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Archive for the ‘Legal Education’ Columns

Wellness at Law School

The move towards wellness programs at law school is both puzzling and important. Important because, in some ways, it is terribly overdue. But puzzling because it is happening at all. At law school of all places.

Law school is hard. It always was. But conversations with alumni of the past sixty years have really convinced me that law school today is harder than ever. It is certainly harder to get in – our students have higher LSAT scores than ever, and stunning academic achievements. The move toward holistic admissions means that these attributes are just a starting point. Once admitted, . . . [more]

Posted in: Legal Education

Expanding the Role of Law School Clinics: Bonkalo and the House of Commons

Two recent reports have recommended expanding the role of law school clinics. The first was the Bonkalo Report released earlier this year which made recommendations for reform to the family law system in Ontario. The second was the recent report of the House of Commons Justice and Human Rights Committee, which examined the legal aid system in Canada.

Justice Bonkalo’s report (discussed in an earlier column) had this to say about family law programs at Ontario’s student legal clinics:

I was very impressed by the extensive and important work undertaken by law students, supported by lawyers, who are obviously committed

. . . [more]
Posted in: Legal Education

Mental Health and Law Students: Addressing the Issue One Step at a Time

We do know that studying law is a stressful process: demanding curriculum, competitive environment, exacting professors. The world of Law schools is hard-core for many students. In fact, research shows that worldwide, law students are among the more prompt to psychological distress and mental health difficulties across all faculties’ students. In line with initiatives taken by Ontario law schools to support students’ mental wellbeing, the Civil Law Section at University of Ottawa started this year a pilot project to tackle first year students’ stress and anxiety. This project was also motivated by the fact that our students have a . . . [more]

Posted in: Legal Education

Three Research Challenges for Law Faculties

In my work with the Canadian Bar Association’s Access to Justice Committee and the Association for Canadian Clinical Legal Education, I have observed three major research opportunities for law faculties that are not being given the attention I feel they demand. These opportunities involve “big picture” issues in our Canadian legal system, and I believe law faculties (with some exceptions) do not focus enough on them. Here they are:

1. Access to justice

This is the biggest legal issue of our generation. Our democracy is based on the rule of law, and if our citizens cannot get access to the . . . [more]

Posted in: Legal Education

Better Together: The Virtues of Experiential Learning Partnerships

The University of Ottawa Faculty of Law, Common Law Section, is celebrating two important anniversaries this year: the English Common Law Program’s 60th and the French Common Law Program’s 40th anniversary. Reflecting on a law school’s history and development naturally leads one to ponder the changing nature of legal education and the evolving functions law schools serve in Canadian society. If lawyers bear the honorable burden of maintaining the public trust in the administration of justice – a trust they earn through competence and integrity – then the function of law schools must be to equip law . . . [more]

Posted in: Legal Education

Legal Education Goes Digital

For the past few years, Queen’s Law has been exploring new teaching and learning tools in the classroom and beyond. “Blended” learning has been a growing component in our teaching: providing more course materials and videos online, so instructors can use more of the classroom time for discussion, problem solving and the application of the materials – and less time in a traditional top-down lecture format. And, while that approach is not new, it has led to other educational initiatives at Queen’s.

We are currently participating in a pilot project to explore Echo 360, a remarkable program developed by . . . [more]

Posted in: Legal Education

The Character Quotient: The Foundation of Legal Success?

The Association for Canadian Clinical Legal Education (ACCLE) and the Canadian Association of Law Teachers (CALT) held a joint annual conference for the first time at the University of Victoria June 8-10. The theme was “The Whole Lawyer,” with many sessions focusing on experiential learning.

The keynote was an interesting talk by Justice Rebecca Love Kourlis, Executive Director of the Institute for the Advancement of the American Legal System at the University of Denver. The IAALS is a think tank working on the development and application of innovative solutions for the toughest problems facing the US courts and legal profession. . . . [more]

Posted in: Legal Education

A Pedagogic Paradigm Shift in Clinical Legal Education: Towards Placing Practical and Theoretical Knowledge on an Equal Footing?

In recent years the role of clinical experiential learning has become increasingly relevant within law schools as questions arise regarding the most appropriate method of delivering legal education and training lawyers. Should it focus on classroom-driven theoretical knowledge? Should it focus on apprentice-style internships in the field? Or, is preparing lawyers for practice best achieved through a combination of both classroom theory and clinical work experience? Despite varying views on these positions, one thing seems certain, legal education is in transition. Federations, law firms, and students alike are calling for more training in core competencies that go beyond theoretical knowledge, . . . [more]

Posted in: Legal Education

The Accessibility of the LSAT: A Response to Dean Sossin and Dean Holloway

Harvard Law’s recent relaxation of the LSAT requirements by allowing applicants to take the GRE has spurred a debate in the Canadian context about whether it is prudent to maintain the strict LSAT requirements for law school admissions. So far, the deans of two law schools – Dean Sossin of Osgoode Hall and Dean Holloway of Calgary Law – have taken a public stand in support of the LSAT. The arguments cited are not new. The LSAT, it is argued, is a useful comparative tool that allows admission committees to compare the logical reasoning of their applicants. It is also . . . [more]

Posted in: Legal Education, Miscellaneous

The Irony of the Bonkalo Report

Background of Law Students in the Family Courts

We all know the numbers in Ontario’s family courts. At least 60% of parties are unrepresented. They do worse than those with representation. The Family Court Rules are paper-heavy, with many deadlines, complicated financial calculations, and all kinds of forms to be drafted. Family lawyers will tell you it’s difficult enough for them to manage all of this, let alone an untrained individual.

Regrettably, the Family Courts in Ontario are an example of justice for those with money, and little justice for those without. This is one reason why Canadians are losing . . . [more]

Posted in: Legal Education

Taking the Next Step With Experiential Learning

Experiential learning was placed on the agenda for North American law schools when Educating Lawyers by the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching was published in 2007 (commonly called the Carnegie Report).

The Carnegie Report called for law schools to integrate “the three apprenticeships” of legal education into their curricula: theory, ethics, and practical skills. Over the past decade, many US law schools have taken up the challenge.

Canadian law schools have been slower to respond, but momentum is building for the integration of practical skills into the curriculum. A listing of experiential learning opportunities in Canadian law . . . [more]

Posted in: Legal Education

The Profession and the Academy Reconnect About Legal Education

For the first time in recent memory, the Federation of Law Societies of Canada and representatives of Canadian law schools met in New Brunswick on October 19-20, 2016 to talk about legal education.

A Brief History of Law Societies v. Law Schools

Here is some background that will help readers understand why this meeting was so important.

Canadian law schools have traditionally had a fairly free hand in setting their curriculum and the requirements for graduation. Law societies set the requirements for the call to the bar in each province. However, the profession has over the past century played a . . . [more]

Posted in: Legal Education