Miller Thomson lawyers help Ryerson students gain business of law experience

Miller Thomson Ryerson Pro Bono Launch

(L-R) Stewart Whittingham, National Director of Professional Development, Miller Thomson; Cara-Marie O’Hagan, Director of the Law Research Centre, Ryerson University; Pnina Alon-Schenker, Assistant Professor, Ted Rogers School of Management; and Jennifer Babe, Chair of National Pro Bono Committee, Miller Thomson; pose at the Miller Thomson offices in Toronto on February 5, 2013.

Experiential learning is booming in Canadian law schools, with universities growing connections with business faculties to help students gain hands-on experience. Now, Ryerson University is getting in on the action — with the help of lawyers from Miller Thomson.

Jennifer Babe, Partner at Miller Thomson and Chair of the firm’s National Pro Bono Committee (pictured above), is behind a new course, offered to upper-year undergraduates as part of the law and business major at the Ted Rogers School of Management. The goal of the course, Babe explains:

It’s that first experience of having to convert theory into reality and how to apply what they’ve learned to make it a practical real world outcome. Students who have been studying ‘what is a corporation, how does a corporation run’, actually have to think about how the heck do I incorporate one? What do I have to consider if I’m incorporating a corporation? Or, ‘these nice three people are great friends and they’re developing this app, who owns the intellectual property?’

Students in the course are paired with student entrepreneurs and work with Miller Thomson lawyers to provide a specific work product. They also have guest lectures from the firm on such topics as ethics, conflicts, duties to clients, intellectual property, basic business law and basic tax.

Some of the students will go on to law school, while others have an MBA in their sights. The course can inform that decision, Babe says, adding that she finds it very gratifying to work with the young business students who are “so smart and so sophisticated, and so naive at the same time.”

One successful student entrepreneur, for example, was surprised to learn that she had to file income tax returns even though she hadn’t made any money yet.

Last year, Miller Thomson launched a monthly pro bono legal clinic at Ryerson in partnership with the university, its students’ union and Pro Bono Law Ontario.

Why choose Ryerson for these two projects? According to Babe:

York University has a law school. U of T has a law school. They also have clinics and outreaches. Ryerson had nothing. So, we took a look around and we said, this is a place we can serve in our community, and it’s right by our Toronto office. These are up-and-coming young business people, and Miller Thomson has a history of supporting education.

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