University of Windsor launches Transnational Arts and Entertainment Law Clinic

By Amanda Jerome

Law360 Canada (January 23, 2023, 12:02 PM EST) -- The University of Windsor’s Faculty of Law has launched a Transnational Arts and Entertainment Law Clinic to “fill a vital gap and provide a much-needed resource” to the creative community. The clinic, which is a collaboration with the University of Detroit Mercy’s (UDM) Arts and Entertainment Law Clinic, will provide students with “unique synergies between the institutions.”

According to a press release, issued Jan. 17, this term the clinic will “focus on developing local and cross-border community events to provide legal information.”

The inspiration for this initiative came from the founding director’s own experience working with creative industries in Detroit. Dr. Shanthi Senthe, an assistant professor of law, told The Lawyer’s Daily that through her pro bono work with independent film companies, she noted many “commercially driven” issues going unmet.

Dr. Shanthi Senthe, University of Windsor

Dr. Shanthi Senthe, University of Windsor

“There are gaps in business strategy, understanding financial literacy, access to credit, misappropriation of funds, any sort of breach of contract,” she explained, noting that creative entrepreneurs lack access to justice.

“My students started asking me questions, and I had the opportunity to develop a curriculum around the needs of the creative economy within Windsor,” she said, noting that UDM’s clinic was also an inspiration.

While UDM’s clinic has been in operation for a couple of years, the University of Windsor’s program is only a couple of weeks old, launching at the beginning of 2023, so they are still “creating the infrastructure,” Senthe explained.

“I want my students to be able to provide legal information to the creative community in Windsor, and we’re going to structure the challenges around that particular sector,” she said, noting that the students could end up working with filmmakers, musicians, artists and authors.

“We are so beautifully situated because of our proximity to Detroit,” she added, emphasizing the amount of cross-border trade.

Senthe noted that artists go “back and forth” over the border and needed to know “the rules that navigate each jurisdiction.”

“And when I say artists, I also mean people within the social media space, influencers, fashion designers,” she said, stressing that “that particular group of people also require legal services that are accessible.”  

“I don't know of any other law school that offers that particular focus, or focuses on that need,” she added.

Senthe hopes students’ main takeaway from the clinic is the “experiential learning component.”

“It’s enhanced by dealing with real life situations,” she said, noting that students are “able to focus their legal skills, or gain legal skills, using pragmatic moments that assist creative entrepreneurs.”

“They’re able to provide information that otherwise may not be available to the client or to the community. And they’re also able to interact with non-lawyers, they’re able to understand a particular niche industry that they may not have access to in the classroom. They’re able to enhance their advocacy skills,” she added.

Senthe noted that a “large number” of students applied to participate in the clinic. So much so that she had to increase the clinic size from five students to eight.

“A lot of them have a background in film, [or they were] musicians before law school. So, they are already driven, they’re already passionate about this area of law,” she added.

Sarika Navanathan, a second-year law student at the University of Windsor, “looks forward to exploring the unique complexities of entrepreneurship through the law.”

“As both a law student and musician, this clinic is the perfect opportunity to merge my legal and artistic backgrounds to meet the needs of artists and entrepreneurs in the community,” she said in a statement.

While the clinic is geared towards those in creative industries, Senthe noted that there will also be an emphasis on providing access to justice for racialized communities as well. All the independent film companies she assists are Black-owned, she explained.

Senthe would like the legal profession to know that the clinic will be “creating community events that provide legal information to stakeholders within the creative economy” and she would “love to collaborate” with legal practitioners.

“My big ask would be for private practitioners, who are experts in copyright issues or IP, [to be] a guest lecturer,” she said, noting that people who are “interested in contributing their expertise, or their knowledge are always welcome.”

“At the end of the day, we’re in a very fast-paced environment, and I want to engage with people who are actually on the front line,” she added.

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