Going into law school, I knew that I wanted to practice intellectual property law. I didn’t exactly know what that meant, but I knew that it had to do with things I liked – films, television, and music. Unfortunately, my passion for pop culture did not impress the large and boutique IP firms I interviewed with during on-campus interviews. I ended up with a stunning zero job offers. Obviously, my preferred career path was not going according to plan.
It was around this time that I realized that copyright – the law associated with films, television, and music – is only a small sliver of intellectual property law which comprises patents, trademarks, industrial design, and even plant breeder’s rights, among other things. And then I started hearing rumours about how all intellectual property firms are looking for lawyers with backgrounds in engineering or sciences and it looked like my choice five years ago to study history and English had effectively ended my career aspirations before I even knew I had them.
There’s a happy ending to this story though: I’m now gainfully employed in a field that I am passionate about and with a company that I believe in. There’s not many people that can say that right after finishing law school and articling. So how did I get here?
Osgoode’s IP Intensive Program
Osgoode’s IP Intensive Program is a semester-long course where students intern at a placement for more than two months. I was placed with the Society of Composers, Authors and Music Publishers of Canada (SOCAN) and you can read about my experience in a previous blog I posted here.
Law school does a lot of things. It helps you think like a lawyer and identify relevant legal issues in fact scenarios. You become familiar with legal research tools like WestLaw, QuickLaw, and CanLII. And you can impress family and friends by using archaic Latin terms like caveat emptor and contra proferentem. But what’s important in law school – grades – only gets you so far in the legal market. What’s really important is practical experience and reputation.
After two months at SOCAN, I had practical experience in drafting litigation documents, research memoranda, and company policies. But more importantly, I received feedback from lawyers about my work and developed a reputation for being reliable, thorough, and efficient. After my internship with the IP Intensive Program ended, I returned to SOCAN as a part-time employee and worked there until I wrote the Bar exam. Without the relationships I had formed with SOCAN staff and lawyers during my internship, it is unlikely they would have taken the risk of employing a third-year law student.
The IP Intensive Program helped me develop a lasting connection with the SOCAN legal department (I continued to stay in contact with them during my articles, forwarding them my embarrassing Christmas skit performance – you’ll have one too when you article), built up my legal reputation (my research paper entitled, “The Morality of Mash-ups: Moral Rights and Canada’s Non-Commercial User-Generated Content Exception“, was published in the Intellectual Property Law Journal, Vol. 26, No. 2 July 2014), and gave me the practical experience, and confidence, I needed to succeed in the legal profession.
While I ended up articling at a mid-size firm in a completely different legal field from IP, I still applied the skills I learned from the IP Intensive on a daily basis.
Near the end of my articles, I got a call from SOCAN. They remembered my work as an intern and part-time employee and informed me that there was a legal position open that I should apply for. And the rest, as they say, is history.
Fraser Turnbull is now a lawyer working at the Society of Composers, Authors and Music Publishers of Canada (SOCAN). He interned with SOCAN as part of Osgoode’s IP Intensive Program in 2013.