1/8/18

Mandatory Classes - A Wish for 2018

While some law schools in the US are closing, in Canada, a prospective new one received preliminary approval in late December 2017  by The Federation of Law Societies of Canada, Canadian Common Law Program Approval Committee on its application to create a new law school.  This is the next step in the school’s bid to establish a law school. What is interesting and unique about this school, is that they are not exclusively focused on the letter of the law nor traditional legal studies as with other law schools. Instead they are taking a more progressive applied, approach to the discipline as has become a hallmark of the Ryerson University brand.  
In describing its program, Ryerson proposes to create a “different kind of law school that trains lawyers differently”. It emphasizes a program that has an “innovation-focused approach”that will equip graduates with real-world skills and competencies required to meet the present and future needs of consumers of legal services.
The courses that students will be required (my emphasis not theirs) to take include:
  • The Business of Lawyering
  • Legal Innovation
  • Social Innovation and the Law
  • Access to Justice Solutions
The courses will be taught by professors of course, but also include an element of practical experience and working with mentors from within the program itself. Courses are described in the application as:
“the course-based component is divided between a morning session in traditional lecture format, and an afternoon session where students will be separated into seven-member “student law firms” where they will engage in practice-based assignments. The afternoon sessions will be overseen by mentors.”
Also contemplated are three one week workshops in each of the three years of law school, I've pulled the descriptions here from the application documents:
  • Ryerson Law School Bootcamp: focuses on career planning, networking, mentoring, leadership and personal development [Mandatory 1L]
  • Technology Innovation Bootcamp: focuses on the current edge of legal technology,including data analytics, artificial intelligence, and quantitative legal prediction, etc. [Mandatory 2L
  • Financial Bootcamp: focuses on accounting, taxation and financial analysis [Optional 3L]
  • Coding Bootcamp: introduces students to HTML, cascading style sheet computing and Python, while requiring them to apply data analytics to devise a solution to a specific legal problem. [Optional 3L]
  • Emotional Quotient/Cultural Quotient (EQ/CQ) Bootcamp: includes an implementation project that aligns with recent shifts in thinking about the core competencies required of licensees in Ontario. [Optional 3L]
The school’s proposed curriculum is exciting and refreshing while also scary. It points to a very deliberate shift in what practising law can and should be about in the future - a future that can start with mandatory shifts in education in the next couple of years if not sooner. We have certainly been talking about this impending "future of the legal profession" for long enough. 

Last week on 3 Geeks, Greg blogged about the importance of Professional Development for library and research staff, in firms. I think learning some of the non-legal skills Ryerson wants to introduce in law school, can and should be sought out by lawyers, not just admin staff in firms.   Lawyers and not just the student kind, need to be thinking about the business of law and the practice of law right from school and otherwise.  Lawyers and law students, along with law firm administrators need to attend the very conferences Greg suggests are important to learn about everything law school doesn’t teach or is just beginning to teach as mandatory. 

While legal industry commentators are making predictions this month on the state of the legal industry in 2018, I would like to do something different, and make a wish for the industry instead.   I wish that 2018 be the year of the business-of-law tipping point. I wish for the coming year to be the one where we finally “get it” , where clients push firms of all sizes to act like businesses, where lawyers of all practices, years of call and diverse of backgrounds begin the slow but necessary step of getting trained on new ways of thinking about practising law with a robust business acumen either from formal education, continuing education/professional development or industry conferences.  I wish that Ryerson’s law school (if it gets final approval), and other similar mandatory and elective courses at all law schools is just the beginning of what’s to come for the future of the profession and that 2018 ushers in a new wave of legal professionals who have the skills and abilities to integrate legal know-how with business, technology, and access to justice  - with a smile. 

Best wishes for a successful 2018!

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