I met up with Gary Mooney for lunch the other day. Gary is an Osgoode graduate who has large ambitions for the delivery of legal services. For the most part, this vision consists of a wide variety of legal services no longer being delivered by lawyers and instead being automated. And yet, he is convinced this is good news for lawyers – and more importantly, for their clients. By the end of lunch, a clearer picture of the future of legal services was emerging. The question I was left with was – are we ready? Read the rest of this entry →
Rod Macdonald passed away on Friday, June 13th. Three years ago, he was on the stage at Osgoode Hall Law School’s Convocation in 2011, receiving an Honourary Doctorate, and serenading the graduating Osgoode class with a protest song from Pete Seeger. If you were not there, it is well worth watching. At that time, his debilitating throat cancer was in remission and he was very much in his element, both in captivating law students, and at Osgoode (where he had graduated in 1972, part of a storied class which included Michael Mandel, Russell Juriansz, Linda Draynoff, Paul Emond, Art Vertleib and many others). Harry Arthurs was on hand to deliver the citation for Rod and most of Osgoode’s faculty had turned out to show their enthusiasm for Rod. Being on stage to share in this moment was particularly sweet for me, as it was my first June Convocation as Dean, and because Rod had such a profound and positive impact on my own journey. Read the rest of this entry →
While there were at least 4 separate attempts by the Law Society of Upper Canada to start a law school in the 19th Century, it was only in 1889 that the idea stuck. That is the year the “modern” Osgoode Hall Law School was founded and that is the date we use as a point of departure for the history of legal education in Ontario. In the upcoming 2014-15 academic year, Osgoode will celebrate its 125th Anniversary. Such a milestone only received a formal title in the 1960s (when an editor at Funk and Wagnalls with too much time on his hands came up with Quasquicentennial, as opposed to sesquicentennial for 150, which sounds more like an occasion and whose origin as a word can be traced at least to the nineteenth century). So, what reflections does Osgoode’s Quasquicentennial warrant? While anniversaries are usually a time to reflect on the past (think re-enactments of the battles of 1812 at Fort York a couple years back), for me they are always forward looking events. You can learn a lot about where an institution is going by looking at how they measure their past. For example, Canada’s centenary Expo 1967 featured Montreal’s iconic and futuristic geodesic dome and bold promises of future greatness. So, with that context, where is Osgoode at 125? What lies in store for this year of looking forward and looking back? Read the rest of this entry →
I am just home from an eye-opening week in Beijing. The ostensible reason for the trip has been to sign a new partnership agreement between Osgoode and Tsinghua University’s School of Law, one of China’s leading Law Schools. This agreement will facilitate student and faculty exchanges and, together with the University of Toronto’s Faculty of Law and Hong Kong University’s Faculty of Law, confirm Osgoode’s participation in a bi-annual Canada-China Symposium (rotating between Toronto and Beijing). Beyond this agreement, however, we hope to develop an integrated and interlocking set of initiatives in China (and at the same time, enhance our relationship with a vibrant Chinese-Canadian community). If this week is any indication, the future of “Osgoode in China” looks extraordinarily bright. Read the rest of this entry →
In the spat that has emerged and intensified over a call that never happened between the Chief Justice and the Prime Minister last July, the Chief Justice is in the right, and it doesn’t matter. The Chief Justice is right because it is entirely proper for her to alert the Government to an issue regarding the eligibility of a proposed Supreme Court nominee (in this case, the ill-fated appointment of Federal Court of Appeal Justice Marc Nadon). The Government was free to address the issue of eligibility or not (in the end, they did so in explicit ways seeking not only an opinion from retired Supreme Court Justice Ian Binnie but also from retired Supreme Court Justice Louis Charron and the most cited academic before the Supreme Court, Peter Hogg, to validate Ian Binnie’s conclusion that Justice Nadon was indeed eligible for appointment). The appointment of Nadon and the controversy surrounding it played out in the Fall. There was no litigation either active or contemplated in July when the Chief Justice raised this with the PMO, and when she considered (but did not follow through on) a call to Prime Minister Stephen Harper. All this doesn’t really matter because as long as Prime Minister openly questions the integrity and conduct of the Chief Justice, key premises underlying our system of justice are in doubt. Read the rest of this entry →
There is a longstanding tradition of pro bono publico in the legal profession, in which lawyers (and, increasingly, law students) perform legal services for those in need with no expectation of being paid. While pro bono is only one piece of the puzzle in addressing access to justice in our society, as I have explored elsewhere, it has led to significant and positive impact on clients served, on participating lawyers, on the legal profession and on the public interest. Pro bono is not primarily seen as “charity” or “noblesse oblige” by lawyers or by clients; rather, it is understood as a quid pro quo for the monopoly over the delivery of legal services which the legal profession enjoys, and which is the direct cause in many cases of the unaffordability of legal services to those who need them most. Can the same logic lead to a different model for the delivery of legal education? Law Schools now only exist as part of Universities (in Canada, at least), and Universities require substantial revenues to thrive. Faced with competing demands for hospitals, schools, roads and transit, governments have been less willing to cover the rising costs facing Universities, especially with respect to professional programs like law. This dynamic, in turn, drives up tuition. And then we end up here – where even with generous financial aid and credit lines and inclusive admissions policies, Law School is simply inaccessible to many who would in every way enrich the legal community. What if there were a parallel to pro bono legal services in the legal education context? In other words, what would legal education provided without expectation of tuition look like?
In November, 2013, Convocation of the Law Society of Upper Canada (LSUC) voted to approve Ryerson University and the University of Ottawa as the providers of the new, post-JD pathway to licensing, the “Law Practice Program” (LPP). Importantly, the LPP is a three year pilot project (with a possible extension of a further two years). At the same meeting of Convocation an application from Lakehead University’s new law school to deliver an “integrated practice curriculum” that would fully satisfy the new LPP requirements was unanimously approved. As a result, students graduating from Lakehead’s new three year program (its first graduating class will be in 2016) will not be required to article or take the LPP after graduation, but may move directly into the licensing process and write the licensing examinations. Subsequent to the November decisions, LSUC has indicated that it will entertain applications from other law schools wishing to offer an integrated practice curriculum that fully meets the skills and tasks competencies listed in the original Request for Proposals (RFP) for the LPP.
In February of 2014, Osgoode’s faculty met to discuss the implications of the LPP for the J.D. program. Arising from that meeting, I have worked with a group of Osgoode faculty and senior administrators who volunteered to take a leadership role in gathering more information and broader perspectives on the issue. We hope this project, which is ongoing, will inform a broader discussion at Osgoode (and, potentially, across law schools and with the profession). We feel it important to signal that it is not the intention of Osgoode Hall Law School to make any application to the LSUC at this time. Osgoode’s final decision will have to wait for answers to the questions we raise below and until our discussion with the whole Osgoode community is complete. The considerations informing the conclusion of the working group are described briefly below. Read the rest of this entry →
Recently, the Obiter Dicta featured an exchange about an alleged incident which occurred last November in the Osgoode library. My goal (and my challenge) is to address concerns about racial profiling while also reinforcing and reaffirming support for our staff and community. The library, in particular, has long been a space viewed by students as supportive and safe – and I recall the palpable sense when I was a student at Osgoode (just a few years ago…) that the library was “our” place. Read the rest of this entry →
Every Spring, following a long Osgoode tradition, I hand over the keys to the Deans Office to the student who submitted a compelling essay or video on how the Law School could be improved. Previous winning submissions have focused on Osgoode’s engagement with indigenous communities, improving feedback on exams, and enhancing Osgoode’s mental health supports for students. This year, I was pleased to see the theme of the winning submission from Clifford McCarten involved the opportunities for enhancing the student experience through better digital resources. In particular, Clifford suggested digital or pdf course packs could accompany each course rather than expensive hard copies or a jumble of links and incompatible electronic resources.
Welcome Day 2014 was this past Thursday at Osgoode. This is the time when prospective students visit the Law School to check out the building, hear about the curriculum, meet faculty and staff, and generally kick the tires of their legal education to come. We know most of those admitted to Osgoode will have choices to go elsewhere, so this is also a time to highlight differentiation and those areas where Osgoode shines (our commitment to experiential education, our leadership in research, our passion for pedagogy, our pride in community). When all is said and done, however, the far bigger choice these students are making is choosing to take the plunge on law school in the first place. Read the rest of this entry →