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How a first-year law student designed his own summer internship

Nicholas Hill now helps startups at DMZ Innisfil navigate legal challenges
By: Irina Vukosavic
June 11, 2021
Nicholas Hill stands in front of Lake Ontario.

Law student Nicholas Hill designed a summer internship that helps startups with legal support. He is also the founder and co-president of the Ryerson Law and Technology Society, a student-run organization.

As Nicholas Hill was wrapping up his first year at the Lincoln Alexander School of Law, he was looking for an opportunity to combine his passions for law and entrepreneurship this summer.

Hill got the chance to do this with the Business Strategy Internship, external link from Mitacs, which provides $10,000 to students who develop innovative projects designed to help an organization thrive in a new economic environment.

He created a pilot project that aims to provide startups with the legal resources they need to be successful within an incubator. After reaching out to Ryerson’s zones and some other private incubators, he piqued the interest of the DMZ at Ryerson. After completing his first year of law in April, he joined DMZ Innisfil for a summer role as the startup legal strategy intern. 

“What drew me to the Ryerson law program was the focus on entrepreneurship and legal solutions for entrepreneurs,” he said. “I’m interested in becoming a new kind of lawyer that will focus on solving issues in the startup world.”

Alongside Sukhi Hansra at Hansra Law, Hill provides legal support, IP research and strategic guidance for the startups at DMZ Innisfil. Much of his work includes assisting a variety of technology startups with various legal  research and strategic guidance to ensure that these Canadian ventures are putting their best foot forward, all while mitigating any unnecessary risk. 

Hill also coordinates weekly meetings and drop-in times for the startups within DMZ Innisfil to outline some of the legal and intellectual property research they need to complete, as well as business strategy planning through a legal lens. He then carries out this research and planning, under the supervision of Hansra Law,  and provides the startups with comprehensive reports addressing their concerns.

“I am grateful to the DMZ Innisfil for providing me with the opportunity to run with this idea and giving me the autonomy to go in this direction,” says Hill. “The most rewarding part of the internship has also been the most challenging —  although the DMZ trusts my perspective, it can also mean a lot of pressure to do my best as I don’t want to let anyone down. Luckily, everyone is here to support me. “

DMZ Innisfil is one of the DMZ's satellite offices and is a partnership with the Town of Innisfil. All startups part of the DMZ in Innisfil have access to a working space with startup-specific amenities, DMZ programming and mentorship provided at the Toronto headquarters, and virtual access to DMZ workshop curriculum at the Toronto headquarters. 

As program director at the DMZ Innisfil, Jelmer Stegink is in charge of promoting, attracting and supporting startup founders as well as connecting them to the resources they need in the Simcoe county ecosystem. 

Although the DMZ Innisfil has a team of over 50 entrepreneurs, alumni and professionals in residence that support the startups, Stegink says the in-house counsel offers more strategic advice than technical, nitty-gritty details which is where Hill’s counsel comes in. Hill’s role helps many startup founders to do the initial legal audit or answer questions about setting up various important legal documents. 

The Town of Innisfil partnered with the DMZ in Toronto almost a year ago to transform the local tech startup ecosystem.  In one year, Stegink says they have attracted 20 startups,  who collectively raised $1.97 million in funding and created just over 30 jobs since joining the program. 

“The DMZ helps brand Innisfil as an innovative town and helps us promote entrepreneurship,” said Stegink. “We want to build a rural alternative to the city where you can get the best of both worlds and live the life you want, while also getting the support for your business that you need.”

Hill’s internship which runs until the end of August could potentially be continued next summer with another Ryerson law school student, says Stegink. 

For more information about how the DMZ Innisfil launched last May, check out this Ryerson Today article


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