Reconciling the Isolated Process of Law School with the Collaborative Nature of Legal Work

Reconciling the Isolated Process of Law School with the Collaborative Nature of Legal Work

Mona Karimi is a 3L JD Candidate at Osgoode Hall Law School. This article was written as a requirement for Prof Pina D’Agostino’s IP Intensive Program.

My internship at Innovation, Science and Economic Development Canada (“ISED”) started long before the semester actually began. ISED works with Canadians in all sectors of the economy and across Canada to create a more favourable environment for investment, strengthen Canada's innovation capacity, boost the country's share of international commerce, and create a market that is efficient, fair, and competitive. Eighteen federal departments and agencies make up the ISED portfolio. I had the pleasure of working with the Copyright and Trademark Policy Directorate Marketplace Framework Policy Branch. A mouthful, I know, but fitting for the highly impactful work they do. The Marketplace Framework Policy Branch is mandated to develop and coordinate policies, laws and regulations concerning corporate and insolvency law, foreign investment, competition, copyright, trademarks and industrial design, patents, and data protection.

So why did I start preparing for my internship months in advance? ISED’s work can deeply impact any industry or marketplace and requires a high degree of confidentiality and security. How high? You need Secret Clearance Level II. This was not a quick criminal check, it required a lot more detail and took months. So long in fact, I did not receive my clearance until almost two months into my placement. I was a little worried for a bit there about what they might find. Of course, I had nothing to hide, but you never know!

While I can’t speak too much about my work for security reasons (I’ve always wanted to say that), I can say that my MBA my approach to policy analysis.  At the Marketplace Framework Policy Branch, I witnessed consultations with a myriad of stakeholders for drafting policies. I have come across something similar during my MBA when I was being taught Edward Freeman's Stakeholder Theory. According to the stakeholder theory, a firm's stakeholders comprise pretty much everyone who is impacted by the firm and how it operates. Although this theory refers to an organization, the same can be applied to a policy, regulation, or legislation. While, it may seem like common sense to make sure to get perspectives from impacted when drafting policies, it’s not always that simple. Identifying all the impacted groups is one task but identifying who should be consulted out of those groups is another. It prompted questions such as, ‘why should this organization speak for the entire group?’, and ‘are we consulting with all the voices represented?’.

I witnessed the collaborative nature of policy work. No one person can capture everything. On quite a few occasions, I thought I understood the reach of a legislation’s impact only to be enlightened by a question another team member posed, a question I had never even considered. It reminded me to employ the following strategies I learned from my MBA Strategy courses. When posed with a problem and/or question, we often kick-start our brains to find a solution as fast as we can. We attribute so much of being a good employee to being able to find a solution before someone else. However, we seldom pause and ask if we are asking the right questions and if the problem is stated correctly. We accept the problem as it was posed. If the problem is not stated correctly, the solutions would not address the real problem. One strategy I learned in that course was to ask, ‘what assumptions am I making and are they valid?’. You learn a lot when you challenge your own assumptions whenever you approach an issue.

That’s the beauty of diverse perspectives, they ignite deep discussions that may be missed if everyone had the same perspective. Unfortunately, much of law school is an isolated experience; but in practice, the law is extremely collaborative. Through the clinics, mooting and intensives like this one, you really get to experience the collaborative nature of legal work before embarking into that world after you graduate. If you would like to sharpen that skill and have an interest in IP, this intensive is for you!