All of the student societies at Ontario’s seven law schools have agreed to participate in a newly formed Law Students Society of Ontario. At the moment the LSSO website contains only the following press release:
For immediate release: Tuesday, April 1, 2014
Ontario’s Law Students Found New Association to Advance Student Issues
Ontario’s law school student governments have formed a new organization to speak out on issues affecting the province’s 4,000 law students.
The goal of the Law Students’ Society of Ontario (LSSO) is to advance student concerns to governmental, regulatory, and educational stakeholders on issues such as access to legal education, professional accreditation requirements, and other matters affecting law students across the province.
“Access to justice, the articling crisis, technological developments, and diversity issues are all coming to a head in the legal profession. Law students need a seat at the table to provide insight and innovation at this critical time,” stated Naheed Yaqubian, President of Queen’s Law Students’ Society. Yaqubian brought student leaders together on March 15 to ratify the organization in Kingston.
The priorities identified at the LSSO’s inaugural meeting include:
- Raising awareness about the consequences of skyrocketing tuition costs – now at over $30,000 per year at the University of Toronto and growing rapidly at other schools;
- Monitoring the success of the Law Society of Upper Canada’s Law Practice Program (LPP), which threatens to create a two-tier market for new lawyers;
- Lobbying for changes to the Law Society’s recent 74% hike of licensing fees for new law school graduates; and
- Advocating for inclusive, representative law schools – no student should be excluded from or oppressed within a Canadian law school because of an immutable part of their identity.
“Our goal is to push for a substantive and meaningful role for law students to contribute to legal education policies and professional regulation issues that directly impact them,” stated Douglas Judson, President of the LSSO and Osgoode JD/MBA student. Judson indicated that the current licensing fee dilemma reflects the need for a unified law student voice.
The LSSO member organizations wrote to the Law Society in February expressing concern about the poor communication of the $2,000 fee increase and the unnecessary surcharge for those unable to pay the entire bill upfront. They requested that the Law Society find ways to reduce the burden on new lawyers. The Law Society has since modified the payment deadline, but no plans have been implemented to address the unforeseen burden on debt-saddled students or to provide assistance to those least able to pay. The fees remain due before most students will have received a paycheque.
“The cumulative impact of these issues is alarming for the future face of the profession and the availability of legal services where they’re needed,” said Judson. “Students are rightfully anxious about who can afford law school, what they can afford to do when they graduate, and whether those outcomes are in the public interest.”
Membership in the LSSO has been ratified by student groups at all seven Ontario law schools (the University of Windsor, Western University, the University of Toronto, Osgoode Hall Law School (York University), Queen’s University, the University of Ottawa, and Lakehead University). Joining Judson on the LSSO executive are Vice Presidents Allison Medjuck (Queen’s) and Chantel Morrison (Windsor).
President, Law Students’ Society of Ontario
[hat tip: Adam Dodek]