Every semester, upper-year law students in the University of Victoria Faculty of Law’s Business Law Clinic provide free legal information on a variety of business law issues that include, but are not limited to: incorporation, financing, charitable registration, intellectual property protection, partnerships, shareholder agreements, contracts, business liability, taxation, employment relationships, and government regulation.
The Clinic’s services are available to anyone in British Columbia who needs information related to a business law question, regardless of their income or business experience. Each client has one or two students assigned to their file. The students interview the client, help identify the client’s legal issues, research the client’s legal issues, and produce a written memorandum of the information discovered. The students are not licensed to give legal advice or opinions, so the final memorandum contains purely information that clients can use to make their own decisions or obtain further legal advice.
The Business Law Clinic produces benefits for students, the public, and legal professionals, alike.
For students, the Clinic provides exposure to solicitors’ work, which is otherwise largely missing from the litigation-focused law school curriculum. The students also benefit from the opportunity to develop skills that will become central to their future legal careers: interviewing clients, narrowing down legal issues, conducting legal research, and producing legal writing. Lastly, students know that, unlike most of their schoolwork, the work they produce for the Clinic affects real people.
The public benefits from having access to legal information that can otherwise be difficult and expensive to obtain. For some legal issues, Clinic clients may have enough information that they are able to take next steps themselves. When Clinic clients need further advice from a lawyer, the Clients’ participation in the Clinic gives them background information so they know what types of questions to ask a lawyer and what types of information about their business or non-profit that the lawyer is going to want to know. This will save the client time and money.
From the perspective of legal professionals, they benefit both from the better-trained students who will become part of their practices and from the well-informed clients that the Clinic aims to provide. Moreover, in this access to justice-focused time, when limited-scope retainers are a possibility for clients with limited resources, information services like the Clinic can be a valuable tool for legal professionals trying to provide unbundled services. Legal professionals will not have to charge clients for providing information and can instead provide valuable legal advice and drafting.
Come visit us at the UVic Business Law Clinic and see what we’re all about!