It’s a well-known fact that before Facebook became the social media powerhouse it is now, it was an internal network for Harvard and Ivy League college students to interact. Today, it is the largest digital social network on Earth, boasting more than 1.65 million global users. Not bad for a site that started from such humble beginnings.
Dana Collette, a Canadian management and law professor at British Columbia’s Vancouver Island University (VIU), believes the internal VIU Law Network she has worked to grow over the last decade is a strong tool for VIU students interested in legal studies.
This year, the VIU Law Network is celebrating a major milestone as the groundbreaking digital community designed for VIU students by VIU faculty turns ten years old.
Designed to unite current students and aspiring lawyers with faculty, alumni and law experts, the VIU Network has created a synergistic community of people helping people, which has historically been the norm for the legal community in Canada. The VIU Law Network was established in 2006 by VIU Management & Law Professor Dana Collette after Bachelor of Business Administration graduate Lauren Fourmeaux Clemens came to her asking for help applying to law school.
“[Professor] Dana Collette generously offered me her insight and wisdom as I prepared my law school applications for final submission. At that time, little did I know where my legal journey would take me,” notes Clemens.
After successfully applying and graduating from law school, Clemens, who now resides in Manitoba and serves as in-house counsel to one of the largest Canadian agricultural companies, still keeps in touch with the professor who helped her along the way.
“From afar, I continue to observe the activities of the VIU Law Network and cannot help but be proud of my Vancouver Island fellows and the growth of this organization,” added Clemens.
While helping Clemens, Professor Collette began building the robust network so other students could also benefit from the extracurricular help.
“An important part of the network is how it functions as a sort of crowd sourcing platform. Students can ask a question, anonymously if they choose, and I will post it to the network, then give the responses to the student,” explains Dana Collette.
After four years of running the network, in 2010, Dr. David Livingstone, Liberal Studies & Political Studies professor at VIU, began working with Professor Collette to bring the VIU Network to the entire campus.
Since that time, the Network has been fortunate to work with student research assistants to help develop and promote the endeavors, and has grown to include a number of special events held throughout the year, including LSAT seminars each term and regular speaker events featuring experts sharing their experiences in legal areas of interest.
“The LSAT preparation seminars, legal community contacts, and mentorship were all invaluable resources that assisted in my law school application process,” said Leah Whitworth, VIU graduate and current law school student. “After completing my applications, working as the Network’s research student provided me with an opportunity to pass on my experiences and mentor other students considering law school.”
Wentworth’s experience showcases the lasting impact the VIU Law Network has had on the students who have used it, as well as the candidates who are selected to hold the student research assistant work-op program position each year.
In addition to being a living repository of information students, alumni and legal experts have also reported that the VIU Law Network has helped them build and fortify their own personal networks which has resulted in friendships, job offers and word of mouth recommendations.
While the Network has greatly grown over the last decade Professor Dana Collette and Dr. David Livingstone want to expand the Network into a more stand-alone online social community where VIU students and alumni interested in a future in law can interact with one another and the many legal professionals and experts that are already apart of Professor Collette’s growing network.
“The internet has created an enhanced level of communication that has not only made these digital communities possible, it has allowed them to flourish,” said Professor Collette. “I’m just building one here in B.C. that is beneficial to our students and alumni interested in law ”
The ambitious professors are also working to introduce a Law Certificate Program at VIU that will combine legal courses a student takes on campus into a certificate.
Currently Professor Collette is working on a new WordPress account for the VIU Law Network that will serve as the foundation for the digital community she has worked to grow.
“I really enjoy doing this,” said Professor Collette. “When a student tells me, the VIU Law Network ‘helped me with the biggest decision of my life’, there really isn’t a better feeling.”