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Helping start‑ups get started
In September of 2020, the Schulich School of Law will be contributing to the local entrepreneurial ecosystem in a new way. The initio Technology and Innovation Law Clinic will be fully operational, acting as a resource for technology start-ups seeking early-stage legal services, while training students to act and advise in innovation and start-up matters. Made possible by a generous donation from Stewart McKelvey Lawyers, the initio Tech Law Clinic is the only clinic of its kind in Canada.
The Tech Law Clinic will help break down the barriers that prevent entrepreneurs from seeking legal advice and information including cost, accessibility, transparency, and knowledge. By offering timely, virtual, cost-effective access to legal services with flexible payment for start-ups, the clinic will help address the current accessibility gap in the marketplace.
Supporting local tech entrepreneurs
Jacqui Walsh, the clinic’s director, brings a diverse background in social science, law, business and technology to the role. She has worked in a law firm, as a sole proprietor, and as in-house counsel for small technology start-ups. For the past decade, she has taught entrepreneurship, innovation and strategy in a business program.
“I 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,” says Walsh who is originally from Newfoundland. “In many ways, this position is the culmination of all of my past experiences and passions. I am 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.”
I am 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.—Jacqui Walsh
Walsh says technology start-ups, students, and the community will all benefit from the Tech Law Clinic. In fact, some early-stage technology start-ups throughout Nova Scotia have already been accessing their services. “Over the past four months, we didn’t miss a step with clients even though we could not be in the same room, showing how important it is to offer these services virtually, especially in the tech industry.” In anticipation of the first cohort of student legal advisors joining the clinic in September of this year, Walsh has been accepting clients since early February.
Jason Wolfe from Urban Lighthouse Farm Inc. is one of the clinic’s first clients. “Being a new entrepreneur, it was important to work with experienced legal professionals that understand the crucial details required to launch a successful start-up,” says Wolfe. “My experience working with the Technology and Innovation Law Clinic was remarkable. Their legal counsel gave me the confidence I needed to navigate through the business startup process.”
Educating the lawyer of the future
The Tech Law Clinic will also help to increase the number of law school graduates who are comfortable acting and advising in innovation and start-up matters and across traditional disciplines. Students will develop the skills they need to thrive in a rapidly changing legal industry. They will learn about 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.
Lydia Bugden, CEO and Managing Partner of Stewart McKelvey, sees education as one of the most important functions of the clinic, saying “While lawyers will always require deep knowledge of the law, modern legal practice and the evolving needs of clients demand lawyers with a broadened skill set that includes technology, data analytics, process improvement, design thinking, pricing and project management.”
The clinic will create a new cohort of graduates with significant knowledge of and experience in technology, business and intellectual property. While the actual clinical course begins in September 2020, students have already been involved in various ways including summer internship opportunities and a joint articling experience between the Technology and Innovation Law Clinic and Dalhousie Legal Aid Service.
Third-year student Ella Hanthro will be joining the clinic this fall. “New technologies, client demand, and the pandemic are rapidly changing the legal profession and putting immense pressure on lawyers and law firms to adapt to our evolving environment,” says Hanthro. “Creating a clinic that specializes in technology and innovation demonstrates Schulich Law’s commitment to preparing students for real world challenges.”
Creating a clinic that specializes in technology and innovation demonstrates Schulich Law’s commitment to preparing students for real world challenges.—Ella Hanthro
Walsh says that the larger community of Nova Scotia will be the ultimate beneficiaries of the Tech Law Clinic. “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 in Atlantic Canada.”
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