I catch David Collins just as he returns from a month in Russia, teaching World Trade Organization (WTO) law to Masters students at the Pericles American Business and Legal Education Project. Russia joined the WTO whilst David was out there, and the majority of these students are working at law firms during the day and swotting up on this new area of law in the evenings. He also lectured at Moscow State University of International Relations (MGIMO) and gave a presentation on the WTO at the American Chamber of Commerce during his stay.
Exciting things have been happening at City this past year for students interested in combining the fields of law and business. David launched an advice clinic providing legal and business advice to small businesses and start-ups in the London area, along with his friend Eric Klotz. Eric, who gained a PhD in Chemistry before turning to law, did the GDL at City and now supports start-ups in Dublin with law and business advice.
Named City Enterprise Services, the clinic ran from January – April of this year on Tuesday evenings, and was staffed by City students who were supervised by professional advisors: solicitors, barristers, accountants and a funding expert. Students were given grounding in relevant law: commercial contracts, IP, employment and business planning. It was made possible thanks to funding from the HEA, and its success has meant that this year (2012-13) students will be able to complete a whole elective on the subject as a third year undergraduate or second year postgraduate LLB. Those on our GDL course will get the chance to volunteer at the clinic in term 2 of the academic year.
Feeedback for this year from the students was exceptional with comments like these:
“It gave me as a student the opportunity to gain some practical experience and interact with clients” and “excellent opportunity to learn and apply practical legal advice”
Students highlighted the skills gained as follows: Teamwork, listening skills, professionalism, analyzing and critical thinking, client relations, research, note taking, thinking on your feet, applying theory to practical situations, problem solving, advocacy and commercial awareness. Commercial awareness is amongst the most highly-sought after skills by law firm recruiters.
The response from the public using the clinic was overwhelmingly positive as well, with comments like:
“A fabulous idea and something I think is really helpful to both the students and those seeking advice”.
So how did the clinic work? Gaining clients was doing through various advertising traditional mediums like newspapers and flyers although the most effective way proved to be via the website Meetup. The walk-in clinic attracted around 7 clients each evening with a range of issues: accounting and tax, business plans, help seeking funding, commercial contract and licensing, IP (particularly patents queries) and employment. There were a few people who misunderstood the scope of the clinic and came with landlord problems, but on the whole those turning up for help were a bright, go-getting collection of business people and entrepreneurs. The new elective has an agreement with the Prince’s Trust to focus on reaching older people who are starting businesses. Cass Business School has also expressed an interest in linking its business incubator with City Enterprise Services next year.
David is keen that the clinic will not only offer students an opportunity to gain real-life experience, client skills and an interest in the commercial aspects of law, but that it might also get them thinking about starting their own businesses. Watch this space!
David, who specialises in International Economic Law, (in particular WTO and International Investment) has travelled a lot during his career, securing grants for teaching or research from the Society of Legal Scholars, the British Academy, Erasmus for Teaching, Asia Link Foundation and the Foundation for Canadian Studies in the UK. Most recently, David has been part of a team securing a grant of 100K relating to regulatory issues in the nuclear energy industry in India with Professor Philip Thomas, of the School of Engineering and Mathematical Sciences. David is a Senior Lecturer at The City Law School and Deputy Director of the Graduate Entry LLB.