TVO is well known to Ontarians as the channel that brought you original programming for everyone ranging from The Agenda to Polka Dot Door, but there’s a lot more to the now 50-year-old broadcaster. TVO is a lot more than just a TV channel, and as my time with the organization began I was quickly exposed to the wide variety of hats that the organization wears simultaneously. As a public broadcaster, TVO is responsible for not only its own original programming but also co-productions and licensed work. TVO is not just a broadcaster however, as it runs a number of educational programs such as the Independent Learning Centre, which provides distance education for elementary and secondary school students as well as GED testing. Other TVO products include Mathify, a digital tutoring service, and mPower, a teaching tool for the elementary level in the form of an online game.
TVO operates in a fairly unique position as both a public broadcaster and an educational institution, thus exposing me to a highly diverse range of legal questions and issues. I wasn’t just dealing with the challenges of a public broadcaster, but also with those of an institution that regularly hired and supervised teachers, markers and tutors. I don’t think any other organization would have given me the chance to work on both a rights agreement with an independent producer and a contract-for-service with a prospective teacher. Both elements of the organization presented unique challenges for me to overcome.
Working with an organization that deals with such a diverse range of clients made me realize the challenge of legal writing for different audiences. One of the biggest challenges when it came to drafting standard agreements was the balance between formal legal writing as I had been taught in law school and the more ease-of-access focused writing that was the norm in everyday business. The contracts needed to be easily understood by a small independent producer or young tutor with no legal background, but also needed to be airtight enough that it wouldn’t cause major pushback from a lawyer working for a larger production company.
Learning how to tailor your writing to your audience was something I learned to employ not just with work meant for external clients but also within the TVO organization itself. In the midst of larger projects, I was often assigned smaller tasks to deal with various legal questions that would arise from within the organization. In addition to allowing me to tackle an extremely wide variety of legal areas with practical experience, these tasks also served as another reminder of how important learning to cater your legal writing to your intended audience can be, even in something as relatively minor as answering simple legal questions.
Part of the job of the legal team at a large organization like TVO is also to educate their employees and keep them up to date on anything in the legal field that might affect their operations. One of the projects I worked on was helping to create an updated FAQ on fair dealing, one that would be easily digestible for those in the organization without needing further explanation by someone from the legal team. This allowed me to bring up points that wouldn’t necessarily occur to someone without a legal background – the difference between the terms “fair dealing” and “fair use” for example, or how fair dealing is a user’s right – and explain them in layman’s term while still ensuring the concepts would be properly understood. This in turn increased my own understanding of these concepts.
The longer I spent at TVO, the more I began to learn about and ascribe to the philosophy of the “T-shaped” lawyer – an ideal that my supervisor Mark Le Blanc has espoused. The “ T” in the “T-shaped” lawyer describes their interconnected skillset – hard legal skills form the stem of the T, and the top cross represents the more business-associated skills ranging from project management to data analysis. My experience with TVO not only let me harden my nascent legal skills by practically applying what I had learned in the classroom but also to develop the broader skills of risk management and problem solving that are not taught in law school. The most valuable part of my experience was getting the chance to see how these two skillsets intersect and allowing me to experience that intersection between law and business for myself.
Written by Harris Khan, 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.