Inside Alectra Utilities: My Internship Experience (IP Intensive Reflection)

Coming into law school, I knew I wanted to complete an internship. I have always admired how people in college and in co-ops have so much hands-on experience before they even graduate from their chosen programs. Before I graduated law school, I wanted to gain confidence in my skills in the legal field so I could begin my career on a strong foundation.

The IP & Technology Law Intensive was really the perfect opportunity for me. I saw it as a chance to work directly with clients on actual legal matters, in a field that I knew I was interested in. After expressing my interest in clean technology during my qualifying interview for the Intensive, I found out I was going to be placed with Alectra Utilities, and to be honest, I wasn’t sure what to expect.

I had never really given much thought to utilities. All I knew was that every month I got a bill in the mail, and that my lights didn’t go off and my water kept running. So imagine my surprise when I entered the workforce at Alectra.

Alectra is a utilities company, which distributes energy under strict regulatory oversight by the Ontario Energy Board. But to say that Alectra is just a utilities company would be to do it a great disservice, and actually wouldn’t reflect my time there at all.

I spent most of my time working (virtually) at the Green Energy and Technology Centre (GRE&T Centre), an arm of the business focused on emerging technologies with departments like “Advanced Planning,” “Grid Innovation” and “Smart Cities.”

It turns out that Alectra not only provides energy to homes and offices, but is also at the forefront of research and development in cutting edge energy solutions, including solar power, electric vehicles, and microgrids.

While my experience allowed me to gain exposure to a wide variety of areas like corporate law and real estate law, the bulk of my time was focused on completing an IP inventory. The IP inventory allowed me to read through nearly 100 different agreements, past and present, that Alectra was a party to. I read through NDAs, software licensing agreements, government funding agreements, construction agreements, and more, absorbing as much as I could about how different relationships are structured in the renewable energy space.

As in-house counsel, I think you learn a lot about the industry you are in, just due to the sheer variety of matters that come your way. Every department needs your involvement in something at some point, and so you gain exposure to everything that the business does. In my case, I was constantly encouraged to ask more questions, and to reach out to whoever I wanted. I was also given presentations by the heads of different departments, and was invited to attend board meetings and staff meetings. I was fortunate that my supervisor even signed me up for a few different conferences during my Intensive, including a two-day conference about Canada’s electric vehicle strategy!

Besides having constant learning opportunities in-house at Alectra, I was also paired up with an associate from Gowling WLG, who supervised my work on the IP Inventory. I had weekly meetings with him, and was able to not only ask about matters pertaining to the IP Inventory directly, but about broader questions I had about IP law. I really had the best of both worlds, having direct access to both in-house counsel and an associate from a leading law firm.

Throughout the course of the semester, I also gained exposure to different leadership styles. I had never worked for such a large corporation, so I found it really interesting to observe the various ways senior members of the organization chose to lead the employees reporting to them — In general, the attitude at Alectra was super positive and collegial, so much so that I barely noticed that everything was virtual this year. I also learned a lot about how I want to act as a professional in the legal field by observing the values that different members of the legal department exemplified. I learned that you should (try) not to stress too much, know your stuff inside and out, and most importantly, always express your appreciation for your co-workers.

If you’re reading this and you’re on the fence about participating in the IP & Technology Law Intensive program, then take this as a sign! Fill out an application and make sure you check off Alectra as your first choice placement!

Written by Rachel Marcus, JD Candidate 2021, enrolled in Professors D’Agostino and Vaver 2020/2021 IP & Technology Law Intensive Program at Osgoode Hall Law School. As part of the course requirements, students were asked to write a reflective blog on their internship experience.

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