By Charlie Crittenden
Upon the completion of my first year at UBC Law, I searched for a summer opportunity to put some of my newfound knowledge into practice. I had taken in my fill of coursework and now I wanted to see what it was like (at least to some extent) to be lawyer.
I had the privilege of receiving a research position with the Fisheries Law Centre and Ecotrust Canada. The general subject of my research was looking into intellectual property rights related to software developed by Ecotrust Canada to help West Coast fishermen. Although I could not provide definitive answers as a student, my task was to assemble a memo that would lay down some basic research for future reference. With a big “GUYS FOR REAL I AM NOT A LAWYER YET” disclaimer at the top of each page.
Ecotrust has a lovely and welcoming office where I spent some time throughout the summer interviewing staff. These discussions provided the most useful takeaways from the summer. Each person I encountered knew way more than me about the area of discussion—programming, fishing, managing a business—and so my job was to figure out how I could best help them with what little knowledge I had. Working with legal issues through that kind of personal contact was the highlight of my time.
I also gained legal research skills, with the extra dash of motivation that comes when someone’s actually needs your answers. While law school does a good job of getting your brain in gear each day, there is still no substitute for being in a workplace where the answers you find matter. Grades are a great motivator, but I really enjoyed the sense of value and utility that I got out of my work this summer.
I had an array of legal issues to consider—intellectual property rights and contractual interpretation in particular—and so I had my work cut out developing the skills to find the right (or, at least, right-ish) answers. Placing those answers in a memo in plain and clear language was a great capstone to the experience, as I had to translate some terrible legalese into a helpful, accessible document.
The second year of law school is now gaining momentum as I plunge into a new set of classes. I remain grateful for this past summer of practical matters under the aegis of the Fisheries Law Centre and Ecotrust Canada, and would encourage any law students out there to consider spending some time volunteering with these groups in the future.