In the summer of 2016, Osgoode launched the Learning & Leading Series (LLS), with two Certificates tied to areas of professional development for law students: Business Fundamentals and French Legal Terminology. This summer, we are adding two new Certificates – one in Tech Transformation and the other in Developing Relationships with Clients & Communities. These Certificates, which are primarily offered outside times that academic courses run, may be taken at no additional charge to JD students and at a subsidized rate for graduate students. Each LLS Certificate is limited to 40 students or less, and feature hands-on learning in fields of growing importance both for legal practice and for leadership in society more generally. They also blend enterprise and social justice perspectives.
Could the mix of experiential learning in substantive legal education with professional development programs of various stripes enhance students’ capacity to put their education to work represent the future of law schools?
The logic behind the Learning & Leading series is simple. No matter what area of practice or other leadership roles students end up pursuing following their legal education at Osgoode, there are some insights and skills all will need. The ability to read a financial statement, for example, which students explore in Business Fundamentals, will be critical for the poverty lawyer representing tenants against a landlord just as it will be critical in serving businesses or undertaking an equalization of net family property as part of Family Law dispute resolution. Similarly, developing the emotional intelligence (EQ), communication skills and empathy necessary for effective relationships with clients and communities will be a critical foundation for any successful path in law.
Our LLS Certificates also bring the legal community to Osgoode in new ways. For example, the French Legal Terminology Certificate program has featured Government and private lawyers from across Ontario as part of l’Association des juristes d’expression française de l’Ontario (AJEFO)’s support. As well, judges and representatives of the Law Society of Upper Canada have also sent speakers and leading experts to participate in the Certificate.
Osgoode students have responded to these Certificates with enthusiasm. Our modest registration system in the first year crashed on the first day due to unprecedented demand. We sorted it out (and ended up offering three rather than one section of Business Fundamentals (!)) and this summer, we look forward to a range of improvements in how we support the Learning & Leading Series. We believe flexibility is the key to meeting diverse student needs. For example, while Business Fundamentals and Tech Transformation Certificates will take place during intense one week sessions this May, French Legal Terminology has found success in evening meetings throughout the academic year, and Developing Relationships with Clients & Communities will take place during summer evenings.
We are able to make these Osgoode LLS Certificates accessible thanks to the many contributions of Osgoode Program Lawyer Nicole Salama, and the generous investment by sponsoring firms and organizations – Business Fundamentals is supported by the Osgoode Davies Fund, the Tech Transformation Certificate will be supported by Thomson Reuters, while Torys is helping make possible the Certificate in Developing Relationships with Clients & Communities.
I also look forward to introducing one or two additional LLS Certificates next summer (e.g. Social Innovation & Social Enterprise). Over time, some elements from the Certificates may be integrated into the J.D. or LL.M. curriculum, while other elements now in our Career Development Office or Academic Success & Wellness programming (e.g. how to use social media, how to develop mindfulness, etc.) might grow into stand-alone Certificate programs. In the meantime, Registration opens on March 6, 2017, and I look forward to the Learning & Leading Series pointing the way for a successful and lively future for our students – and for legal education!