Why Ryerson Should Have a Law School

When Trinity Western University first suggested it should have a law school, I emphasized here all the market reasons they should not; there are enough law schools already, not enough articling positions, and too much job competition for junior lawyers.

What it was ultimately about though is that we don’t need a new law school, doing everything the old way of doing things, and adding exclusionary criteria that runs contrary to human rights principles.

Since then, we’ve had new law schools at Lakehead University in Thunder Bay, and Thompson Rivers University in British Columbia. The former has gained some notoriety by including clinical experiences into the program already to meet all articling requirements before graduation, and the latter has also attempted to focus on new and innovative legal practices.

But what if we could build a law school that looks nothing like legal education of the past?

This week, Ryerson University released a Letter of Intent to develop a proposal for a new juris doctor (JD) program. Without even reading the letter, the proposal is already receiving pushback from the profession.

Except it’s not the profession that Ryerson is catering to. The Letter proposes a curriculum like nothing legal education in Canada has seen before, but also explicitly sets out to address all the existing problems in the legal industry. And I just might think they can pull it off.

Granted, I am biased. I am a graduate of Ryerson University, where I did my second degree prior to law school. I still say that my Ryerson education was the best degree I ever completed, better than my first degree in nuclear medicine, better than my masters in law, and yes, even better than law school.

What made it different? The educational approach, the collegial learning environment, and the contemporary focus of the content. The education was heavily based in theory, but deeply and ultimately practical, providing skills, insights, and tools that were easily applied to the workplace. In other words, it was education that was useful.

I also happen to share a bias in that I have taught at Ryerson for several years. I can compare what we do there to other schools I teach or lecture at in the GTA, and also can see how the school is growing and developing. Our law classes actually provide skills that are useful in the business world, rather than help hone the ability to brief cases.

Since then, I’ve observed Ryerson win a competitive bid to provide the Law Practice Program (LPP). Although the initial LPP pilot is coming to a close, there’s broad consensus that the instructional tools used in it are unsurpassed in the legal industry today. It’s the mentorship, and the technology, that makes all the difference.

We’ve also seen the introduction of the Legal Innovation Zone (LIZ), based on Canada’s #1 university-based incubator (surprise, it’s the DMZ at Ryerson), where a small and energetic community of entrepreneurs experiment with private sector solutions to problems in the legal system. The LIZ has even served as a central hub of expertise and a think tank, bringing in experts, practitioners, and the public to produce a 20-page report on Family Law Reform. The largest law schools in Canada, any of the family law firms in the country, or even the government itself, could not have mobilized and executed what I observed in this consultation.

This year I’ve been teaching in the Ryerson Law & Business Clinic. We team up with several firms in Toronto to provide free legal services to small businesses connected to the Ryerson community. Business students do the bulk of the work, under lawyer supervision. The students not only learn the basics of business documents and contracts, but they learn the strategy behind why these tools are important. To my knowledge, there is no program like it anywhere in Canada.

Ryerson is already a pioneer in law, even without a law school.

It’s where Ryerson is located, and who it comprises of, that also makes it different. A truly downtown campus, completely integrated with the city life, the university and its student body actually looks like our population (the faculty is a different issue, but one that would only be challenged so strongly at Ryerson). We are not going to change who our profession is comprised of, who the managing partners are at firms, or the people we appoint to the bench, unless we have different types of students in law schools than we have in the past.

I’ve often said that we let the wrong people in to law school. If you’ve been isolated your entire life from the rich fabric of the Canadian population, attending prestigious private schools, and maintained a tight and homogeneous social network throughout university, you ultimately have no idea how to understand or advocate on behalf of minorities and historically marginalized populations. Even if you work in a transactional practice, it makes you a horrible person to work with, the type of co-worker who makes racially or culturally inappropriate jokes, and then expects everyone to laugh.

Unfortunately there’s no screen for being a douche on a law school application. What we can do though is create a law school environment that looks like the Canadian population, and actually exemplify the culture of inclusion that we’d like to see in society at large.

The implications for this go beyond just the bar. I commented on this recently in the Law Times:

Omar Ha-Redeye, founder and chair of the Lawyers for Representative Diversity is leading discussions with the government on the issue.

“Governments come and go, but diversity in Canada is a permanent issue. Diversity itself is an issue of skill and merit. If there is little understanding of the social context of the law, you will not be a very good judge, he says.

Ha-Redeye is calling for every new judge from 2016 to have had some type of experience or contact with racialized groups. “It is no longer optional. You can do additional training for existing judges, but every new judge must have it.” he says.

Rather than wait for the time for appointment, these skills schools be built into the law school curriculum. Speak to any racialized law student in any law school in Canada, and they’ll tell you that it is not (and some are worse than others).

The new guidelines for Superior Court judicial appointments released this week highlight the need for Judicial Advisory Committees (JACs) to be more representative of Canada, and to receive training on diversity, unconscious bias, and assessment of merit, criteria which could also be applied to those aspiring to enter the profession. The Letter of Intent states,

We believe that a well-qualified group of applicants exists, that is simply unable to access legal education. As one of the practitioners (sic) at our consultation sessions put it, “Everything begins with admissions. Admit students who are more diverse and change the admissions process.”

As a result of my involvement at Ryerson, I had the opportunity to contribute to the “Originating Committee” leading up to this Letter of Intent. The Letter reflects many of the ideas that we have been saying legal education should be about, but doesn’t necessarily address all of the concerns the profession may have, for example, the shortage of articling positions and jobs for young lawyers.

The significant emphasis on technology in the Ryerson program is intended to highlight how many of the Ryerson law graduates would have no interest in pursuing traditional forms of legal practice at all. A Ryerson law student would be learning about the law of today and the day after, not of 100 years ago.

Lord Denning is more amusing to the law professors than he is to students, and less instructional of legal concepts for how they should be used in the modern era. How the law should be used, and why, is the type of paradigm that takes this profession light years ahead. The traditional problems for traditional law school graduates simply wouldn’t exist in the same way.

For example, Ryerson law school graduates would be creating jobs for the graduates of other law schools. Take a stroll down LIZ for an idea as to how.

Ryerson law graduates will be more financially self-sustainable than a graduate of another school, receiving financial literacy and social innovation training. And of course there would be mandatory instruction on Indigenous Law. The Ryerson approach is practical, effective, while still being socially conscious – and they would do it for less (and better) than some of the other schools.

It’s been 14 years since Ryerson has shed its “polytechnic” title, a history that still affects the way some perceive the institution. The school’s history, and its scrappy and aggressive development, has positioned itself to be a leader in technological solutions and inclusive environments, two of the most pressing concerns facing the legal industry. A Ryerson law school is a school seeks to address our problems, not accentuate or make them worse.

To me, it seems like the legal industry needs Ryerson and graduates from its law school, more than the other way around. Those who resist it will likely do so without knowing what Ryerson is capable of, or what it has already accomplished in a very short period of time.

A full proposal will be made to the Ryerson Senate and Board of Governors soon, with Senate approval expected by May 2017. The first intake of students could start as early as September 2018.



  1. David Collier-Brown

    Brilliant! I’ve followed the growth of non-traditional models of universies since I attend one the created itself out of three nominally religious colleges, and Ryerson is a standout!

  2. “I’ve often said that we let the wrong people in to law school. If you’ve been isolated your entire life from the rich fabric of the Canadian population, attending prestigious private schools, and maintained a tight and homogeneous social network throughout university, you ultimately have no idea how to understand or advocate on behalf of minorities and historically marginalized populations.”

    Not sure why you think this is an accurate description of the student body at existing Canadian law schools. Roughly 1/3rd of new calls in Ontario – most of whom attend law school in Ontario – identify as being members of a racialized group (an imperfect estimate, given the LSUC methodology, but probably a good first order approximation) – by way of comparison 22% of Ontarians are identified by stats can as being “visible minorities”. http://www.lsuc.on.ca/uploadedFiles/Equity_and_Diversity/Members2/TAB%207.3.1%20-%20Snapshot-Lawyers16_apr13.pdf

    Our law schools are already representative of our population (well, not quite, but really, is there anyone who thinks we should be reducing the number of deserving racialized students to ensure that the law student population “represents” Ontario’s population? I hope not). They may not be representative of Toronto’s population, but then we wouldn’t want Queens to be representative of Eastern Ontario’s population (e.g., white) or Windsor to be representative of southwestern Ontario (ditto). Good law schools attract people from all over the province, country and world – only parochial schools look like the communities around them.

    There may or may not be a case for a Ryerson law school (colour me unconvinced – that the LOI looks like a buzzword bingo board should be warning sign), but increasing diversity isn’t the compelling argument you think it is.

  3. Mr. Smith, that’s a little cherry-picking the stats.

    Lawyers aren’t, and likely should not be, evenly distributed in the population and there ought to be a higher concentration in Toronto. Given that, it’s remarkable that 80% of lawyers are white compared to the 1/3 of graduates on average in other professions. It would be hard to find a profession that is less diverse (accountants? doctors? engineers? MBA grads I suspect are far more diverse as our below average rank would indicate). The main reason is that it is probably easier for people from different cultures to compete with math than languages.

    Not sure if Ryerson can overcome this. But considering how much of the jobs are in the diverse GTA, (well over half?), having universities dispersed outside the GTA is an odd, and even outdated, policy choice, made for a society where Toronto was less hegemonic. Our mis-allocation may contribute to reducing diversity. An alternative strategy would of course be moving the law schools at Western, Queens, or Windsor to Toronto in the same manner that Western has moved its MBA program to Toronto. But of course, law schools aren’t that innovative. Which goes back to why Ryerson is welcome.

  4. Jeremy Hessing-Lewis

    Well said. Only because I tend to agree do I want to offer some minor points of contention. Firstly, there’s nothing to be said that existing law schools can’t take steps to become more like Ryerson. I’m always more inclined to reform existing institutions rather than start new ones. Where possible, it tends to be a better use of resources.

    Secondly, I certainly agree with your points on technology, but I also don’t want to see the Denning era tossed aside. If you can see past Denning’s racism and sexism (and probably a few other isms), the idea is to teach law students that storytelling matters when it comes to advocacy. Abandoning these lessons brings us back to the traditional engineering vs philosophy debates. That said, we can certainly use a bit more balance when it comes to the practical details.

  5. Introducing another law school in Ontario, particularly in Toronto, is a terrible, terrible idea.

    I agree that there should be a practical component to legal education, but the solution to that is not to establish another law school, but instead for there to be a change in the law school curriculum. FLSC and the existing law schools should work in conjunction to develop a curriculum that focuses on both legal theory and the skills necessary for legal practice. I should note that legal clinics, including Business Law clinics, exist in nearly all the law schools in Ontario and students do have the option of gaining hands on experience during their three years.

    As far as diversity in the legal profession goes, perhaps the profession has been a bit slower than others in being representative of the population as a whole (especially when we compare it to professions like accounting and engineering). However, that has nothing to do with the fact that there is not a third law school located in Toronto. As a visible minority from an immigrant family, the STEM careers were always emphasized to me and my siblings growing up and the law was not perceived to be as worthy of a vocation. This is a mindset that is clearly changing as obvious from the student demographics at law schools (including the ones outside of Toronto). I highly doubt a “racialized” law student from the GTA would be dissuaded from attending a law school by virtue of it being located outside of Toronto.
    There are MBA programs available in Toronto from business schools outside the city, I imagine, to cater to professionals wanting to pursue an MBA part-time or attend night classes (that’s not generally the case for the majority going straight from undergrad to law school).

    Finally, this blog post does not mention the economic reality faced by most recent law graduates. Articling positions have not been able to keep up with the increased acceptance of law students by the current law schools and the influx of Canadian students with a law degree from England/Australia. The demand for an articling position far exceeds the supply – with some firms taking advantage of students’ desperation and offering unpaid articles.
    Even if Ryerson decides to incorporate articling into their curriculum, this shortage continues once newly minted lawyers look for associate/junior level positions. The legal market is fairly saturated and there hasn’t been an increase in the demand for lawyers – a trend that is likely to persist. The last thing we should want is to facilitate a scenario like the one in existence in the United States – unemployed or underemployed law graduates with thousands of dollars in debt. Considering that Ryerson charges about $9,500 a year for its undergraduate business students, I am doubtful it would charge anything less than that for its potential law students.

    Instead of a new law school, Ryerson and LSUC should keep and improve the LPP.

  6. A few comments in response.

    It’s true that other law schools can change. Whether they will change is unlikely, at least at a pace at which can make a significant different.

    I don’t think we actually have statistics of the racialized status of all law students in all law schools (the figures linked above are for lawyers, and just in Ontario). We know from NCA stats and information gleaned from the LPP that a significant portion of these racialized new calls are not graduates of Canadian law schools, so those figures are truly misleading.

    It’s worth noting that a disproportionate number of students specifically from the GTA attend law schools all across Canada. In part, this is because of the average younger age of the GTA as compared to the rest of Canada, but also the sheer size of the population. Many of these lawyers who attend school out of the city or even outside of the province return to Toronto and its suburbs, which only adds to the existing concentration of lawyers in the GTA that we have. Let’s make no mistake, even without accurate statistics on the issue, there is a significantly higher percentage of lawyers in the GTA as compared to many other parts of Canada, but that also reflects the type of legal work that is being conducted as well.

    On both fronts, diversity and technology, this concentration serves to bolster the argument for a law school at Ryerson. The domestic law student and lawyer population still does not approach the diversity of the population, and that is most acutely observed in the most diverse population hubs in Canada, and especially the GTA. The infrastructure and businesses prevalent across the region, and including the tech microhub in K-W, also makes it ideal for technological innovation in law as well.

    In terms of the clinic, the reference I was making was to non-law students (i.e. business students) functioning in this manner. Again, I don’t know of any other program of its type in Canada. The significance is the oft-repeated mantra by many, including myself, for greater interdisciplinary cooperation in law in order to foster innovation.

    The point here is that if Ryerson is to do a law school (that possibility is not yet forgone), it should be done in a way that:
    a) does not adversely impact the legal community as a whole
    b) actually improves the system through process improvement

    The first factor is very much dependent on the future of the LPP program, because without it we will only be accentuating the articling crisis further. Our adherence to the traditional path to licensing is stifling the development of the field, and the prospect of a new type of lawyer from a new type of law school is just one more example of this.

    However, I think I was also pretty clear above that the entrepreneurship and independence of practitioners envisioned through such a program would not compete with traditional service models. As mentioned, they will be creating the jobs for the lawyers the other schools are churning out, without adequate preparation for the changing market realities.

    This is not a possibility we should summarily dismiss, but it’s also a vision that we should hold Ryerson accountable to if they do proceed with this school.

  7. “Lawyers aren’t, and likely should not be, evenly distributed in the population and there ought to be a higher concentration in Toronto. Given that, it’s remarkable that 80% of lawyers are white compared to the 1/3 of graduates on average in other profession”

    Sorry it’s “remarkable” that lawyers are 80% white in a country (and province) that is 80% white. Can you explain why you think its “remarkable” that the legal profession looks sort of like the population from which it is drawn?

    And, really, if you’re going to question my use of statistics, you probably should be more careful in how you use them. Do you want to back up your proposition that 1/3rd of graduates in other professions are white – that would be a surprising proposition. It may be that you mean that 1/3rd of graduates are non-white, which would be totally believable given that – as I pointed out in my earlier comment – the same is true of law school graduates.

  8. Omar,

    Fair point, new calls include NCA students. But, NCA students account for a tiny proportion of the new calls in Ontario. Even if they were exclusively members of racialized groups (and they are not) that would still mean that news call from Canadian (largely Ontario) laws would still be overrepresented relative to the Ontario population.

    Moreover, this would be consistent with the experience of anyone who has graduated from law school in Ontario (or, as in my case, done recruiting fom hose law schools) over the last decade. I came out of UofT a decade ago an even then, racialized students made up almost a third of the student body.

    Rather than (lamely) trying to refute this fact, you should be celebrating it.

  9. Sorry that should have read “new calls who are members of racialized groups would still be overrepresented relative to Ontario’s population”.

  10. Omar,

    You said: “I don’t think we actually have statistics of the racialized status of all law students in all law schools (the figures linked above are for lawyers, and just in Ontario).”

    I’m going to call you out on this, because this is something that law schools collect. It, literally, took me 30 seconds to get the data from UofT: http://www.law.utoronto.ca/about/jd-first-year-class-profile. Note, one third of their class identify as non-white. I’d be surprised if the profile at other Ontario law schools was radically different (maybe Lakehead).

    But, that’s really not the point. If you’re going to say that you “don’t think we actually have statistics of the racialized status of all law schools”, you cannot suggest, as you did in your original post, that law schools are filled with a homogenous population that isolated from the rich diversity of the Canadian population and lacking in experience dealing with diversity. I mean, if you don’t have data to back it up – and you say you don’t – are you telling me you just made that claim up? If there is a fact based case to be made for a Ryerson law school, make it. Don’t invent facts that suit your argument.

  11. Bob,

    I actually don’t have any statistics on this, but I have visited Western, UofO, Osgoode and Windsor this past year. Racialized law students were certainly not a third of the cohort, on a simple observation alone. Unless there’s something very unusual going on at UofT, Queens and Lakehead, I still don’t think it’s that high. Also, the number of NCA students is highly underestimated, and it is rapidly growing. We do know that a “significant proportion” of the over 200 students in the LPP are NCA students, and some of these NCA students do find articling positions as well.

    Furthermore, I attended the 2015 Convocation at Osgoode, the largest law school in Canada, because LLM students graduate at the same time as the JD students. You can see the class composite of the JD students here. It certainly does not look like one-third (I eyeball about 80 students out of approximately 300). Keep in mind that Osgoode has more diversity than schools outside of the GTA, and Ontario schools are generally more diverse than schools outside of Ontario.

    Based on the forgoing, I still believe one-third is an overly generous estimate, especially because non-racialized persons in particular tend to unconsciously skew perceptions on this, particularly if emerging from a context absent of diversity (due to anchoring bias, attention bias, clustering illusion, and potentially an outgroup homogeneity bias).

    I think it is something that needs to be monitored further, and should be part of LSUC’s strategy on racialized licensees. The recent report on this issue focuses more on providing resources rather than conducting any tracking or providing metrics. Also keep in mind that I’m proposing the points raised above in the context of Canada as a whole (as I did with TWU), not just Ontario.

    However, the LSUC report does state the following,

    Key informants, focus group participants and survey respondents identified racialization as a significant factor that shapes the experiences and career outcomes of racialized licensees. The consultant engagement results indicated that racialized licensees have a lower success rate in securing job placements, finding first jobs and securing suitable practice environments. Moreover, racialized licensees felt that they were disadvantaged in law school and that they had not advanced in their careers at the same rate as their non-racialized colleagues.
    Racial and ethnic barriers were ranked highly among the barriers to entry and advancement. Forty percent (40%) of racialized licensees identified their ethnic/racial identity as a barrier to entry to practice, while only 3% of non-racialized licensees identified ethnic/racial identity as a barrier.
    Racialized licensees frequently identified physical appearance, socioeconomic status, place of birth and upbringing, age, manner of speaking English/French and gender identity as barriers — more so than non-racialized licensees. Racialized licensees were also more likely to have struggled to find an articling position or training placement.

    A number of participants noted the need to ensure that education on cultural competency, unconscious bias, anti-racism and anti-oppression start at law school and in the Licensing Process. A participant suggested that the Law Society use its seat on the Federation of Law Societies to encourage the inclusion of cultural competency and diversity awareness as part of the core law school curriculum.
    …Some participants proposed including cultural competency, diversity and inclusion in the Professional Responsibility and Practice Course that articling students must complete.

    Even if we do quibble about the numbers (and I’m not yet ready to concede the one-third figure arbitrarily thrown out there above), what does appear clear from the new LSUC report is that the existing law schools are not inclusive environments for racialized law students. Law firms are even worse. In other words, it’s not about the numbers, it’s about the environment in which those numbers thrive within. That was the differentiation point raised in the Ryerson context.

    Of course we can make the same argument raised above about technology, that existing law schools can and should change. And they will change, eventually. But Ryerson can probably graduate its first cohort of law students before we actually see any of this substantial change occurring in any of the other law schools.

  12. Bob,

    Looks like we commenting simultaneously.

    As noted, GTA schools are typically far more diverse than schools elsewhere in Canada. Thank you for the UofT stats. It’s one of the few Ontario law schools I don’t have as much interaction with (not for any particular reason).

    I think I’ve touched on your numbers issues above, both in terms of the observations made, but also how the numbers are secondary to the environment.

    The call for numbers, not only in law schools, but of lawyers across Canada, proportions within law firms and partnerships, applications to the bench, and those already on the bench, is one that I’ve made repeatedly. I’m not alone in that call, but larger institutions than myself are needed to actually execute. I don’t think the other law schools provide the same demographic information that UofT does above.

    The case I make above is strictly a theoretical and anecdotal one. I have no formal involvement aside from stakeholder consultations in the proposal itself. As I note, it’s the vision in the Letter that is worth contemplating, and yes, Ryerson would have to actually execute, which is why I said we would have to hold them accountable to that vision.

  13. What if there’s another argument in favour of more law schools in Toronto, or Ontario, or Canada, that doesn’t at all depend on arguments about advancing any sectarian position. If you’d prefer a different description of that position, because you find “sectarian” pejorative, then let’s describe it as a position based on the argument that there’s a need to promote the asserted interests of some differentiated groups over the interest of other differentiated groups on the basis that the former are inadequately represented in Canadian society.

    It’s an argument based on numbers that are seemingly person-difference neutral (and, if they are not, it’s a difference that very few will want to admit exists. (NO: It’s not a difference based on any notion of race. Bear with me.)

    When one is arguing about the need for more law schools (faculties) one might look at sets of numbers which look at items that haven’t gender, sexual orientation, political orientation, disability, or any other human rights factor. (There might be a colour issue but you’ll have to agree that’s a red herring.)

    The sets are the number of law schools against the population and ask oneself what it is about Canada that makes it such an outlier, when compared to other major Western English speaking nations.

    In the population data below M means million.

    Australia Pop – 25+m 37 law schools
    Canada Pop – 35+m (total)
    ……Que ……8+m 6 civil law schools
    ……Can (balance) 27 m 19 common law schools
    ……UK w/o Scotland Pop about 59m 85 law school plus/minus
    ……Scotland Pop about 5.34m 10 law schools

    One could extend the analysis into the U.S., choosing comparable (to Canada) states but there’s no need. You should be able to guess what the figures would show.

    In any event, just focus on Australia and ask yourself what the difference might mean and why it exists. Let’s stipulate that, based on current views on access to justice, it’s not because Canadian lawyer are so much more able (than their Australian counterparts) as to reduce the number of bodies required.

    Additionally, while it is true that Australia does not have polar bears, musk ox, an adequate supply of ice rinks and sasquatch, Canada doesn’t have kangaroos, koalas, enough cricket pitches or drop-bears. (Newfoundland and Tasmania are a wash.)

    Given that, these figures seem to argue in favour of another law school somewhere in Canada. If we’re going to put it in Ontario, where better than a stone’s throw from the more established U of T Faculty of Law.

    Of course, that would put the school even closer to the remnants of the shrine to ongoing ineptitude than either the U of T or Toronto’s other law school. However, there’s no reason to assume that condition is, in any sense communicable and, in any event, if the Cubs and the Indians can make it to the World Series in the same year, then perhaps there’s hope even for the MakeBeliefs*.

    So chalk up one vote for Ryerson.

    (*Description gratefully borrowed from a person who shall remain nameless)

    The only condition I’d put on the law school’s ability to grant law degrees would be that the failure to pronounce, properly, the second “t” in Toronto after second warning (except when one’s consciousness is appropriately altered or after too long exposure to Buck Martinez) (1) disqualifies one from admission or (2) is grounds for rustification. Or permanent transfer to Lakehead, Saskatoon, or TRU at the discretion of a body to be appointed.

    On the other hand, why is it that McMaster’s name is never? rarely? mentioned (in my admittedly out of date knowledge of Ontario shenanigans) in discussions of another Ontario law school? What else might it be that Hamiltonians know that Torontonians don’t.

  14. “Furthermore, I attended the 2015 Convocation at Osgoode, the largest law school in Canada, because LLM students graduate at the same time as the JD students. You can see the class composite of the JD students here. It certainly does not look like one-third (I eyeball about 80 students out of approximately 300). ”

    I can do a bit better than that. In the 2016 Osgoode 1st year class (with a 99% response rate), 38% of the class identified as something other than “white” or “chose not to respond”. So, at the very least (depending on the non-respondents) almost 40% of the class identify as members of a racialized group. In 2015, it was slightly more than 40% that identified as members of a racialized group. https://www.osgoode.yorku.ca/wp-content/uploads/2016/10/2016and2015_ADMSurvey_Web-1.pdf

    “We do know that a “significant proportion” of the over 200 students in the LPP are NCA students, and some of these NCA students do find articling positions as well.”

    Indeed, we do know that a “significant proportion” of the NCA students are from racialized groups. In fact, if you read the LSUC report in full, it’s about 30%. Which is a “significant portion”, but not materially different from the demographics of new calls as a whole that I reported earlier, which seems to fatally undermine you point (though, I’ll be the first to admit the LSUC data has a serious defect in it – it doesn’t include 600 odd students who started their articles after August 6 – almost 30% of all articling students. Wanna bet that group disproportionately includes members of racialized groups, for all the reasons you mention? )

  15. The fact there may be 2 women judges and 3 ethnic judges doesn’t
    help me if the judge of my case (hypothetically speaking) is the bigot.
    We see grand statues in the courthouse, blindfolded with a scale, and
    then find out later the appeal court defers to the trial judge who had the opportunity
    to see and hear the witness. And that the taxpayer should foot the bill
    for this kind of process.

    Anything that reduces the possibility of biased decision-making in the legal system is to be encouraged.

  16. Bob,

    Again, I appreciate you pulling numbers for me. A few years ago these numbers were never collected and disclosed, so it is promising. Except it confirms what I’m saying above, that GTA law schools necessarily are more diverse. Even then, the point really isn’t that in the piece above, and it never really was. It’s about the educational environment, and the skills that lawyers get as a result of that environment.

    It’s not like Ryerson is an affirmative action, minority-focused school. It is an inclusive educational environment, where people of all backgrounds learn collaboratively. The effect of that is that people of all backgrounds properly learn how to interact with others, something I can say definitively a significant portion of highly insulated law students and lawyers in our system have never really experienced.

    Although all or many universities claim to accomplish the same thing, at Ryerson they execute this goal far more effectively. I don’t think quibbling about the numbers, especially when I’ve already indicated the scope of my intended discussion was all of Canada, and not just the two law schools in the GTA, actually advances or detracts from the actual purpose of this post.


    We’re pretty much past that point now, with Bertha Wilson’s tenure on the Court illustrating the importance of gender diversity. Justice, especially when blind, is more prone to bias when it lacks significant components of the human experience in its analysis. It’s actually a shame that we don’t have any racialized or Indigenous justices on the Court in 2016.

    I’ll again point to the new SCJ policies released last week:

    The Government believes Canadians’ confidence in superior courts will be solidified if the judiciary more closely mirrors the reality and experience of those who appear before it. This includes addressing the relatively low representation of women, visible minorities, Indigenous persons and other diverse backgrounds on the superior court bench.

    In order to solidify public confidence, all JACs will be reconstituted in order to be more representative of the diversity of Canada. To this end, nominating entities will be asked to propose members with the need for diversity and gender representation in mind. Further, all JAC members will receive training on diversity, unconscious bias, and assessment of merit.

    It’s finally a policy for the processes in appointment members to the bench to include diversity trianing. It would be nice if similar criteria were applied to law schools across Canada (not just the GTA).

  17. We have been discussing this on the TRU L21C (Lawyering in the 21st Century) blog, in case you would like to have a look. I’m sold :) I think it’s an excellent, thoughtful, evidence-based, bold proposal. http://l21c.trubox.ca/2016/741

  18. Again, no one is in disagreement that changing some aspects of legal education is desired

    however, no one has accurately explained why a NEW LAW SCHOOL IN TORONTO IS REQUIRED for that?!?! Just improve the curriculum in existing law schools – a much more efficient use of resources.

    People speak about access to justice as a reason, but it’s incorrect to think that swarming the market with new lawyers would facilitate that. The United States has an influx of law schools and law graduates, but I highly doubt the situation there is better than here.


    You speak about interdisciplinary approaches to the Ryerson Business Law Clinic – you do realize that there are many students simultaneously pursuing MBAs and JDs, not to mention many have an undergraduate business degree prior to attending law school. And both Queen’s Law and Western Law offer joint degrees in law and business for their undergraduate business students (e.g. B.Comm/JD and HBA/JD).

    Furthermore, you have not given a compelling explanation about the shortage of articling and junior level positions. Ryerson law school would just exacerbate that. The Ontario government was correct in refusing approval for wilfrid laurier/waterloo law school in 2008 and should do the same with Ryerson Law School.

    The cynic/realist in me believes Ryerson is pursuing this option as a profit making venture. After all, opening a law school does not require the same level of cost as say a medical or dentistry school. And think of $16,000 dollars in tuition per year per student – how can any post-secondary institution resist?!?!

    Just because Australia has a similar population to Canada and more law schools than us, doesn’t mean we should follow suit. That’s an illogical argument.

    I am sorry, the letter of intent may be well written, but it does not make a convincing case for opening another law school in Toronto. Ryerson Law School is not a good idea.

  19. Lori – If you think that my comment should be understood to be in favour of the Ryerson proposal, then you need to reread it paying attention to the tone and overall content. On the other hand, perhaps I failed and the sarcasm did not come through because of course Canadians lawyers are smarter and more capable than everybody in other jurisdictions which have more law schools per capita.

    Of course, too, that doesn’t explain why most of us have chosen to live in a country where the weather is inhospitable for about 8 months out of the year, in most places. Then there’s winter.


  20. Well any new law school aimed at producing better (more diverse) judge candidates is good even if it floods the market. It’s not just a college for job-ready technical skills is it ? That said I think law school is a bit late for creating well-rounded individuals – I myself come from an insular small town and agree that breeds intolerance.

  21. I’ll add to this by citing a recent talk by Richard Susskind at the 2016 Annual Lecture.

    His biggest concern, the one which “dismays me the most,” was the training provided by law schools,

    In many UK law schools, the law is taught as it was in the 1970s. No regard for globalisation, commoditization, technology, AI… Most law professors are not remotely interested in this stuff…
    So many graduates in the UK are ill-prepared for the everyday legal work of today… still less for tomorrow.

    In response to Lori, I’d point to a previous post I did where I cited Susskind on the types of jobs for lawyers in the near future:

      legal knowledge engineer
      legal technologist
      legal hybrid
      legal process analyst
      legal project manager
      online dispute resolution (ODR) practitioner
      legal management consultant
      legal risk manager

    These are the types of skills I’d like to see taught in a future law school at Ryerson, and they’re not the types of roles or jobs currently available in any law firm. Those Ryerson graduates will be fulfilling a very different function in society.

    If Ryerson also incorporates enough practical training into the curriculum to eliminate the need for articling, as Lakehead has done, then they will not be accentuating the articling crisis as well.

    The point I’ve tried to emphasize here is that simply creating a new law school to do things the way we’ve done it in the past, or the way we’re doing things today, clearly does not make sense.

    But if we take the opportunity to build a new law school, free from the institutional memory/constraints and bureaucracy/opposition from existing faculty, we might just have a law school which solves the existing problems in the legal community, and the ones yet to emerge.

    This is the main point made here in the Toronto Star on the same issue.