The law faculty at l’Université de Montréal (UdM) has obtained accreditation (with conditions) from the Council of the Federation of Law Societies of Canada (FLSC) to implement their new national common law program and degree of Juris Doctor (J.D.), which is a combination of the LL.B. and J.D. in North American Common Law. This program was established by UdM in 2010 and already accommodates 50 students annually.
In 2011, Montréal submitted its application to the Council of the Federation of Law Societies of Canada with respect to how its J.D. would meet the National Requirements. More information on the program is found below.
As stated on the FLSC website, among other conditions that must be met by UdM,
The Federation’s recommendation for approval will now go to the individual law societies for their review and approval, as they have the ultimate authority to recognize Canadian law degrees conferred upon individuals seeking admission to law society bar admission programs.
In Canada, each provincial and territorial law society determines whether the holder of a Canadian law degree is entitled to apply for admission to its bar admission or licensing program.
The Federation of Law Societies of Canada has the authority to review and make recommendations with respect to new Canadian law degree programs leading to the conferral of common law degrees.
If the UdM Juris Doctor program obtains final approval, graduates of this new common law program with a Juris Doctor appellation will have the option to enrol in any one of the law societies in any Canadian common law jurisdiction and some United States bar associations that recognize the degree, such as New York and Massachusetts.
Prior to this, UdM law graduate who wanted to practice outside of Quebec but in Canada would sometime have to obtain a Certificate of Qualification issued by the National Committee on Accreditation (NCA) before they could seek admission to the law society of their choice.
According to the FLSC report on UdM’s submission for the new J.D. program, the university says that the program’s objectives are:
- To provide students with an understanding of the institutions and history of the Canadian and US common law systems
- To enable students to proceed to comparative analyses of common law and civil law systems
- To provide students with comparative skills in the main areas of Anglo-Canadian and American law
- To enable students to develop a critical approach and outlook on Quebec, Canadian and American law
- To impart students with the ability to use different legal systems to bring innovative solutions to complex problems
- To offer students holding a bachelor degree recognized by the Quebec Bar a training that gives them the opportunity to be admitted to the Bars of common law provinces or other common law jurisdictions
Among other considerations sought from UdM by the FLSC to meet the requirements of the national common law program (see Appendix A of the report), the university is adding two more classes to its program: Integration Workshop (problem-solving, research and oral and written legal communication skills) and Ethics and Professionalism, which requires students to demonstrate “an awareness and understanding of the ethical requirements for the practice of law in Canada.”
The lists of criteria that UdM is required to meet to obtain final approval of the standard for the national J.D. program are found in the report (see above link).
The J.D. is a graduate degree requiring applicants to have an LL.B. degree with a minimum average of 2.7/4.3. Students are expected to demonstrate their command of both French and English.
The J.D. program is composed of 11 courses (32 credits). The academic programs submitted for recognition last on average four years and total 133 credits (101 for the LL.B. and 32 for the J.D.).
Note that UdM will not accept graduates with civil law degrees from non-Canadian universities into the J.D. program.
Many other Canadian universities already have common law programs or have implemented JD programs that meet the FLSC national standards, among them McGill university, University of Ottawa and the University of Windsor. So this is not a first in Canada or in Quebec. What makes this a great initiative, now Quebec students who want to study common law in Quebec with the option to work outside of Quebec have another option than having to apply at McGill.
This seems like a positive move at a time when labour mobility initiatives are facing obstacles and Canadians as well as Quebecers are looking farther from home for work. And any action to increase trans-jurisdictional understanding of Canadian laws should have positive results. Maybe if the lawyers can start agreeing to get along, it’s possible to imagine the premiers will get along too.