Before I participated in Osgoode’s Intellectual Property Law and Technology Intensive Program, I thought legal pro bono work only pertained to human rights, criminal, and refugee matters. However, after completing my internship with ventureLAB, a non-for-profit organization that helps technology entrepreneurs with their business development, I realized that entrepreneurs and small businesses are also groups with limited capital who can benefit greatly from pro bono work.
VentureLAB is a participant of the Ontario Network of Entrepreneurs (“ONE Network”), which consists of a significant number of non-for-profit organizations, that aims to build an ecosystem where entrepreneurs can obtain the mentorship, funding, and connections that will help them build successful, innovative businesses. The focus of the ONE Network is co-operation, not competition. Through my internship, I had the pleasure of assisting ventureLAB’s partner organizations, such as the MaRS Discovery District (“MaRS”) and the Richmond Hill Small Business Centre.
I wanted to be placed at ventureLAB because I had three expectations, which were all met through my internship. First, I believed that a placement at ventureLAB would provide me with a lot of responsibilities. This turned out to be true as I had the privilege of drafting five complicated contracts under the mentorship of Bhupinder Randhawa, a partner at Bereksin & Parr LLP. Not only did Mr. Randhawa informed me of the academic, nuts and bolts of contract drafting, he also taught me how to incorporate practical considerations into those agreements.
Second, I expected to have face-to-face interactions with clients and offer them tailored legal information. This expectation was fulfilled as I attended the monthly, one-on-one legal clinic led by Jason Sacha, an associate of Ricketts Harris LLP. In addition, I provided legal assistance to many clients who were referred to me by ventureLAB’s business advisors. I learned important, practical lessons from those experiences. Many clients do not realize the legal risks that exist in their technology and do not know what types of legal protections are relevant to their business. Therefore, taking a leaf out of Mr. Sacha’s practice, I learned to always ask the clients to describe their business and technology before answering their legal questions so that I can point out legal problems that the clients did not know existed or explain how their legal concerns do not apply to their business. Those client interactions also taught me to consider the economic feasibilities of different legal options, as many start-ups have limited capital. Due to the diversity of the clients’ businesses, I had the pleasure of exploring many aspects of intellectual property and business law, including patents, trademarks, copyright, confidential information, defamation, corporate structuring, employment structuring that can best protect IP, and elements of different types of agreements.
Third, I anticipated to be in an environment where I can routinely learn about new and innovative ideas regarding technology. This hope came true as I was invited to the Review Panel that took place on a weekly or biweekly basis. During the Panel, entrepreneurs provide a succinct presentation of their technology and business in front of a group of experienced business advisors and client services staff. The entrepreneurs’ creativity and commitment left me in awe, and I was even more impressed at the free resources out there to support them. I was very proud to have been part of the resources available to the entrepreneurs. In addition, I was invited to tour incubators and accelerators, including ventureLAB’s newly renovated PulseHUB, a resource hub that provides free office space to start-ups with a health and wellness focus.
My internship had elements that exceeded my expectations. The staff at ventureLAB and my placement supervisors, Mr. Paul Rivett and Mr. Jeremy Laurin, invited me to all the partner and staff meetings, and other events including the annual ONE Conference, Commercializing Your Medical Device, and several business development workshops led by MaRS. The ventureLAB staff also indulged my interests beyond law – an engaging lunch conversation regarding my love for cosplay resulted in me participating in ventureLAB’s cosplay photo booth at the TAVES electronic consumer show.
My experience at ventureLAB is definitely the highlight of my law school experience. There, I gained practical experience in intellectual property and business law, formed connections with innovative and passionate entrepreneurs, and became inspired by many professionals who volunteer their time to help start-up companies and the regional economy as a whole. If you are interested in innovation and entrepreneurship, then I strongly recommend choosing ventureLAB as your placement organization.
Sabrina Ding 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.