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Archive for the ‘Legal Education’ Columns

Update on Bill C-75: Elimination of Criminal Practices in Law School Clinics

In my April column, I mentioned the introduction of Bill C-75 by the federal government. It was introduced for first reading in the House of Commons in March, and is now before the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights, from where it will go back to the House for third reading.

Unless amended, Bill C-75 will wipe out criminal law practices in most law school clinics in Canada, and worsen the administration of justice in our criminal courts. At no time has the federal government indicated that it intended to stop law students from representing accused persons. No evidence . . . [more]

Posted in: Legal Education

The Law Review in the 21st Century (Or Legal Scholarship in the Twitter Age)

Let me share several observations about legal scholarship in general and law reviews in particular.

First, we cannot simply continue to do things the way we have always done them. That is a recipe for irrelevance at best and for obsolescence at worst. This statement applies equally to the practice of law, to the justice system and to legal education. It applies in equal if not stronger force to legal scholarship because unlike legal education in this country at least, the forces of globalization, technology and competition are exerting pressure on traditional legal scholarship in this country.

An aspiring law . . . [more]

Posted in: Legal Education

Is It Time for a Discussion About Student Legal Clinics in Québec?

Canada is known around the world for the quality of its student legal clinics and the level of responsibility given to law students.

In 2016, the International Journal of Clinical Legal Education held its annual conference in Toronto jointly with the Association for Canadian Clinical Legal Education (ACCLE). A number of my students attended, and were surprised to learn that Canadian law students carried a great deal more responsibility than their counterparts in other countries.

My students handle trials in criminal matters, small claims court, and landlord and tenant matters. They draft wills and powers of attorney. They handle mediations. . . . [more]

Posted in: Legal Education

Five Ways to Make Law School More Rigorous and Engaging

Next year will be year 30 since I graduated from law school. It will also mark 15 years since I began teaching law. What is perhaps most remarkably similar about both experiences is how little curriculum design and teaching methods have changed over the course of this time. Sad to say (and even harder to admit) is that law school is often neither rigorous in its methods nor very engaging the content it offers.

The format of a typical course, from a student perspective, is to read through a punishing amount of turgid prose found in judicial decisions, passively listen . . . [more]

Posted in: Intellectual Property, Legal Education

Law Schools’ Dirty Little Secret

Left-leaning social justice warriors have captured Canadian law schools. So goes recent commentary in the National Post (see, e.g. recent columns by Barbara Kay, Bruce Pardy and Christie Blatchford). Law profs “espouse and impose a particular set of values or opinions and a way of thinking” (Blatchford, emphasis added).

I am not persuaded. As explained below, this commentary is unsupported by relevant evidence and inconsistent with core features of Canadian legal education. I do, however, accept one of its basic premises: law schools have a public interest mandate. They have duties to their students, to the system of . . . [more]

Posted in: Legal Education, Legal Ethics

Good News and Bad News for Law School Clinics

When I hear “I have good news and bad news, which do you want to hear first?” I always want to hear the bad news so I can end with the good news. For Canadian clinical legal education, here is the bad news.

Bill C-75 – Unintended Consequences?

The federal government introduced Bill C-75 for first reading in the House of Commons on March 29. This bill includes many significant and progressive reforms to the Criminal Code.

The bad news in the bill is s. 319, which amends s. 387 of the current Code:

319 Section 787 of the Act

. . . [more]
Posted in: Legal Education

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