You can learn all the case law and statute law to your heart’s desire in school, but it is difficult to learn the detailed workings of an industry in a classroom despite the creative planning of any brilliant professor or lecturer. Although throwing a child into the pool is a controversial method of teaching one how to swim, it may be the most effective method in teaching a student about any interested industry. Through Osgoode’s Intellectual Property Law and Technology Intensive Program, I had the great opportunity of being thrown into the pool of the pharmaceutical industry. I spent ten weeks with the Law Department at Janssen Inc. in Toronto and had a front row seat to the latest developments in the pharmaceutical industry.
Janssen Inc. is a pharmaceutical company of Johnson & Johnson. It is an innovator in the pharmaceutical industry and has a corporate goal of helping people live healthier lives. It conducts research and develops a wide range of drugs for medical disease treatment or prevention.
I joined Janssen at an exciting time. With the implementation of the Canada – European Union Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA), a number of aspects of the drug regulatory framework in Canada face pending changes. Through my internship, I saw how proactive the different stakeholders in the industry are and the important roles they play in shaping the industry. I not only got to learn and discuss about the concerns different stakeholders have, but also had the opportunity to help develop the position Janssen takes on some of these issues. This type of experience and learning opportunity is something difficult to obtain in a classroom setting. Instead of the typical classroom learning of implemented statutes and regulations, I had the opportunity to observe and participate in that change process. In fact, I learned that this type of participation does not only occur at the time of trade agreement negotiations and implementations. The various stakeholders of the industry continuously assess the industry environment and advocate for legislative changes.
Through this internship, I also gained a new level of appreciation for the importance of “business” in the practice of law (intellectual property law in particular). As part of my internship, I worked on various agreements, observed on-going legal proceedings, prepared for internal advisory consultations, and attended business planning meetings. Through these experiences, I realized that from litigation strategy to contract negotiations to internal practice advisories, intellectual property serves a greater business goal. Therefore, the practice of intellectual property law needs to be mindful of business practices and objectives. For example, I learned that sometimes although a company may have a strong legal position, it may not always be ideal to enforce or take that position due to various business considerations, such as consideration for business relationships or business efficiency. I saw the importance of understanding the broader business objective of the company and the role effective inter-departmental communication can play for that purpose.
This internship experience is extremely valuable. It is worthwhile both for students who intend to become an in-house legal counsel and for those who intend to go into private practice. Being a student intern at the Law Department of Janssen Inc., not only did I observe the role and expectations of an in-house counsel in the pharmaceutical industry, I also gained a better understanding of what a company needs from its external legal counsels. Through regular discussions with other in-house counsels, I learned that companies are often not looking for a detailed theoretical analysis of the legal problems they face (which could take days), but instead, they want quick and to the point legal opinions. Companies also appreciate external counsels that understand their business and are able to provide advises or identify additional issues pertinent to their business objectives. Having better insight into the needs of a client company will allow any student who intends to practice in a law firm setting to better serve their future clients.
I have learned so much and met many knowledgeable people who generously donated their time to teaching and mentoring me during my internship. I was fortunate to have the unique experiential learning opportunity during my legal education. It definitely offered a different learning experience from both classroom and law firm settings.
Sue (Zhonghui) Fei is a JD Candidate at Osgoode Hall Law School and was enrolled in Osgoode’s Intellectual Property Law and Technology Intensive Program. As part of the program requirements, students were asked to write a reflective blog on their internship experience.