World's first legal innovation lab partners with Waterloo

Wednesday, July 5, 2017

By: Naz Kittani

Although he graduated over 40 years ago, former board of governor member and proud alumnus Bill Watson (BA ’76) continues to carry the innovative Waterloo spirit. Earlier this year, Watson contacted Waterloo’s Co-operative and Experiential Education (CEE) about an idea his law firm, Baker Mckenzie, was working on. Watson wanted to create Whitespace Legal Collab – a hub that uses multidisciplinary collaboration to address complex business issues.

CEE’s Executive Director, Ross Johnston, took the opportunity to introduce Watson to Entrepreneurship Professor Larry Smith. Smith runs a Problem Lab out of the Velocity Garage that specializes in multidisciplinary problem-solving. Smith hosted a meeting with the Baker McKenzie team along with a tour of the Velocity Garage. Baker McKenzie was so impressed with Smith and the Co-operative Education (CE) team that they posted a job for two Waterloo co-op students.

The Whitespace Legal Collab works to provide face-to-face contact between Baker McKenzie attorneys and leaders in business, government, academia, and not-for-profits to address complex global challenges. Those issues often pull in experts from the business, law and technology sectors to identify a problem and then do a deep dive to solve it. As the first lab of its kind, this new addition to Baker McKenzie places the company at the forefront of innovation, making Waterloo the perfect partner.

“Waterloo co-op students are known for their innovative approach to problems,” says Johnston. “A major reason for that is the multidisciplinary team projects they’re exposed to in the lab and classroom during academic terms. This prepares them for real-world situations in the workforce and is part of the reason they’re in such high demand from employers around the world across a wide variety of industries.”

The Collab officially launched on June 6 with Waterloo’s Problem Lab listed as an official partner. CEE was invited to the official launch party to ring the closing bell at the TSX as part of the pre-launch festivities.

To find out more about The Whitespace Legal Collab, watch Baker McKenzie’s launch video, which also features a few words from Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.