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Archive for the ‘Legal Education’ Columns

The Accessibility of the LSAT: A Response to Dean Sossin and Dean Holloway

Harvard Law’s recent relaxation of the LSAT requirements by allowing applicants to take the GRE has spurred a debate in the Canadian context about whether it is prudent to maintain the strict LSAT requirements for law school admissions. So far, the deans of two law schools – Dean Sossin of Osgoode Hall and Dean Holloway of Calgary Law – have taken a public stand in support of the LSAT. The arguments cited are not new. The LSAT, it is argued, is a useful comparative tool that allows admission committees to compare the logical reasoning of their applicants. It is also . . . [more]

Posted in: Legal Education, Miscellaneous

The Irony of the Bonkalo Report

Background of Law Students in the Family Courts

We all know the numbers in Ontario’s family courts. At least 60% of parties are unrepresented. They do worse than those with representation. The Family Court Rules are paper-heavy, with many deadlines, complicated financial calculations, and all kinds of forms to be drafted. Family lawyers will tell you it’s difficult enough for them to manage all of this, let alone an untrained individual.

Regrettably, the Family Courts in Ontario are an example of justice for those with money, and little justice for those without. This is one reason why Canadians are losing . . . [more]

Posted in: Legal Education

Taking the Next Step With Experiential Learning

Experiential learning was placed on the agenda for North American law schools when Educating Lawyers by the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching was published in 2007 (commonly called the Carnegie Report).

The Carnegie Report called for law schools to integrate “the three apprenticeships” of legal education into their curricula: theory, ethics, and practical skills. Over the past decade, many US law schools have taken up the challenge.

Canadian law schools have been slower to respond, but momentum is building for the integration of practical skills into the curriculum. A listing of experiential learning opportunities in Canadian law . . . [more]

Posted in: Legal Education

The Profession and the Academy Reconnect About Legal Education

For the first time in recent memory, the Federation of Law Societies of Canada and representatives of Canadian law schools met in New Brunswick on October 19-20, 2016 to talk about legal education.

A Brief History of Law Societies v. Law Schools

Here is some background that will help readers understand why this meeting was so important.

Canadian law schools have traditionally had a fairly free hand in setting their curriculum and the requirements for graduation. Law societies set the requirements for the call to the bar in each province. However, the profession has over the past century played a . . . [more]

Posted in: Legal Education

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