Business and law unite
By Mark Brown
The University of Victoria is giving its law students the ability to experience the real world through a new business law clinic launched last week.
Many universities, including Western, have community-based law programs to aid both students and the community but very few schools have programs that are specifically oriented towards the provision of legal advice to small businesses.
"It is a course that law students take for credit and it is part of their law degree," explained Shelley Kostink, the clinic's administrator. "Law students benefit by working closely with clients and lawyers."
The clinic can help with a variety of issues including the establishment of a business format, the selection of a lawyer and counselling on bank liabilities and commercial contacts, Kostink said.
Although the idea for the program came from the University of Calgary, it made possible at Victoria because of the persistent demands of the students, explained David Cohen, dean of law at the University of Victoria.
Western has discussed the idea of starting up a clinic devoted to small businesses. "It's a good idea," said Michael Cormier, director of community legal services at Western. "I think the main problem has been resources."
Funding is a large factor preventing a program of this nature from appearing in other schools, Cohen said. "This program requires a significant amount of support from the legal community."
The program has the support of eleven lawyers from Victoria and the surrounding area who each donate 10 hours, Cohen explained. This is significant since these lawyers would usually command a salary of about $200 per hour, he said.
Victoria's clinic charges a nominal fee of $50 per interview, said Kostink. The program eventually hopes to become self-sufficient, she added.
Currently the business law clinic has raised over $320,000 with the financial support of the community and Western Economic Diversification Canada which will fund the program for the next five years, Cohen said.
Cormier believes there are students at Western who would be interested in participating in this type of clinic. He also said he would like to see such a program between Western's faculty of law and the Ivey School of Business.