As part of the Intellectual Property (IP) Intensive program at Osgoode Hall Law School, I was extremely fortunate to be placed at the Innovation Centre ventureLAB for 10 weeks. What does this organization do? In a nutshell, ventureLAB exists to help people succeed as entrepreneurs. “Mentoring – Partnering – Connecting” is the official motto of this organization, and is an appropriate choice given what it provides to the community and to its entrepreneurs.
ventureLAB is led by CEO Jeremy Laurin, a seasoned entrepreneur who has taken up the mantle to help others also succeed with their new ventures. Helping him in this task is a group of very talented and amazing individuals who take customer service to a new level. Further to the regular staff at ventureLAB, the organization also leverages experts in the industry, called “Executives In Residence” (EIRs), who provide expertise and connections in diverse fields for the benefit of the entrepreneurs.
Building Relationships With Clients
My role at ventureLAB was to assist clients with their legal questions, in particular those dealing with their IP issues. The close proximity to clients was my primary motivation for seeking this particular internship during the application process. When working in a large law firm, there are often few opportunities afforded to summer and articling students to develop client interaction skills. ventureLAB provided a great experience that allowed me to enhance my understanding of intellectual property law and to strengthen personal relationships with the clients of the organization. Almost every day of the internship provided some way to interact with a client: whether that meant answering a quick question via email or engaging in more involved discussions about an invention or venture.
My supervisor at ventureLAB was Paul Rivett, an experienced entrepreneur and manager in the industry, who is usually the first point of contact for clients who register with ventureLAB’s business advisory program. Paul told me on my first day that I would essentially be managing my own clients – exactly the type of experience I wanted from the IP Intensive. During my internship, many clients were referred to me by the ventureLAB staff and other experts that work with ventureLAB. I was also proactive in seeking out my own clients by visiting the various workshops and sessions that ventureLAB conducted. Some clients had prior experience with IP, while many did not. However, it was great to see that even those individuals who did not have much previous exposure to IP were very eager to learn more about the topic.
I also participated in the pro-bono Legal Information Clinic every month conducted by Jason Sacha, an IP Intensive alumnus. Each day consisted of 1-hour individual sessions with clients, primarily focusing on IP and business law questions. While each of those days tested personal endurance, they were an extremely rewarding experience.
Organizing an IP Conference
Paul also asked me if I was interested in organizing an IP conference to educate the ventureLAB clients and other interested parties about intellectual property, which I thought was an invaluable opportunity. While I concentrated on selecting the topics, inviting guest speakers, and preparing my presentation, Brigitte Sharpe and Mercedeh Andalibi played an invaluable role in organizing many of the other aspects of the event. We were also very fortunate to have Bhupinder Randhawa from Bereskin & Parr, Eugene Gierczak and Meg Spevak from Miller Thomson, and our very own Michelle Li from IP Osgoode participate as co-presenters at this event.
Although I have spoken to large audiences before, it has never been on the substantive topic of IP law. As such, the conference was a unique experience for me. I knew the audience would be comprised of individuals with varying degrees of understanding about the topic, so I had to ensure that the coverage was both broad enough to be understood generally and narrow enough in the areas that were most important to the attendees. Of course, one of the biggest challenges in doing a legal related presentation is to keep it interesting; while lawyers and law students find legal topics fascinating, not everyone is likely to share the same sentiment. Based on the feedback we received after the presentation, I knew that we had succeeded in ensuring that the event was both fun and informative.
Once again, I cannot say enough about how useful this experience has been for my career development. I already feel significantly more comfortable in dealing with clients on a personal basis. For anyone who wishes to build upon their client management skills, I would highly recommend that you consider the IP Intensive program and ventureLAB as your placement.
Pasan Hapuarachchi is a JD Candidate at Osgoode Hall Law School and was enrolled in Osgoode’s Intellectual Property Law Intensive Program. As part of the program requirements, students were asked to write a reflective blog on their internship experience.