Ted Tjaden’s post today on “Legal Research and Writing Skills in Law School” could not have been more timely for me and my colleagues at the Bora Laskin Law Library.
For the first time that anyone here can remember (*however, see comment 3 below), the UofT Faculty of Law is offering a stand-alone mandatory legal research and writing class for its incoming first year class. It is a 10 week programme of hour-long classes that attempt to address many of the challenges that Ted outlines. This programme was long in the making and was driven by the Law School’s Standing Curriculum Committee and ably marshaled into place by our Assistant Dean Sara Faherty and a group of faculty and librarians.
The first week was taught by faculty member Simon Stern, who is passionate about LRW. The subsequent nine weeks will be taught by Sara, four legal writing instructors (doctoral students – Gail Henderson, Hélène Maynard, Mike Nesbitt and Mike Pal) and three librarians (myself, Susan Barker and John Bolan), thereby exposing our students to experts in writing and analysis as well as in the process and tools of legal research. Classes will be taught in small groups of about 15 students, with a combination of lectures, in class exercises, and hands-on computer lab instruction.
It is early days for our programme and it will be a challenge to address all of the issues that Ted outlines. For example, we expect that by the end of the programme that our students will be familiar with writing a memorandum of law, but finding room to teach about CLE materials and “words and phrases” services will be a challenge. The programme will give students a foundation in LRW that still leaves lots of room for our instructors in the upper year Advanced LRW classes, and our law firm librarian and research lawyer colleagues to build on.
Still, our programme is an exciting start for UofT and an important step in addressing the concerns expressed by Ted and so many of our law library and research lawyer colleagues.