The law school, based at the University of British Columbia, recently announced that the law firm is contributing $250,000 over five years to “launch and support” the new internship program.
Catherine Dauvergne, dean of the Peter A. Allard School of Law, says she expects to have the program up and running within a year.
The school’s Centre for Business Law has been looking at the possibility of starting an internship program for a while, but the school’s interest in the project started in earnest about a year ago.
“Looking at the trend in the profession and the tremendous increase in in-house positions — our inspiration really started there,” she says, noting the school is at the beginning stages of designing the program.
Though they aren’t ready to go public with any of the companies they’re been talking to in the preliminary design stage, people have been receptive — especially when “we’re in the position where we can offer a student who could work on a project basis and wouldn’t need to be paid. That’s good for everyone.”
Dauvergne says there were a few ideas on the drawing board, but “until we had this gift we didn’t really have the capacity to move forward.”
Some of the money will go towards more administrative support, but the majority will “probably go to supporting students so we can send them to places that are outside the lower mainland and extend the reach of this program nationally and internationally.”
Dauvergne says the internship will “come within our suite of experiential learning programs” but won’t be like the Law Practice Program in Ontario.
“The province of British Columbia is not going down the LPP route and we are certainly not leading them there,” she says. “We are thinking of this internship as being a learning opportunity with a hands-on aspect but also with an academic aspect. Although we haven’t pinned down all the details it’s common to all our experiential learning that they have a very significant academic component.”
Greg Lewis, partner in Norton Rose Fulbright’s Vancouver office, says traditional law school education focuses more on litigation — on the theory and principles behind things — but “has not typically focused as much on the practical day-to-day aspects of business law in particular.”
“I think the school and law firms generally have felt there’s a bit of a gap to fill,” he says. “The hope is that the program will help fill that gap.”
Upper year JD students will be placed in corporate and non-profit organizations in Canada and abroad for credit. The aim of the program is to combine classroom study and practical experience, with the law students gaining “industry insight and business acumen.”
The internship program will also “strengthen the outstanding educational programs offered by the law school’s Centre for Business Law,” according to the school’s website.
“We think it’s going to be a great opportunity for our students, and at a time when we’re growing our experiential learning very significantly, this allows us to add something different,” Dauvergne says.
The internship program joins a number of ongoing student awards offered by the law school and funded by the firm, including the Norton Rose Fulbright Entrance Award, Prize in Succession and Prize in Labour Law.