Practicing Lawyers as Law School Faculty

Yesterday marked the start of the winter term for University Students. It also marked the start of the teaching term for some of my colleagues who offer their practical experience to law students by acting as Sessional Instructors. Many practicing lawyers give their time to this worthy activity.

At the University of Alberta Law School, there are 20 courses this term taught by sessional instructors – they are designated with a X in the course number if you are curious enough to follow the link. The University of Calgary Law School also has a long list of sessional instructors.

This is not an Alberta phenomenon of course, Osgoode Hall Law School’s list of adjunct faculty contains many members of the practicing bar.

First, let me express my thanks to all those who devote time and energy to allow for new members of the legal profession. Second, a special thank you to those who offer their extra experience as faculty who also practice law. I see first hand the hard work and dedication that is required by practitioners who also teach.

I have a question for law student readers of Slaw, or others who would like to share. When you are building your law school schedule, what criteria do you use to pick your courses? Do you place higher weight on courses taught by practioners? Do you try and balance your course selections with pure academics and practitioners?


  1. Hi,
    I’m from Laval University, in Quebec (now attending the Quebec Bar School). When building my schedule, my main criterion has always been the teacher. In addition to asking advice from other students, I did try to balance my selections with pure academics and practitioners. Even though we can’t deny that their approach is different, it seems to me that they are both relevant. I must admit however that some practitioners appeared to be less available than academics.

  2. Sheila Anne Kerr

    Hi. I just graduated from Osgoode (June 2012 – and btw still looking for family law articles in Barrie ON). I chose courses entirely by subject matter, and based on how many days a week I could afford to drive to school. Without exception, I found the courses taught by practitioners to be far more interesting – the focus wasn’t on the principles derived from cases, or the progression of historical development of the law – but on real cases and the day to day issues that they faced – what kinds of cases come up most often, what procedural issues delay cases, and how to work around them, real life ethical issues of clients who lie, or don’t pay, or harass their lawyers – which judge thinks (or decides) which way – how to help a client that won’t do what they need to do to get their kids back (and not get too involved at the same time). Fascinating stuff for me. I tried to ‘make up’ my own course that would have allowed me to sit in child protection courtrooms 2 days a week in my last term, and write about what I learned. The judges I spoke to allowed it, and I found a law professor willing to supervise me – but the Administration at Osgoode (as wonderful as they are) refused to approve it. Until this intake year, only a competitive minority were allowed to take ‘courses’ that involved ANY kind of practical work -and I was not ‘chosen’. I really think law students need to be in the courts (or at the bargaining table) on their first day of law school (indeed – for the whole first month!) and to keep a foot in this real world all the way through.