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Putting it into practice

Western Law students gain real-world knowhow thanks to law firm-funded internships

by Sonia Preszcator | August 11, 2015

Putting it into practice
Second-year law student Jeremy Lin credits his CIBC internship with cementing his interest in practicing high-profile business law.

Jeremy Lin wants to practice the “kind of deals you read about online, or on the front page.”

The second-year Western Law student credits a 12-week internship last summer with cementing his interest in high-profile business law.

As the third recipient of the McCarthy Tétrault LLP Business Law Internship, Jeremy, who interned with Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce (CIBC) in Toronto, highlights the unique opportunity to attend criminal court on behalf of the bank’s Litigation and Employment Group to observe a case of interest as a key learning experience.

“I produced a ‘watching brief’ that included testimony given during the pre-trial motions combined with my own observations regarding witnesses’ credibility, the judge’s opinion of counsel and their witnesses, counsels’ strengths and weaknesses and any other facts that he felt were pertinent to the case,” says Jeremy.

He was also entrusted with ensuring several sets of documents were proclaimed and authenticated for CIBC’s business needs in China.

“Western is a great school, but the advice I give to first-year law students is to take advantage of activities that give you real-world experience, such as committees, pro bono work and interning. My experience with CIBC served me well as I’m currently articling with a leading business law firm in Toronto.”

As more law firms and financial institutions evolve to a business model where profitability turns on expertise and efficiency, law graduates who are much further up the learning curve will have a competitive edge in their field. This is one reason why Western’s International Summer Law Internship Program (ISLIP) is thriving – and making a positive impact on current law students.

“Through this program, our students have the opportunity to intern at a wide variety of placements: with government departments, international and non-governmental organizations and private industries, which contribute to a better understanding of Canada’s place within the global framework,” says Valerie Oosterveld, associate dean (Research & Administration) for Western Law. “These experiences help to differentiate our students from other law graduates, giving them unique skills and opportunities that benefit them in the work place and their future career.”

Second-year law student Christian Vieira put theory into practice during his internship at The World Bank Group in Washington D.C. last summer.

Like Jeremy, second-year law student Christian Vieira also put theory into practice by participating in the Thornton Grout Finnigan World Bank Group Internship at The World Bank Group – the globe’s largest development bank – in Washington, D.C.

“I was thrown into the action from day one and was included in a major insolvency reform project in Trinidad and Tobago that informed stakeholders in person of the new Bankruptcy and Insolvency Act,” says Christian. “The experience gave me unique insights on the enactment of new legislation and creation of government offices from the perspective of policy-makers.”

Along with an external consultant, Christian took pieces from the experience in Trinidad and Tobago, as well as best practices from other jurisdictions, to facilitate the creation of a “manual” for developing countries on how to create a bankruptcy regulator from scratch. “This booklet will be extremely useful for governments who are considering insolvency reform, but are seeking to learn more about the intricacies of establishing an insolvency regulator.”

As for the value of this particular internship, Christian says, “It provides a very different outlook on the law from the perspective of policy-makers as opposed to lawyers in private practice. The knowledge I have gained from working with such experienced and knowledgeable practitioners has been invaluable.”

Both McCarthy Tétrault LLP and Thornton Grout Finnigan LLP contributed $30,000 each to support a total of six summer internships for Western Law students.

Enabling Western Law students to gain feedback while taking on real assignments and responsibilities was a decision that was very easy to make according to Leila Rafi, partner, Business Law for McCarthy Tétrault LLP.

“McCarthy Tétrault’s support of Western Law’s ISLIP demonstrates our commitment to legal education and ensuring that there are experiential learning opportunities for law students to develop practice skills, such as client service, with the support and mentorship of professionals from some of the most influential companies and law firms in the world,” says Rafi.

Robert (Bob) Thornton, founding partner at Thornton Grout Finnigan LLP agrees: “As donors to Western Law’s ISLIP, we understand the value of supporting students with coveted placements. In a highly competitive employment market, summer internships offer the first step toward career success. Students gain skills, make contributions and gain an edge over the competition when it comes time to begin professional practice.”

Judging by the experience of both Jeremy Lin and Christian Vieira, the impact of these donations is being put into practice.

For more information about ISLIP, or to support the Faculty of Law, please contact Manon Bone, director of alumni relations and development, Faculty of Law (519.661.2111, ext. 83953 or mbone2@uwo.ca).


This article appeared in the Summer 2015 edition of Impact Western
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