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Archive for the ‘Legal Education’ Columns

Law Schools in the International Sphere: The University of Montreal Experience

Law schools have historically been deeply anchored in their local communities. They train jurists who serve, and often lead, these communities. They operate legal clinics that seek to help the most vulnerable members of society. They produce research that, hopefully, improve the legal frameworks governing the life of citizens and the fate of organizations.

But over the years, many law schools have broadened, or pluralized, their definition of the word “community.” Even if it is a cliché to say so, the world has shrunk. As a result, not only are law schools increasingly active on the world stage, the world . . . [more]

Posted in: Legal Education

Bill C-75 Goes to the Senate, Still Threatens Student Legal Clinics

Bill C-75, the Criminal Code amendment statute, passed the House of Commons in late 2018, and has received first reading in the Senate.

The bill could wipe out the criminal law practices in student legal clinics in most provinces across Canada. For decades now, student legal clinics across Canada have been representing low income persons for summary conviction criminal offences. These clients are not eligible for legal aid, and would be unrepresented except for the work done by law students to assist them. Each year, hundreds of low income persons will be left to defend themselves.

Why has this happened? . . . [more]

Posted in: Legal Education

The Need for Law in an Age of STEM

There has never been a time in our history when law was more needed than it is today. And there has never been a time in our history when we have taken law for granted as much as we do today.

We live in an age of STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) but we are fortunate to also live in a society governed by the Rule of Law. The products of STEM are everywhere around us. The Rule of Law, on the other hand, is largely invisible. The Rule of Law is like the oxygen that we breathe: invisible, . . . [more]

Posted in: Legal Education

The Cost of Becoming a Lawyer

The Law Students Society of Ontario (the “LSSO”) recently surveyed Ontario law students to better understand the debt load experienced by them and its effect on them. The LSSO Report provides important insights into the effects of increased law school tuition costs.

The LSSO Report has been well received and rightly so. However, the point of this column is not just to laud the report but to engage with it and its observations. In order to seriously address the observations in the LSSO Report, it is necessary to consider the report and to look at the cost of becoming a . . . [more]

Posted in: Legal Education, Legal Ethics

L’attribution de Concepts Modernes du Droit International au Grand Dérangement

Depuis quelques années, certains historiens et citoyens ont commencé à utiliser des concepts contemporains pour qualifier le Grand Dérangement. C’est une idée qui apparaît notamment dans les travaux de John Mack Faragher et selon laquelle l’expulsion de la population acadienne (la majorité d’une population de 14 000 personnes), de 1755 à 1764, par les autorités coloniales britanniques de la Nouvelle-Écosse – appuyées par le gouverneur William Shirley du Massachusetts, au nom du roi George II de Grande-Bretagne –, vers les colonies britanniques de l’Amérique du Nord, puis vers l’Angleterre et la France (soit la Déportation des Acadiens ou le Grand . . . [more]

Posted in: Legal Education

Lessons From Cannabis Law

Cannabis law is taking the legal profession by storm. Look at the websites of top national firms, of mid-size firms, of small boutiques and of sole practitioners. It seems everyone is practicing cannabis law. Or at least claiming to.

This development has not been evolutionary; it has been revolutionary. Five years ago, cannabis law was the domain of a few criminal defence lawyers, some activist lawyers and the bold willing to do work for clients in the small medical marijuana field.

Cannabis law reflects the dramatic shift to a now partially legal activity. That change has come about quickly and . . . [more]

Posted in: Legal Education

Reaffirming Fundamental Values in Dark Times

Activist, scholarly, and administrative strands of my life have come together lately around Everett Klippert, the last Canadian jailed for consensual gay sex. Shortly after the Supreme Court of Canada upheld Klippert’s sentence, the Parliament of Canada – it was the era of Trudeau père – partially decriminalized sodomy, in 1969. Events around Klippert have reminded me of the importance of building community and speaking up about fundamental values.

Fellow LGBTQ alumni and I had been planning a fundraising campaign to endow an entrance scholarship in the McGill Faculty of Law for students having shown commitment to working with . . . [more]

Posted in: Legal Education

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