I exclusively practice in contracts concerning technology transfer / licensing with expertise in advanced technologies, especially agricultural biotechnology; novel foods; new plant varieties; stone fruits and food labels. I represent all manner of clients domestically, internationally and before the UN Food and Agricultural Organization.
Most of my clients have determined that legal briefings save them time and money in the long term. Consequently I also conduct tailored courses regarding contract law / drafting, intellectual property and internet law
Clients are also interested in the latest applicable legal developments, so I maintain a blog at www,plantlawyer.wordpress.com. I post on legal issues concerning amongst other topics: field crops; breeding; GM; regulation; new plant / crop varieties. food safety a from a global perspective.
I also provide advice to agricultural lawyers for whom this is not their area of expertise, thus ensuring they maintain their client base / loyalty.
My clients are passionate about their business and endeavours, and I am equally passionate about the law.
Law --- like medicine --- requires a personal approach combining knowledge and insight with client needs and personality.
Hence my approach is to initially meet on the client's site to learn about the client and ensure the client's needs and my talents / approach are complementary. After that I communicate by phone whenever issues arise. Emails and modern technologies are wonderful for accessing and passing on knowledge. However true communication means eye and voice contact (including skype like means). This approach also saves client time and eliminates a blizzard of to and fro emails.
A lawyer's first job is to understand the client's business and stresses. That means visits to the greenhouse, nursery, vineyard, orchard or distribution centre as the case may be. It also means coming out to the client's site on the weekend or during bad weather to gain insights about the client's challenges.
Secondly value lies to a client in reducing complex scientific or business arrangements into a crisp understandable -- and practical --- legal agreement. The agreement must be one any reader will understand, and a court will not easily impeach. Yes in agriculture there are many hand-shake deals, and reputation matters. However, in today's world with globalization, advanced science and trans-national corporations, contracts / licences are unavoidable (no software legitimately enters your computer without you clicking "I agree"). However producers / growers / food processors can use contracts as effective tools instead of costly complicated irritations.
Lastly a lawyer must be a facilitator and not a spoiler. My job is not to tell the client "no", but to find a way to help clients reach their objectives quickly, practically and most of all, cost-effectively.
The philosophy I teach my law students and strive to follow is "apply the law to the deal, not the deal to the law". So creativity and risk management are fundamental to success.
Technology transfer contracts material transfer agreements, collaborations, options, confidentiality agreements and licenses I write in plain language. I ensure the factual context / expectations of the deal are crisply identified. As well I draft explicit obligations, thus eliminating interpretative arguments. Who bears what risk is obvious to all.
These agreements use contract architecture (ie. recitals / table of contents) and techniques (ie. paragraph sculpturing) to keep key concepts clear and obvious for years down the road to any character of reader. These contracts have the appearance of plenty of white space. I eschew long turgid or dense paragraphs which contribute to poor contract administration.
"Fine print" may be unavoidable today, but clients have much at risk and so the agreement must be understandable and easily administered.
Dr. Stan Benda:
Ph.D., the interplay of risk analysis methodologies, genetically modified foods and food labeling.
Adjunct Professor, York University, Osgoode Hall Law School & Ryerson University, Ted Rogers School of Management
Author, law journal articles and book chapters: plant genetics, agricultural regulation / policy, plant breeders rights, risk and food labeling
Graduate of the Royal Military College; academic exchange to West Point; commissioned 1st Lieutenant, trained as a combat arms officer, armour corps
Former counsel / senior counsel Federal Department of Justice (Canada), posted Whitehorse, Edmonton, Ottawa, Toronto
Intellectual property / licensing counsel representing Agriculture Canada in technology transfer for 18 years
Past legal representative on the Canadian delegation to the UN FAO meetings under the International Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture (ITPGRFA); worked with senior representatives from the USDA and State Department legal services; on the list of arbitrators for the ITPGRFA.