Canada has a long history of (mostly) productive tension between the profession and law schools about the preferred content and mode of legal education, but occasionally, this productive tension deteriorates into stereotyping. In those low moments, the practicing bar is accused of narrow-mindedly favouring black-letter law and practical skills training, while the legal academy is off on some buzzword-heavy frolic of its own. In this parallel and distinctly two-dimensional universe, lawyers in the process of hiring articling students or associates are readily able to spot problems with legal education from student transcripts without any detour through actual law classes or . . . [more]
Archive for the ‘Legal Education’ Columns
One of the earliest nautical handbooks published in the English language and intended for a mass market was called The Seaman’s Vade Mecum. Published in 1744 by William Mountaine (who, despite publishing a series of books on seafaring, was not himself a sailor, but a mathematician), the book remained the go-to book for seafarers until the end of the age of sail. The name itself translates from the Latin as “go with me”, and it was used to denote a pocket handbook that a prudent sailor always kept close to hand. And that’s exactly what we in the Canadian . . . [more]
Practical skills training is currently a popular topic in legal education discourse. Beyond whether and how to increase “practice-ready” skills training in Canadian law schools, much of the discussion is focused on what practical skills should be included as part of a law student’s education–advocacy, legal drafting, legal writing, negotiation and practice management being some of the most frequent candidates. An essential lawyerly skill which is seldom explicitly mentioned in this conversation and which is in dire need of more attention in any discussion of legal education is that of civility.
Typical dictionary definitions of civility reference polite or courteous . . . [more]
In March 2020, the Covid-19 pandemic changed our legal world the way no one could have imagined. Our courthouse went from a beehive of litigation activities to a silent graveyard. Practice directives containing emergency measures were issued and activated to deal with the change. Our civil litigation system that historically relied on an in-person process to undertake almost every task – from the filling and service of litigation documents to routine chambers applications and trials – suddenly moved to the online world built on technologies.
The legal profession was forced to adopt technologies to address administration and litigation needs at . . . [more]
The Labour Day weekend typically finds professors feeling melancholy: the four months of our summer term, which we use primarily for research and writing, attending conferences, and graduate supervision, are again drawing to a close. We know that the next eight months will be focused on the equally important work of teaching, academic planning and governance, so our next opportunity to think deeply about our scholarship is a long way away.
Yet, since many of us are unabashed nerds, we are perpetually excited about the beginning of a new school year, replete with ambitious plans for our courses and keen . . . [more]
Marx predicted that a Communist revolution would arise in a mature capitalist society like England or Germany. Instead, it took root in backward economic Tsarist Russia. Sometimes you take what you can get.
The revolution has arrived in Canadian legal education. Nobody started it. COVID-19 forced it upon us. The question is where this revolution will lead?
This fall, every law student in Canada will take most or all of their courses online through distance learning. Last fall, almost every law student in Canada could have expected to complete their three years of legal studies without taking a single course . . . [more]
If you’re reading this blog and are a litigator in Toronto, there’s a fair chance that you’ve been involved either as a participant or an instructor in Osgoode’s Intensive Trial Advocacy Workshop (ITAW). ITAW is a multi-day program that has run every summer for the last 40 years and has had thousands of participants from Toronto, from across Canada, and from other parts of the world. It’s a rigorous program, characterized by advocacy performance in a supportive environment, personalized feedback from experienced instructors from the Bench and Bar trained in ITAW’s teaching methods, and a culminating mock jury trial presided . . . [more]
It was not a surprise to us when classes and events were cancelled on campus mid March 2020. As an international lawyer with an interest in international disaster law I had been following the international response with dread. A faculty-led COVID-19 response team was already in place and meeting daily when the call came to transition to on-line delivery. Although we largely had to cancel our events, courses that had materials left to be delivered moved swiftly to online platforms and the exam schedule was revised from primarily sit-down, to entirely take-home. At the forefront of our deliberations was the . . . [more]
This spring, I read 200 applications from people who want to study law at the University of Windsor. Our law school, like every other in Ontario, receives more than eight applications for each available place in first year. Across the province, there are roughly 4300 applicants for 1600 spots. The figures are comparable across the country; Canada still has among the fewest law school spots per capita in the developed world.
Already here in May, it seems inevitable that the new law school year in September will not be carried out entirely in person. Universities ranging from McGill in Canada to Cambridge in the UK have already announced that their Fall 2020 classes will begin online, and while most American universities have delayed making similar announcements, it’s hard to see how campuses can be retrofitted over the summer to accommodate the physical distancing demands that the pandemic has created. Even if some schools insist on starting in person, will that continue through an expected second wave of infections in Autumn?
Law . . . [more]
Alberta does not have an anti-SLAPP law, i.e., legislation to protect those who speak out in the public interest from the costs of protracted litigation initiated by powerful interests. I can think of two Alberta examples of why anti-SLAPP is needed that I would like to disclose in an upcoming research paper. My problem is that if I name the plaintiffs in those strategic lawsuits, I will certainly be sued.
I had a vague sense that I would be afforded legal representation and indemnity by my university if I was sued in these circumstances. But when I made some inquiries . . . [more]
It is possible that traditional law schools will reinvent themselves structurally from the ground up and become exemplars of innovative 21st-century lawyer formation. It is also possible that I will play Polonius, the irritating giver of unwanted advice, in the Royal Shakespeare Company’s next production of Hamlet. Both these scenarios would be welcome (especially Act III, scene iv, when the advice-giver behind the curtain finally gets what’s coming to him).
More likely, however, the reinvention of lawyer formation will begin outside of our legacy law campuses. Ryerson University’s new law school is a very promising entrant in this burgeoning . . . [more]