Canada’s online legal magazine.

Archive for the ‘Legal Education’ Columns

Three New Law School Concepts

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]

Posted in: Legal Education, Practice of Law

The Decade in Legal Education (2010-2019)

The end of a year is a time to reflect upon the previous 12 months. The end of 2019 also provides the opportunity to reflect on the past decade.

Is it an exaggeration to say that the past decade has seen more changes in legal education in Canada than at any point in the past half-century? Since the opening of Queen’s, Western, and Ottawa in the 1950s? Or perhaps since the transfer of Osgoode Hall to York University by the Law Society of Upper Canada in 1965?

The decade that ended saw the opening of two new law schools (Thompson . . . [more]

Posted in: Legal Education

Student Legal Clinics in Limbo as Divisional Court Strikes Down Student Fee Policy, Province Appeals

On November 21, the Divisional Court struck down the so-called “Student Choice Initiative” of the Ontario Government. This program ordered universities and colleges to allow students to “opt-out” of certain fees related to student administration and other ancillary fees.

Certain “essential services” were exempted from the program. Varsity sports were considered to be an essential service for students. Student legal clinics were not.

The two main income sources for student legal clinics in Ontario’s law schools are Legal Aid Ontario, and student fees. In spring 2019, student legal clinics suffered a retroactive 10% cut in funding from Legal Aid Ontario, . . . [more]

Posted in: Legal Education

Law School Gets This Right. Law Practice Gets It Wrong.

Earlier this month, I was kindly invited by Jason Morris to speak (via Skype) to his “Coding The Law” class at the University of Alberta Faculty of Law. We had a great chat on a range of topics, but one in particular stood out for me and I wanted to share it with a wider audience.

We were talking about the transition from law school into the legal profession, and yes, we did spend quite some time talking about all the ways in which law school does a poor job of preparing students for practice. But I pointed out one . . . [more]

Posted in: Legal Education, Practice of Law

The End of the Saga of Bill C-75 and Student Legal Clinics

The Story So Far

The saga of Bill C-75 and its impact on student legal clinics has staggered to an end – sort of. Unfortunately a significant access to justice issue remains. Here is a brief summary of what happened.

When Bill C-75 was introduced by the federal government in 2018, the bill raised the maximum penalty for summary conviction offences to two years. However, the bill did not amend s. 802.1, which stated that “agents” (including law students and articling students) can only appear on criminal matters in summary conviction matters where the maximum penalty is six months.

Law . . . [more]

Posted in: Legal Education

A Life Well-Lived in Legal Education and Beyond: Ian Kerr (1965-2019)

On August 27, 2019, my friend and colleague at the uOttawa Faculty of Law Ian Kerr passed away due to complications arising from cancer. He was only 54 years old.

Ian was a giant in his field. A visionary in AI and Ethics who thought about the implications of autonomous vehicles before they even had a name. He was a teacher who deeply cared about his students. He was a researcher who supported, mentored and championed his colleagues. But most of all he was our friend and we miss him dearly.

When Ian left us, tributes flowed in from around . . . [more]

Posted in: Legal Education

Theory and Practice: The Four Defining Pillars of Ryerson’s Faculty of Law

The Ryerson Faculty of Law is built on four pillars – a commitment to equity, diversity and inclusion, increasing access to justice, stimulating innovation and entrepreneurship, and providing sound academics with innovation pedagogy.

Ryerson’s proposal was shaped by widespread consultations within the university and in the broader legal community. This included continuous community engagement, solid academic input and feedback, stakeholder engagement, engagement with organizations representing lawyers from diverse backgrounds, and a comprehensive external review of the draft proposal.

In creating and refining a proposal for legal education at Ryerson, two separate internal committees were established. The first was a cross-campus . . . [more]

Posted in: Legal Education

Les Facultés de Droit Ont-Elles Un Rôle À Jouer Afin de Favoriser La Progression Et La Rétention Des Avocates?

Les salles de classe des facultés de droit sont remplies d’étudiantes. À l’Université Laval, elles forment près de 70 % de la nouvelle cohorte admise au baccalauréat en droit à l’automne 2018. Au Québec, plus de 65 % des diplômés de l’École du Barreau sont des femmes.

Pourtant, les statistiques montrent que les avocates abandonnent la profession beaucoup plus tôt que leurs confrères (en moyenne 49 ans comparativement à 61 ans chez les hommes, selon les statistiques du Barreau du Québec). Les femmes sont très nombreuses à quitter la pratique du droit au cours des 10 premières années, cette période . . . [more]

Posted in: Legal Education

Do Law Schools Have a Role to Play in Promoting the Advancement and Retention of Women Lawyers?

Law school classrooms are filled with female students. At Université Laval, in fall 2018, female students made up nearly 70% of the new cohort admitted to the Bachelor of Laws program. In Quebec, more than 65% of graduates from the École du Barreau (Bar School) are women.

Yet, statistics show that women lawyers leave the profession much earlier than their male colleagues (at age 49 vs. 61, on average, according to Quebec Bar statistics). Many women leave the practice of law during the first 10 years, a period considered crucial for career advancement. Inevitably, they are less likely to become . . . [more]

Posted in: Legal Education

Update on Threats to Student Legal Clinics

The past two months have seen rapid developments dramatically harming Ontario (and Canadian) student legal clinics, whose role is to help low income persons who do not have access to legal aid.

1. Legal Aid Cuts in Ontario

First, the Ontario government has taken steps to reduce access to justice for low income persons by reducing funding to Legal Aid Ontario by 30%. LAO in turn funds Ontario’s student clinics, providing the vast majority of their funding. LAO announced in mid-June that student clinics will suffer funding cuts of 10%.

Along with cuts from student fees (see below), Ontario student . . . [more]

Posted in: Legal Education

Another Threat to Student Legal Clinics – This Time From Ontario

The Ontario government dropped a bombshell on its legal aid system in its April 11 budget, hitting it with a 30% funding cut, with more to come in future years.

The province spoke of transforming the legal aid system. However, there is no underlying plan from the province – simply cuts. Legal Aid Ontario has to move quickly to implement the cuts, which apply to the 2019-20 budget. At the time of writing, it is unclear where the cuts will be made, although refugee services will end.

The impact on community clinics and student legal clinics is not yet clear. . . . [more]

Posted in: Legal Education

A Tribute to David W. Scott, OC, QC, LL.B 1960 (1936-2019)

On March 21, 2019, the Canadian legal profession lost a giant of the bar: David Scott passed away in Ottawa after a sudden hospitalization. I regret that I did not get a chance to see David in the hospital or tell him how much he meant to the University of Ottawa law school, to our profession and to me. I can only offer this tribute instead.

David Scott represented the very best of our profession. He was recognized for his accomplishments with the highest honours our profession provides. That he was the first Canadian ever to be elected President of . . . [more]

Posted in: Legal Education, Practice of Law