Rethinking Legal Education

We haven’t mentioned the Symposium (from the Greek – a Drinking Party) at Ryerson University. Billed as The Ryerson Symposium – Innovation in Legal Education: Ideas for the 21st Century, it was held on Tuesday, November 25th.

On the heels of reports published by two separate task forces examining aspects of legal education in Canada, expert panels examined key issues:

How will Canadian law schools shape society in the next century?

What are the latest developments in the licensing and accreditation of law schools and will it impact legal education?

Can new legal education models unleash innovation and increase accessibility?

Is flexibility the way of the future?

What can we learn from experiences and practices south of the border?

The discussion was sometimes heated. One is struck by the fact that virtually the same discussion could have taken place a decade ago, or even two decades ago (see the Report of the Consultative Group on Research and Education in Law, mandated by Canada’s Social Science and Humanities Research Council, Law and Learning / Le droit et le savoir).

The speakers were

Harry Arthurs, Osgoode Hall Law School

The Honorable Michael Bryant, Minister of Economic Development

David Chavkin, American University, Washington, D.C.

Kirby Chown, Ontario Regional Managing Partner of McCarthy Tétrault

Ronit Dinovitzer, University of Toronto

Douglas Ferguson, University of Western Ontario

Ian Holloway, Dean of Law, University of Western Ontario

John Hunter, Chair, Federation of Law Societies Task Force on the Canadian Common Law Degree

Vern Krishna, Chair, Law Society of Upper Canada Licensing and Accreditation Task Force

David Lepofsky, Ministry of the Attorney General

Carissima Mathen, Associate Professor, University of New Brunswick Law School

Roy McMurtry Former Chief Justice of Ontario and Counsel, Gowlings

Diana Miles, Director of Professional Development and Competence at The Law Society of Upper Canada

Patrick Monahan, Dean, Osgoode Hall Law School

Mayo Moran, Dean of Law, University of Toronto

Annie Rochette, Département des sciences juridiques, Université du Québec à Montréal

Lorne Sossin, Academic Director, Centre for the Legal Profession, University of Toronto

Justice Michael Tulloch, Ontario Superior Court of Justice

Kinvin Wroth, Vermont Law School


Ryerson University is keenly interested in investigating innovative approaches to legal education for its existing and prospective law-based courses. To this end, Ryerson University held a one day Symposium on innovative approaches to legal education, bringing together a cross section of leading thinkers, practitioners, academics, and other interested persons, to discuss the latest developments in this area. A focus of attention at the Symposium wase on flexible legal education. Part of the rationale for the Symposium was to analyze what we know concerning the barriers to attracting non-traditional students who would benefit from such flexible legal education, and to make the case for further scholarly work in this area. 

Here are the links to the background documents for the Symposium

Law Society of Upper Canada Licensing and Accreditation Task Force Consultation Report, January 2008
Law Society of Upper Canada Licensing and Accreditation Task Force Report to Convocation, September 2008
Federation of Law Societies of Canada Task Force on the Canadian Common Law Degree Consultation Paper, September 2008
Response to the Consultation Paper of the Task Force on the Canadian Common Law Degree, by Prof. H.W. Arthurs, 2008
The Carnegie Foundation Report on Educating Lawyers – Executive Summary, 2007
Study of Accessibility to Ontario Law Schools – Executive Summary, 2004
Counting Outsiders: A Critical Exploration of Outsider Course Enrollment in Canadian Legal Education, 2007
The Career Trajectories of Urban Law Graduates by Ronit Dinovitzer, Department of Sociology, University of Toronto
Canadian Association of Law Teachers Annual Meeting, The Geographies of Legal Education: Policy, Practice and Theory; May 25-27, 2009, Carleton University, Ottawa, Ontario Canada

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