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
  • 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:
    on career planning, networking, mentoring, leadership
    and personal development [Mandatory 1L]
  • Technology
    Innovation Bootcamp:
    on the current edge of legal technology,including
    data analytics, artificial intelligence, and quantitative legal prediction,
    etc. [Mandatory 2L
  • Financial
    on accounting, taxation and financial analysis [Optional 3L]
  • Coding Bootcamp:
    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
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
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!