in Canadian Lawyer mag. Written by Jasmine Akbarali & Gillian Hnatiw, partners @ Lerners LLP’s & Gillian Hnatiw
can’t exaggerate the importance of this issue.
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.
1. Osgoode’s Ongoing Leadership in Experiential Learning
Osgoode has been—and continues to be—a leader in the continually evolving thinking about what constitutes a quality legal education that will enable graduates to flourish in a varied and dynamic professional environment. We have had an ongoing discussion about the importance of clinical education and experiential learning for decades. We have had two major curriculum reforms in the recent past and multiple strategic planning processes. The resulting vision we have developed of experiential learning and reflective professionalism at Osgoode seems significantly broader than the view of “tasks,” “skills,” and “competencies” reflected in the LSUC’s Pathways Report and the RFP for the LPP. For example, our understanding of the educational value of “competencies” differs from the use that is made of this concept in the requirements for an Accredited Law Degree—particularly in the context of today’s exciting, complex and pluralistic profession. The Lakehead program has been very intentionally constructed with a particular practice vision in mind, one suited to practice in Ontario’s northern communities. Osgoode’s program, by contrast, seeks to prepare students for a multiplicity of professional roles in a wide array of practice contexts.
2. Uncertainty and Ambiguity
The LPP is itself a pilot project, and we are keenly interested in whether and how well the specified regulatory objectives are met by the project, and what other effects the LPP might have on, for example, articling. We would also need to know more about the plan for evaluation of the Lakehead integrated curriculum and how the graduates of that program are received by the profession upon graduation.
There are operational uncertainties regarding the LPP. For instance, the LSUC has not indicated how work placements are to be secured or what will happen if there are fewer placements than students. In the event of chronic shortages, questions arise about the viability of sustaining the LPP even over the short term. Serious questions also persist as to the impact of LPP placements on the ongoing availability of clinical placements, and vice-versa. Recently, law students were surprised and concerned by the way that the implementation of the LPP has significantly changed the cost of the LSUC licensing process. No doubt there will be more issues and challenges as the roll out of the LPP continues.
The environment is shifting fast and Osgoode will want to fix on a path only after serious deliberation, consultation and reflection. The LSUC has instituted a significant number of changes—possibly the most significant changes in the last half century—in a very short period of time (without, in our view, an adequate evidentiary basis, sufficient reflection, or consultation with the law schools). The possibility of other changes, including the abolition of articling and the changing nature of the job market for our graduates, also highlights the importance of having as full information as possible prior to any decision.
Osgoode is particularly concerned about the lack of information from the LSUC about what kind of reporting and monitoring regime would be required of any law school offering an “integrated practice curriculum.” The potential of increased monitoring, oversight, reporting and regulation by the LSUC raises critical issues of academic independence and integrity.
3. Cost Consequences
For Osgoode, there are potential costs to modifying our program in response to these recent and still unfolding developments. There are costs to the vision of the JD education and the program we have built (including the very direct impact on our current clinical offerings). There are costs in terms of staff, planning and expenses. For students, there are costs in terms of fees and time invested in new programs with uncertain returns, but also the cost of opportunities for broader legal education foregone. Nonetheless, Osgoode must continue with its established approach to the planning of its degree programs, one that emphasizes being responsive to changing contexts and alert to the costs and benefits associated with change.
4. Responsive Planning for a Dynamic Profession
Although we conclude at this time that the case to immediately modify our JD program is not convincing, Osgoode must approach our future plans with attention to the full scope of our context and with a full understanding of the implications for our students, legal education, and the profession.
One way to understand the task is to deepen the concept of “practice readiness” beyond its use for the short-term task of licensing. The Osgoode JD aims to prepare students for a multiplicity of professional roles in a wide array of practice contexts by fostering analytical, communication, ethical and professional skills that will be valuable throughout careers that will see significant dynamic change. In addition to the changes in the “Pathways” to licensing, it is clear that major shifts are underway in the profession and the market for legal services. As such, there is little doubt that the occasion is upon us to think deeply about the future of legal education in light of such change.
To ensure that the Osgoode JD continues to ready its graduates for excellence throughout their careers, some essential tasks for Osgoode to address now include to:
• Identify the most important social challenges and opportunities relevant to the design of our JD program, such as regulatory changes, shifts in job markets for JD graduates, changes in the structure of law firms including mergers and failures, retrenchment and expansion in US and other foreign law schools, and increased presence of foreign-trained law graduates in local markets;
• Review and reflect on our curriculum reform efforts to re-articulate the essential values advanced by the Osgoode JD;
• Develop a clear articulation of what is meant by “experiential learning” at Osgoode and how Osgoode’s approach relates to the LSUC’s regulatory competencies;
• Continue Osgoode’s leadership in innovative lifelong professional education and reflect on the benefits and costs associated with new developments such as technology-enhanced learning, new approaches to pedagogy and best practices in professional training, and the comparative experience of professional training in other fields and in other jurisdictions; and
• Connect to other law schools in Ontario and outside the jurisdiction regarding shared visions about the future of legal education and the legal profession.
By reflecting carefully in these ways on the convergence of so many major developments in our legal landscape, we will continue, in collaboration with our students and alumni, to build on Osgoode’s longstanding tradition of leadership as a public institution that offers responsive and reflective legal education.
Let’s start a[nother] conversation about representation on conference panels
my general thought is, who are the allies to whom we might suggest a policy of light or heavier pressure on conference organizers to get women on panels before you will agree to participate? I know two people with such policies and I’m sure there are more. Very junior academics and lawyers probably aren’t the folks who can take up this policy – but who might? Why not ask? After my tweets at the Federation of Asian Canadian lawyers (see below), I ran into a (the?) person who had seen them, has a policy, and is raising the issue in organizations he works with.
The thing is that once you are asked to be on panels, you
a. get better at it and
b. get asked to be on more
Feet in the door matter hugely, in other words. Other justifications can be found in the links below. Naturally, gender is not the only issue, so there are ways that women can be active participants with their own policies too, rather than simply “locked out”.
Here is info about the Gendered Conference Campaign from Feminist Philosophers. Here and here you can find articles about the issue in tech. Here a man describes some of the challenges of operationalizing a hard pledge.
At FACL [Federation of Asian Canadian Lawyers] w lawschool classmates & students i have taught from 2002 to last thursday. Lots of great women here. Binders full, possibly.
This particular panel at FACL FedAsian CdnLawyers on public service =all men. But all racialised & 3 osgoode grads incl @jagmeetNDP
Hi FACL – @GeraldChanRSCH is fab & <3 panel on Asian Canadian Litigators but wherearetheAsianwomen? Yr VP Rebecca Huang wld be perfect!
[a few days later]
so i know some expert lawyers & lawprofs who try to avoid sitting on panels w/o any women … I bet more out there @blberger @agarwalr
Broadening the representation on all kinds of expert panels requires those who ARE invited to suggest others & insist on representation.
see similar calls in tech & academic philosophy. How much resistance will these allies face in our academic and professional spaces?
PS: i have no qualms about people assuming this “quota” is a reason someone is on a panel. I have plenty of reasons for dismissing this as a concern, including:
- if people do a good job. who cares
- if they don’t, there are plenty of men in that category too and one goal is that women should be able to be as prominently mediocre as men in this profession
- invitations to be on panels are not distributed evenly nor does anyone pretend they are handed out by a meritocratic system. There are all kinds of reasons why they are handed out. Most are no more defensible – or less defensible – than a policy which prioritizes representation.
here is a problem I think i have encountered;
getting asked to be on too many things (two birds/one stone issue?) and allowing it to take up my time and set my agenda.
Ariel Ayanna says in his complaint (PDF), filed in the U.S. District Court for the District of Massachusetts, that he received the message from Dechert’s Boston office, particularly after his second child was born and he took time under the federal Family and Medical Leave Act to care for his children and mentally ill wife.
Judgments of Power From College Yearbook Photos and Later Career Success
by Nicholas O. Rule and Nalini Ambady in Social Psychological and Personality Science published online 4 October 2010
Abstract: ….the authors find that inferences of power from photos of the faces of the managing partners of America’s top 100 law firms significantly corresponded to their success as leaders, as measured by the amounts of profits that their firms earned.
Thus, in the domain of leadership, individuals who look like better leaders could actually become better leaders because they are more often chosen for leadership positions, are more likely to be treated like leaders by their peers and mentors, and are given more opportunities to develop leadership abilities.
Is anyone else surprised that in this article, the word “gender” does not appear? Nor does the word “race” (except in the title of a cited article). But one of the authors, Dr. Nalini Ambady has done really important work on stereotyping (see here, for instance). I must be missing something. To me, what it doesn’t say is more interesting than what it does say. I do understand that shorter articles in some disciplines mean that not everything is going to be covered – and it’s certainly not my field. What am I missing? Link here (might not be free to those outside a University context). http://spp.sagepub.com/content/early/2010/10/01/1948550610385473.full.pdf+html
You might also be interested in the information that the Law Society of Upper Canada collected on lawyers salaries. Maybe they should’ve looked at picture ratings, rather than race and gender. Oh…wait….
The Toronto Star has a mildly hilarious although not really less disturbing piece on this today. [Clarification – the piece is hilarious because it’s in an actual newspaper, and it’s absolutely ludicrous – laughing at, not laughing with].
They had Dr. Rule look at a bunch of photos of current Canadian law students. One women. Seven men (which seems a bit skewed given the ratio in law school, but maybe they asked for volunteers). Two “visible minorities”. Quotes indicate that I’m just eyeballing the pics. And what was said about the woman (who was not one of the minorities)?
“She’s very beautiful. She does have sort of a larger jaw. If someone told me she was really successful I would believe it. She would probably do very well.”
Oh, by the way, the picture on the right is the one that Macleans mag chose to illustrate their brief piece on the study. Click through the pic to Macleans. I’m not even sure what to say about it. Their article was called
“The look of leadership: Law firms led by managing partners whose faces look “powerful” actually make more money”
Remarkably, facial power in yearbook photos—snapped when these managing partners didn’t have a public relations team to burnish their image—was almost as effective at predicting a law firm’s success as the more recent head shots. This suggests a powerful face is somewhat consistent over time, and can’t really be faked. Features that express dominance and facial maturity, like a strong jaw or brow, often “have more to do with the bone structure of the face,” Rule says, and “can’t easily be altered—not with expression, cosmetics, surgery.”