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Archive for the ‘Legal Education’ Columns

Student Loan Debt: A Crisis for Law Students, Young Lawyers and Far Too Many Underserviced Communities

It is a distinct honour for me, in my capacity as Dean of Law at Thompson Rivers University (TRU Law), to provide a contribution to the Canadian Council of Law Deans series of important issues affecting legal education and the legal profession. I have chosen to select the critical challenge for today’s law students (and recent law graduates) of the ever increasing costs of legal education in Canada. I recently was talking with a law classmate of mine (UBC ’75,) who is now a distinguished justice, about tuition fees. His recollection was that we were paying approximately $450/year to pursue . . . [more]

Posted in: Legal Education

Canadian Student Clinics Take the International Stage

Over 225 persons from 18 countries attended the annual conference of the Association for Canadian Clinical Legal Education (ACCLE) held in conjunction with the conference of the International Journal for Clinical Legal Education (IJCLE) at the University of Toronto from July 10-12, 2016. This was the first time that IJCLE had held its conference in North America, and the first time ACCLE had an international aspect to its conference.

Papers and presentations came from all over the globe – Australia, South Africa, Mexico, Thailand, Kenya, and the usual suspects in Canada, the UK, and the US. The program was broad, . . . [more]

Posted in: Legal Education

Legal Competencies for the World We Live In

The debate between law societies and universities about the contours of law degrees has been at the forefront of discussions between law schools and law societies for the past ten years. In order to control entry into the market of new Canadian faculties of law or foreign universities offering Canadian Law degrees, the Federation of Law Societies has sought to define what is a Canadian law degree. It has defined “core” competencies. Provincial Law Societies also describe the “competencies” required of their members. For example, the Law Society of Upper Canada conditions entry to the Bar to the acquisition of . . . [more]

Posted in: Legal Education

Third US National Symposium on Experiential Learning in Law Coming in June

I first became aware of the movement in US law schools towards experiential learning with the publication of the Carnegie Report in 2007. The Carnegie Report recommended that law school should integrate “the three apprenticeships”: theory, practical skills, and ethics.

A few years later, New York Law School and Harvard Law School joined forces, with each hosting a conference on this topic.

Building on this momentum, in 2012 Northeastern Law School in Boston hosted the first ever National Symposium on Experiential Learning in Law. I was fortunate to attend, and it was an eye-opener for me. I learned how diverse . . . [more]

Posted in: Legal Education

Here’s to Law Professors

I was a law student in the mid-1970s. At that time, the curriculum in common law Canadian law schools reflected a widespread, if not universal, consensus on the content and scope of the core body of legal doctrine that would prepare students for a career in the legal profession. At my law school, in addition to the common first year subjects – torts, property, contracts, criminal law, legal systems and judicial process and legal writing – we were required to take administrative law, evidence, civil procedure, insurance, constitutional law (division of powers, that is – the Charter was not yet . . . [more]

Posted in: Legal Education

Does Law School Reflect the Realities of the Legal Profession?

The latest edition of the CBA National, the magazine of the Canadian Bar Association, had a feature story on a topic that’s started to gain attention recently in Canada.

The legal profession is undergoing an era of profound change, influenced by technology, new business structures, globalization, and the high cost of justice. New skills and tools are needed by graduates in order to succeed. Law grads need to be problem solvers. But are law schools keeping up? Are they reflecting the realities of the legal profession?

On the CBA National article, legal futurist Jordan Furlong says the answer is . . . [more]

Posted in: Legal Education

A National Approach to Canadian Bar Admissions? Working With the Law Schools Would Be a Start

Without question, one of the greatest accomplishments of the Canadian legal profession in modern times was the conclusion of the National Mobility Agreements. Under the leadership of the Federation of Law Societies, the disparate strands of Canadian lawyerdom – Quebec, now, excepted – took an extraordinary step towards knitting themselves into something resembling a national profession. One of the less charming aspects of our hitherto customary approach to federalism – provincial protectionism among legal professionals – is now mostly a thing of the past.

Defined by its own premises, the Mobility Agreements were a means to a twin end: the . . . [more]

Posted in: Legal Education

The Truth and Reconciliation Commission and Law School Curriculum Reform

Professor Rod Macdonald had grand ideas about many things, ideas that were insightful, brilliant, quirky, courageous and original. Among these were his ideas about law school curricular reform. In Professor Macdonald’s view, “curricular reform is a continuing enterprise” and “thoughtful curricular debate is a law school’s primary heuristic device”. These are optimistic views about the importance and the promise of constructive curricular reform. But Professor Macdonald also observed, more pessimistically, that “since most curricular changes are implemented or retracted in the general spirit of tinkering, it is not surprising that the integration of new themes into existing programs has been . . . [more]

Posted in: Legal Education

Clinical Legal Education on the Move in Canada

The Place of Clinical Legal Education was the theme of the 6th annual conference of the Association for Canadian Clinical Legal Education (ACCLE), held at the University of Saskatchewan College of Law from October 22-24.

The conference keynote was by author and playwright Maria Campbell on the place of clinics in reconciliation. Some of the topics covered at the conference were:

  • Beyond Cultural Competence: the Place of Decolonialization in Clinics
  • Leveraging Law School: Breaking Down Silos to Enhance Access to Justice
  • Community Lawyering and Teaching Clinics
  • The Internet as a Site for Clinical Legal Education: Using Online Dispute Resolution
. . . [more]
Posted in: Legal Education

Law School by Design

I am pleased to participate in this regular series of posts from the Council of Canadian Law Deans (CCLD) sharing insights and ideas on Canadian legal education. This past summer, I explored the impact of design principles on the justice system and since then, I have been reflecting more on the impact of design principles on Law Schools.

Has our legal education system developed as a series of ad hoc measures, policies and programs or has it been designed according to a plan? This question is being asked more broadly in Law Schools as legal academics and lawyers bring design . . . [more]

Posted in: Legal Education

Creative Initiatives at US Law Schools


In my June column, I outlined one of the papers from the Second National Symposium on Experiential Education in Law, which took place at Elon University in Greensboro, North Carolina in June 2014. The Alliance for Experiential Learning in Law and Elon University School of Law hosted the symposium.

This column will focus on Part V of the papers from the symposium, Creative Initiatives at US Law Schools (all the papers may be found at The US, with its large number of law schools, has the advantage of scale to allow its schools to act as . . . [more]

Posted in: Legal Education

The Law Schools and the Future of Indigenous Law in Canada

The recommendations of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission have presented Canadian society with a set of urgent ‘calls to action.’ Two in particular require a response from the law schools, Recommendations 27 and 28, quoted in full at the end of this blog post – although, as I argue below, our concern should extend between the particular terms of those recommendations.

Law schools are earnestly considering what they ought to do to respond to those calls. At least four schools (Lakehead, Thompson Rivers, Ottawa (Common Law) and my own, UVic) have posted preliminary responses on their websites. Individual scholars (such . . . [more]

Posted in: Legal Education