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New clinic director to cultivate business law partnerships

Tomi Adebiyi
New Queen's Business Law Clinic director Tomi Adebiyi looks forward to enhancing experiential learning opportunities for students and to building relationships with more community organizations that will help budding entrepreneurs and innovators in the Kingston area. (Photo by Greg Black)

After only 10 months of supervising students who serve start-ups and entrepreneurs, Tomi Adebiyi has taken the helm at the Queen's Business Law Clinic. Born in Lagos, Nigeria, Adebiyi practised with one of her home country’s leading business law firms for three years before completing an LLM in corporate/commercial law at McGill University. After her 2015 graduation, she worked in different capacities with Pro Bono Law Saskatchewan and the Saskatchewan Human Rights Commission and then joined the Queen's Business Law Clinic in January. 

Promoted from staff lawyer to director of the Queen's Business Law Clinic, Tomi Adebiyi speaks about her interests in business law, clinic experience and her plans for the future.

What interests you most about business law and in providing legal services to small businesses, non-profit organizations and other Queen's Business Law Clinic clients?

I have always been intrigued by business law. I was curious to understand the intersection of law and business as a law student and this influenced my decision to pursue a business law practice. I also have a strong background in pro bono service, having worked as a staff member, articling student and volunteer lawyer at a pro bono organisation in Saskatchewan. Being able to assist clients who would otherwise be unable to afford legal services has been quite a fulfilling experience for me. For many of our clients, the Queen's Business Law Clinic provides them with an invaluable opportunity to obtain excellent legal advice thereby avoiding potential mistakes that could cost their business a lot going forward. 

What did you like best about being a staff lawyer with the Queen's Business Law Clinic?

The best part of my job as a staff lawyer was supervising the student caseworkers. When I resumed in January, the student caseworkers were halfway through their time at the clinic and, at that stage, were producing substantial work for review. I thoroughly enjoyed reviewing their work and advising the student caseworkers on their client files. 

This summer, I worked closely with the three Queen's Business Law Clinic summer caseworkers to provide our clients with top-quality and timely legal services. We had a great time working with clients from the Queen’s Innovation Centre Summer Initiative (QICSI) Program run by the Dunin-Despande Queen’s Innovation Centre (DDQIC). We helped clients incorporate businesses, prepared Shareholders Agreements and advised them on their intellectual property rights. It was satisfying to watch some of our clients as they presented their ideas, and won seed funding, at the Dunin-Deshpande Summer Pitch Competition.

What surprised you about working with the Queen's Business Law Clinic?

The enthusiasm and dedication of the student caseworkers, as well as the versatility of files at the clinic, was a pleasant surprise. Working with startup companies and budding entrepreneurs presents a unique opportunity for students to experience hands on some of the issues that they are unlikely to find in bigger companies. It was a pleasure to watch students wear the adviser hat as they transferred the theoretical knowledge learnt at the law school into practical advice for the benefit of their clients. 

What do you like best about your new role as Queen's Business Law Clinic director?

In addition to supervising the 24 student caseworkers at the clinic, I instruct the Queen’s Business Law Clinic course. Over the summer, I worked with Morgan Jarvis (Law’10), the previous Clinic Director, to develop an intellectually stimulating syllabus for the 2019-20 school year. As part of my supervisory role, I meet with each student caseworker monthly to discuss file work and give feedback to the student on their file work. I am also working in collaboration with our partners, the Office of Partnerships & Innovation and the DDQIC on various projects, including the Women Entrepreneurship Strategy (WES) Ecosystem Fund, which is a $3.2 million fund provided by FedDev Ontario for Queen’s University. 

What are your plans for the clinic?

The Queen's Business Law Clinic is known for the provision of exceptional legal services to the Kingston area’s growing innovation ecosystem, start-ups, social enterprises, not-for-profits and charitable corporations. I look forward to continue to build up and enhance this reputation. I also look forward to enhancing the student experience at the QBLC by providing them with hands-on experiential learning opportunities throughout their year at the QBLC. We currently have a strong partnership with the DDQIC and the Office of Partnerships & Innovation and I look forward to renewing, strengthening and cultivating partnerships with other community organizations with similar goals and objectives, particularly groups focused on newcomers in Canada, budding entrepreneurs and innovators in the Kingston area. 

This article was first published by the Queen's Faculty of Law.