As the world reopens and we become accustomed to our new “normal”, the LAWS Summer Job Program attempts to do so as well. With fewer placements available to students in 2021 and the majority of those placements operating virtually, LAWS is thankful for the employers who have continued to support the program in these challenging times. One of those employers is Bell Canada, one of Canada’s largest telecommunications companies.
The LAWS Summer Job Program provides LAWS high school students with engaging and inspiring early work experiences by exposing them to professional workplaces and introducing them to positive role models. Placements are between four and eight weeks in length and take place in July and August. This year, Bell hired eight students from high schools throughout Toronto.
As a partner of the LAWS program for over ten years, Bell has been involved with the program in a variety of ways, including speaking engagements in high schools and annual tours of their production and technical facilities, located in Downtown, Toronto. When the relationship expanded to the Summer Job Program, Bell Media created an opportunity for two students to be placed over the summer term. Within the last year, Bell’s diversity and inclusion committee identified a need to expand the program. The decision to support eight students quickly became a priority for the company. Bell highlights that the expansion was driven by the importance of accessibility within the legal field. This is to say, it is important to them that LAWS students understand that they belong in professional spaces, such as Bell.
“We believe in LAWS’ mission including its goal of increasing the diversity in the legal profession to better reflect, serve, shape and strengthen Canadian society…We’ve seen the results of this goal including seeing several LAWS alumni enter law school on their way to enriching and diversifying the Canadian bar,” notes Toby Lang, Senior Counsel at Bell.
Last summer, students placed in both Bell Canada generally and Bell Media were tasked with important work. This work included job shadowing, analyzing business contracts, assisting with presentations regarding media law, and general administrative work. They were also able to enhance their soft skills, such as problem-solving and critical thinking through drafting letters to clients and working through negotiations.
After I met with all of the students and discussed what this opportunity meant to them, the one word commonly used to describe their experience at Bell was “validating.” Students discussed being nervous as it was their first time working in a professional environment. This worry quickly washed away once they were welcomed and felt that they were treated as equals. They felt that their opinions truly mattered, as their feedback was often put into practice.
One highlight of the summer that most students discussed was the opportunity to participate in mock negotiations with the other LAWS students. They were assigned a scenario and placed on teams to then formulate arguments for their position. Students said that they enjoyed this experience because it was challenging but also very rewarding to come to a conclusion where everyone can win.
For employers who are unsure of taking on a LAWS summer student, Bell has a few thoughts to share. Mark Graham, Vice-President Legal and Regulatory explains,“The level of professionalism and support that you get from the LAWS program as an employer makes it much easier than you might imagine to be an employer. Whether you are a big law firm or an in-house department, it is extremely fun, enjoyable, and gratifying at the end of the day. The talent, insight, and eagerness to learn that the LAWS students will bring is incredibly refreshing.”
Even in light of these challenging times, in 2021 the Summer Job Program placed 45 students in paid summer employment. “The hope is to continue to increase this number and eventually return to pre-Pandemic norms,” notes Executive Director Eleonora Dimitrova. “LAWS is very grateful for the generous ongoing support it has received from all of its partners and stakeholders.”
“It is a tremendous mentorship opportunity for employers. In turn, the students provide us with valuable insights and diverse perspectives from an age demographic that we seldom have the chance to interact with on a professional level. Bell Media is very proud of its 10-year relationship with LAWS and would recommend it to any employer considering the program,” notes Lang.
– Presila Mason, LAWS Program Assistant and Alum