existence, some have exited via acquisition and some have failed. It is all part of the journey.  

In addition to practicing law, I have a keen interest in technology, small business and economic development. I taught entrepreneurship, innovation and strategy in a business program for the past decade.

What is the Stewart McKelvey Technology & Innovation Law Clinic?

The Stewart McKelvey Technology and Innovation Law Clinic (the “TILC”) is a new initiative at the Schulich School of Law that will focus on expanding its partnerships with the community, sharing expertise to a critical sector of the Nova Scotia economy, and training students to become engaged members of the entrepreneurial ecosystem through “learning by doing”.

As the Director, it is my role to create a program that meets these three components of the vision. Our goal is to break down the barriers that prevent entrepreneurs from seeking legal services. These include cost, accessibility, transparency, and lack of knowledge. The TILC will provide low cost legal advice and services to early stage technology start-up companies. We hope to offer legal services for much of the firm’s needs in technology, intellectual property and business law. The students will learn how to provide value to start-up companies through their legal knowledge and will also use their skills in business, technology, critical thinking, problem solving, communication and project management.

Who will benefit from the TILC?

The larger community of Nova Scotia and Atlantic Canada will be the ultimate beneficiaries of the TILC.  Helping technology start-ups de-risk and scale during their vulnerable years will lead to more success stories resulting in more jobs, more innovation, and more skilled workers in the area. Our goal is to be one of many support catalysts working to grow the culture of innovation and the entrepreneurial ecosystem in Atlantic Canada.

Early-stage technology start-ups throughout Nova Scotia will also benefit. Our technology will allow us to assist eligible companies from across the province without the necessity of being in the same room.

And of course, the students working in the clinic will benefit by learning the unique nature of start-up companies, how to engage in the practice of start-up law, and how to use technology to provide more efficient and effective services so they can hit the ground running when they graduate from law school.

What attracted you to this role?

I am a person who loves change and seeks new opportunities and challenges. I also like to give back and share my knowledge and experiences with those who could benefit from it most. I think this is why I have always been interested in the technology start-up community.

In many ways, this position is the cumulation of all of my past experiences and passions. I love the potential of academia to give back to the community. I am a champion of start-ups, and I have a background that fits nicely into this role. I am also keen to engage with students and advocate for the important overlap between business and the law and how an understanding of this intersection is extremely valuable to early-stage technology companies.

What is the impact of technology on the legal profession?

I would argue that the practice of law is one of the few remaining strongholds that has yet to be influenced in a significant way by technology. There are a number of reasons for this, but these reasons are becoming less relevant as innovation permeates the legal profession. When I started practicing law, the support staff in the law firm used typewriters.

Today, the rapid pace of change being experienced in the practice of law is due to the internet and the burgeoning legaltech industry. Legaltech innovations create efficiencies, improve productivity, and provide opportunities to have a competitive advantage. The internet provides legal information at a client’s fingertips. These two technological advancements are changing the way clients see their legal service providers and are forcing legal professionals to see the practice as client-driven in a manner that was not required even 10 years ago.

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