Title

Osgoode Hall Collaborates with Local Business Group on Virtual Employment Hub

Document Type

Media Mention

Publication Date

10-3-2017

Source Publication

The Lawyer's Daily

Description

The second largest Business Improvement Area (BIA) in North America, in partnership with Osgoode Hall, will be launching a two-year pilot program to establish a virtual employment hub with an online legal information service to serve the community.

DUKE Heights BIA, which represents the neighbourhood around Finch Avenue in North York, is made up of over 2,500 businesses with more than 31,000 employees. The virtual employment hub, which launches on Oct. 6, will be available through the BIA’s website and will offer employers, job seekers and entrepreneurs a space to easily access legal information.

“One of the real needs that’s been identified on the DUKE Heights side is trying to ensure that small businesses, with not a lot of infrastructure, many run by new Canadians and those who aren’t going to bring that in-depth knowledge of the legal environment to what they do, have an easy way of accessing the kind of information that small businesses need,” said the dean of Osgoode Hall, Lorne Sossin.

Sossin explained that small businesses owners seek information on a variety of topics, from contracting and procurement, how to address the regulatory environment and privacy, to municipal bylaws.

Sossin said the project will move in stages, with students involved in every step along the way.

“Initially we’ll be identifying FAQs and what the frequent or recurring issues are and how can information be provided for one-stop shopping to address those. And then, moving on, the goal is to have real-time response where questions can come in and which you’d receive a timely tailored response, or alternately to have referrals or ways to go online to figure out where you can get the additional information you seek,” he said, adding that the school is being mindful of the distinction between providing legal information and providing legal advice on which clients, or these businesses, might rely.

Sossin said the goal is to grow the virtual hub as time goes on and students figure out what other community needs must be addressed. He said they don’t want it to be a “one-off service.”

Osgoode has a public interest mandate and a long tradition of supporting communities and social justice, Sossin said. He also hopes this project will serve as an opportunity for law students to get involved in local development.

“I think there are two kinds of skills. One is part and parcel of their legal education, understanding areas of the law affecting small businesses. But more importantly we’re trying to educate students to be leaders in their community and to identify the kinds of issues that might be right for law reform, or might galvanize communities to advocate for better outcomes from the state for whatever change might be needed,” he said.

“We’re looking to give both those kinds of skill sets that will enhance our students' abilities to be successful lawyers. Successful in using their legal education, but also we’re looking to inspire that sense of leadership and to really see law as problem solving. It’s not just about the technical know-how. It’s about how are you helping people and improving society along the way,” he explained, adding that giving every student the sense that they have the capacity to make a positive difference is an essential part of legal education.

Sossin also sees the DUKE Heights partnership as a step in improving access to justice as the virtual employment hub will increase community members’ contact with legal information.

“The best kind of access to justice you can have is by preventing problems from arising in the first place. So those problems that happen because those people, or businesses, don’t know their obligations, or don’t know their rights, or don’t know how the law interacts with their activities, those are the most avoidable kinds of access to justice problems we have,” he said.

Sossin said having DUKE Heights as a collaborative partner has been an important part of developing the virtual employment hub.

“That our reach can expand much further and our experience can be much better when we work in partnership, I think that’s a great model for what law schools can be about,” he said about the partnership.

Comments

Article is written by Amanda Jerome (The Laywer's Daily) with commentary by Lorne Sossin.

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