All Posts Tagged With: "law school"
Future lawyers push for more practical skills
Laura McGee entered law school three years ago planning on a career negotiating international trade deals. By second year, reality set in.
“Once you look at recruiting opportunities, you start to think, ‘Who’s going to pay me to practise international law?’”
Staring down a six-figure debt, she decided to explore her options on Bay Street, Canada’s corporate capital, where there’s plenty of work for young lawyers. To her surprise, the University of Toronto didn’t offer many ways to get business-law skills or test drive a corporate career. The school’s clinics, where students get credit and hands-on experience with clients, offered exposure to Aboriginal law, poverty law and family law, but—ironically for a school one subway stop from Bay Street—not business. “You learn to think in law school,” she says, “but you don’t learn how to practise as a lawyer.” Seeing a gap, she circulated a petition proposing a business-law clinic. About 200 students, a third of the class, signed within two days.
Profession faces falling fees, stagnant pay and fewer jobs
From the 2013 Professional Schools issue.
Each year, just before Christmas, a cross-section of Toronto’s legal establishment gathers for what might be the only truly indispensible event on its calendar. “Beef Night” is as old as the venerable Lawyers Club—est. 1922—and its name has hooves in the literal and figurative worlds. Fuelled by free beer, and by suppressed frustration, members rise during this banquet of prime rib to air “beefs” about the alternative dimension they inhabit. It might be the parsimony of the attorney general of the day. Or it might be the chafing effect of shabbily tailored robes.
The best “beefs” are rewarded with roasts donated by the Loblaws grocery chain, and the worst gets a turkey, but winning is never the point. A few years back, a barbershop quartet of articling students brought down the house with a ditty skewering their puffed-up bosses at a Bay Street firm—most of whom were seated in the room—illustrating the evening’s traditional function as a leveller in a rank-obsessed profession. Any beef that runs too long gets gonged out with a cowbell that echoes through the rafters of Osgoode Hall Law School’s regal Convocation Hall, whether it’s delivered by a junior associate or a Supreme Court justice.
Lakehead welcomes 55 law students
The inaugural class of Ontario’s first new law school in decades starts this fall in a province already teeming with new lawyers, but these students will be steered away from the big-city fray.
As law school enrolments continue to rise and more students studying law abroad return home, a growing number of graduates are scrambling for a comparatively stagnant number of articling positions — a 10-month work experience mandatory to become a lawyer.
But the so-called articling crisis never made its way as far north as Thunder Bay, Ont., where Lakehead University is set to unveil its new law school, said the new dean.
“If you talk to many of the law firms up here they’ll say, ‘Look, we’ve been trying to get an articling student for a number of years, we just can’t get the right one,” said Lee Stuesser, who has taught law for more than two decades.
“For years I’ve been saying to law students, ‘Look outside the big centres. There are jobs there.’ And you know what? They haven’t. So there is a shortage (of lawyers) here in the north.”
What students are talking about today (April 8th)
1. For the second time this semester, the uneasy relationship between a student newspaper and its student union overlords is front-page news. The Windsor Star, the local daily newspaper in Windsor, Ont., reports that The Lance student paper at the University of Windsor has been ordered to shut down their presses immediately. The outgoing board of directors of the University of Windsor Students’ Alliance voted last week—with no warning—to force The Lance to go “only online” because the paper was $24,000 in the red in February. The last printed issue had a cover story called “Electile dysfunction: Multiple allegations of corruption plague UWSA election,” which asked questions about possible corruption and incompetence in a recent UWSA election. Shutting down the print edition prompts questions about freedom of the press and whether the board has been vindictive. Kim Orr, the outgoing UWSA president, points out that the critical coverage was directed mostly at executive members and the chief returning officer, not the board of directors. Still, the timing is suspect. The Lance will be expected to operate on a third of its current $180,000 budget, which would leave it a shadow of its former itself. (Trust me, just because your publication is online doesn’t make it free.) The story is reminiscent of when Western’s student government decided to take away The Gazette‘s offices in January. A backlash caused them to retreat. Let’s hope this follows the same path.
2. American colleges are talking about a crisis in law schools. In 2011, nearly half of U.S. law graduates failed to find work in law, applications to law schools fell 38 percent since 2010 and, despite the poor prospects, graduates now finish with an average debt load of $98,500. Well, it looks like market economics are starting to have an impact in the other direction. The University of Arizona’s law school is cutting tuition up to 11 per cent. In Canada, most new lawyers can still find work, though articling positions are becoming harder to come by and tuition has risen a fair bit.
From the turmoil of Quebec to the rise of the West
It was a record year for Maclean’s On Campus with more readers than ever, but perhaps that’s unsurprising considering how much there was to talk about. Based on clicks and comments, here are the top five campus news stories of 2012.
1. Quebec student groups helped toss a government and won a tuition freeze.
In March, Quebec student groups declared war on a planned tuition hike of roughly $2,000 over five years. By April, students at 11 of Quebec’s 18 universities and 14 of its 48 CEGEPs had declared “strikes” and were skipping classes. There were nightly marches in Montreal that made life miserable for many who lived and worked downtown. Students who dared go to classes, even after judges orders allowing them to return, were stopped by masked protesters. The nightly marches started turning violent and threatened the tourism industry. Something had to be done.
A new monkey, Iran’s student club and new world rankings
1. Scientists say they’ve discovered a new species of monkey living in the remote forests of the Democratic Republic of the Congo. It’s only the second new monkey discovered in nearly three decades. The researchers have published on Cercopithecus Lomamiensis in Plos One. The monkey is known to locals as “Lesula.” Okay, so in that way, it’s not an entirely new discovery.
2. The president of the Iranian Cultural Association of Carleton University, a student group, solicited money for the club from Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s chief of staff, reports Maclean’s Michael Petrou. The now-closed Iranian embassy obliged, providing financial support. Canada lists Iran as a state sponsor of terrorism.
A shortage of positions in Ontario forces a reevaluation
Mathew Mezciems thought he was doing everything right. He got into one of the country’s premier law schools and set his sights on extracurricular activities that would set him up for a job on graduation. Big firms look for leaders—or so goes the conventional wisdom. So at the end of his first year at Queen’s University in Kingston, Ont., Mezciems ran for a junior position on the law students’ society, and won. The following year, his peers elected him president.
The job consumed a surprising amount of time. “There are meetings during the week with faculty,” says the 27-year-old, “and office hours where students can come and talk to you.” By the end of his second year, his grades had slipped into the Bs, and Mezciems found himself without one of the all-important summer student positions that serve as entryways to articling. After graduating this spring, he still couldn’t find an articling job—a predicament that not long ago would have been unthinkable for such a prominent student. “I’m trying not to be worried,” he said last June from his home outside Kingston, the strain audible in his voice. “You have those moments of panic, but I’m trying to stay positive and not get too overwhelmed.”
It takes a lot of creativity to finance second degrees
Last fall, when Kristen Pennington started at the University of Toronto faculty of law, she was surprised to learn of “an assumption” that students wouldn’t work during the school year. “I’d never been in school and not worked,” the 22-year-old says. “It wasn’t a question.”
During her first year in law school, Pennington held down three part-time jobs: she worked as an after-hours receptionist at the Canadian National Institute for the Blind, as an executive assistant for a lawyer, and as manager of the undergraduate residence at Glendon Campus, part of York University, where she also lived rent-free. “I worked for my room,” she says. “It was a great expense to cross off the list.” The commute from Glendon to U of T’s downtown campus, on public transit, was “45 minutes on a good day.”
A dreadlocks ban, failing law schools and a “video game bar”
1. A business school dean at the historically-black Hampton University in Virginia is standing by his ban on dreadlocks and cornrows for MBA students. The ban has been in place since 2001, but at least one new student is refusing to cut his dreads. Dean Sid Credle says the ban helps students get used to the corporate uniform.
2. Law school “cannot continue in its present form,” says a Saskatchewan law professor. Schools purport to be academic, but students expect to learn practical things like how to draft contracts. “Wouldn’t everyone be happier if law schools stopped trying to be all things to all people, and instead focused on being either vocational schools or academic institutions?,” asks Michael Plaxton.
3. Canadian universities lag behind when it comes to using less-expensive e-textbooks. In the U.S., 15 per cent of sales are digital. In Canada, it’s still less than 10 per cent.
Private university would have B.C.’s fourth law program
Trinity Western University, a privately-funded Christian school in B.C.’s Fraser Valley, wants to open its own law school. As Canadian Lawyer Magazine reports, Trinity Western hopes for approval from the provincial government and the Federation of Law Societies of Canada within the next six to 12 months. The school envisions a three-year JD program that will take its first cohort of 60 students in September 2015.
If approved, the law program will be the fourth in B.C. Last year, Thompson Rivers University opened the province’s third law school in Kamloops.
Given that there is a national shortage of articling positions for law graduates, the decision to open new programs seems curious. But, as Trinity Western associate professor Janet Epp Buckingham told Canadian Lawyer Magazine, the school will hire an articling coordinator to help place students in positions post-graduation, and will encourage them to consider setting up shop in smaller communities. “The whole focus is really going to be on building skills alongside building legal analysis and understanding so that when students graduate from the law school they would be able to go into a small firm already with skills that they can use and apply,” she told the magazine.
Esteemed law professor Mary Eberts thinks so
Mary Eberts was a junior law professor at the University of Toronto in 1974 when she told her colleagues she planned to miss the July 8 faculty meeting to help get out the vote for Pierre Elliot Trudeau. Their reaction was bewilderment. Professors weren’t often politically involved.
Eberts got her day off and then left U of T in 1980 to join a Bay Street Firm. She remained an activist, giving her time to organizations like the Native Women’s Association of Canada.
Now she’s back in the academy as the Ariel Sallows Chair in Human Rights at the University of Saskatchewan. Three decades after her first academic job, she says it’s just as difficult for professors to get involved in civil society and speak out about their political beliefs. She argues Canadians are losing their expertise as a result.
I sat in on her talk at Congress 2012, Canada’s largest gathering of Humanities and Social Sciences, in Waterloo, Ont. (click to see a recording) and then I interviewed her in her house in Toronto’s Annex neighbourhood. Here’s what she said about why professors so often stay silent, why she believes they shouldn’t, and how to square civic activism with their roles as teachers.
Should professors step up and engage more in civic life, even when it’s politically controversial?
Students sue their schools and employers
An 18-year-old in Australia is suing her former high school because she says it’s their fault that her marks were too low to land her a seat at the prestigious University of Sydney law school.
No, it isn’t Ja’mie King of Summer Heights High, although it does sound like something she’d do.
Rose Ashton-Weir says she didn’t get the support needed to excel while at Geelong Grammar, a private boarding school. Darren Ferrari, a Geelong representative, points out that she could have studied law at several other universities. Apparently, that wasn’t good enough.
Law students struggling to find work
Law students are once again struggling to find articling terms, reports The Lawyer’s Weekly.
Articling is mandatory on-the-job training that lasts 10 months in Ontario. The Law Society of Upper Canada (Ontario’s self-regulator), says that 12.1 per cent of articling applicants were without jobs as of March 31, up from 5.8 per cent in 2008. LSUC is preparing a report on the problem.
The Lawyer’s Weekly blames the shortage on an imbalance between supply and demand. Law schools have admitted more students in the past decade. Enrollment is up 33 per cent at the University of Ottawa, for example. On top of that, foreign-trained lawyers are arriving in greater numbers, but firms aren’t adding many positions.
But will it really reduce stress?
The only thing worse than stressing out about upcoming exams is when you’re done writing them and you stress out about the marks you’ll get.
The University of Toronto Law faculty knows this and they want to make students focus less on marks and more on “intellectual engagement.”
After two years of studying how to reduce stress about marks and help students enjoy their studies, the law faculty is considering dropping letter grades (A, B+, B, C+, C, D, F). Several law schools in the United States use the pass/fail system, including Harvard, Stanford, Berkeley, and Yale, they note. A pass/fail system can help reduce students’ anxiety over marks, they say.
Except, uh, U of T’s news system won’t be pass/fail. Instead, five categories of marks will be used: High Honours, Honours, Pass, Low Pass, and Fail. In other words, the letter grade system isn’t being dropped, it’s just getting a face-lift. It’s like making a director’s cut and calling it a new movie.
I’m not exactly sure how renaming the letter grades is supposed to reduce anxiety over marks. Instead of stressing about getting A’s, students can stress about getting ‘high honours.’
Here’s an idea: instead of assigning them grades, why not rank students on a superheroes scale, Batman, Spider-Man, Wolverine, and Green Lantern…
Then again, that might not work. Students would still fear getting an ‘Aquaman.’
Scott Dobson-Mitchell is a Biomedical Sciences student at Waterloo. Follow @ScottyDobson
Students poke fun at their future profession
A new YouTube video made by students at the University of Calgary warns teenagers about the “the dangers of law school.” It has reached 16,000 views since it was uploaded on Feb. 26.
“Dear 16-year-old me,” it starts, “I must warn you about law school. It’s where insecure over-achievers go to do stuff with their bachelor of arts.”
The students then poke fun at the profession’s moral dilemmas. “Your experience in law school will start with the promise of helping the community, doing what’s right,” says one student. “Then you’ll realize you’re destined to make rich companies richer by facilitating the purchase of other rich companies,” says another.
It’s all in good fun. ”Don’t get me wrong,” Ng told Huffington Post, “I’m incredibly proud of being a law student, but if a friend told me they wanted to go to law school, I’d sit them down for a long chat.”
We’ve heard of the rural shortage. But a suburban shortage?
Just months after British Columbia opened its first new law school in 30 years, a top lawyer is advocating for another one, this time in Surrey.
B.C.’s newest law school is at Thomson Rivers University in Kamloops, where its mission is, in part, to address the rural lawyer shortage.
Tony Wilson, an adjuct professor at Simon Fraser University, makes the argument that there’s a pending shortage in suburban Surrey too. He notes that the city near Vancouver is projected to be the biggest in B.C. by 2020. Surrey grew by 13.6 per cent between 2001 and 2006.
There’s plenty of work, Wilson argues in his letter to Canadian Lawyer. “Surery has… clients, many of them in real estate, real estate development, or other small or medium-sized businesses,” he says, “and if you’re into criminal law, the newspapers would suggest that opportunities abound.”
From the 2011 Maclean’s Professional Schools Issue
Are a law school’s professors significant contributors to the intellectual life of their discipline? Do a law school’s graduates land the most sought-after jobs in government, the private sector and academia? These are the two questions Maclean’s annual law survey seeks to answer.
All of the data used in the Maclean’s law rankings are publicly available. All focus on law school outputs. Fifty per cent of the overall ranking is determined by faculty quality, and 50 per cent by graduate quality.
The four measures of graduate quality look at the success each law school has had producing graduates able to land the most competitive jobs. The indicators are:
Elite Firm Hiring: Maclean’s calculated how many of each school’s graduates are serving as associates at law firms on Lexpert’s list of the largest firms in Canada across all regions, or at one of the five leading New York firms, according to the employment website Vault. This was done by examining the online biographies of thousands of lawyers at dozens of law firms. To scale this measure to each school, the tally was divided by first-year class size, averaged over the past three years. This measure is worth 20 per cent.
National Reach: This indicator, based on the Elite Firm Hiring measure, is worth 10 per cent. It measures the proportion of each law school’s grads at leading firms who are working at firms other than the three that hired the most grads from this school. It’s a measure of the extent to which leading firms outside a school’s region hire its graduates.
Supreme Court Clerkships: A measure of how many of a school’s graduates have served as clerks at the Supreme Court of Canada, this indicator is worth 10 per cent. There are 27 clerks each year; it is one of the most competitive positions open to graduates. Maclean’s looked at the last six years’ worth of clerks. As with the other measures of graduate quality, the tally was divided by each school’s average ﬁrst-year enrolment.
Faculty Hiring: Worth 10 per cent, this indicator looks at how many of a school’s graduates are professors at Canadian law schools, with extra weight given to grads hired by faculties other than their alma mater.
Faculty Journal Citations: In this measure of faculty quality, worth 50 per cent, Maclean’s employed the HeinOnline database of legal periodicals. The search included citations in international publications as well as Canadian journals in order to reflect the reality of a globalized academy. The number of citations recorded by each faculty member was measured; the tally for each school was then divided by the size of its faculty.
The methodology behind the Maclean’s law school rankings was created in co-operation with professor Brian Leiter, director of the Center for Law, Philosophy, and Human Values at the University of Chicago. The data were compiled by researcher Jane Bao. Ranking on each indicator and overall rank was determined using the statistical percentile method that Maclean’s has long employed in our annual university rankings. Our statistician was Hong Chen, of McDougall Scientific Ltd. statistical consultants.
From the 2011 Maclean’s Professional Schools Issue
When she was in law school, Amber Biemans always figured she’d practise in the city. After she and her husband had kids, though, she felt the pull of small-town life. At age 26, Biemans joined a firm in Humboldt, Sask. (population 5,900); two years later, she’d bought out a senior partner at the firm who was ready to retire. Making partner at age 28 was an “amazing opportunity,” says Biemans, now 32, but beyond that, “the benefits here are immense,” from the commute to work—which takes all of five minutes—to the close relationships she’s built with clients.