New law school, new technology

(Horst Herget Photography)

Toronto already has two other law schools, including Osgoode Hall Law School pictured here. (Courtesy: Horst Herget Photography)

Ryerson’s proposed new law school will lead the way with technology in the classroom, according to the university’s president, Mohamed Lachemi.

“We think there’s a way that the legal education can go to the next level and meet the demands of community, of consumers and society in the 21st century,” said Lachemi. “And this is why we want to bring fresh perspective of legal education that has a good foundation and theory.”

Last week, Ryerson released a letter of intent about a new law school. Two town hall meetings were scheduled for students and faculty to give their input. One was earlier today and the second will be held on Thursday.

The formal proposal for the law school was released just before the Law Society of Upper Canada is to vote on whether to extend Ryerson’s current law practice program. The LPP was created as an alternative to a traditional articling program, which law school grads must complete before writing the bar exam. It features hands-on learning through online simulations to establish industry-ready lawyers. These elements will be incorporated into the new law school.

“The point is that if we’re going to have another law school in this province, it just has to be completely different,” said Mitchell Kowalski, author and lawyer. “Otherwise, it’s a total waste of time and waste of money for everyone. Ryerson is certainly of the same view.”

The Ryerson law school could also provide greater access to justice for people downtown.

“I think Ryerson could really develop itself as a law school focusing on urban, inner city downtown municipal issues,” said Faisal Bhaba, an associate professor of law at Osgoode Hall Law School. “The rise of the city as a space of legal regulation and where law is important is, I think, an area that we’re going to see greater academic interest in going forward.”

A law school that focuses on collaborative skills to help clients has been a long time coming, according to legal analyst Jordan Furlong. He says if Ryerson is able to deliver a successful innovative program, others may follow.

“Almost everyone is trying one degree or another to make some shifts, but what Ryerson is sketching out here presents a real alternative philosophy of legal education. I think that choice can only be good,” said Furlong.

There is no location planned for the proposed law school. It still needs approval from the government and the Law Society of Upper Canada. Ryerson hopes that a future strategic partnership could help find a space for it.

“We know that we have limited space. We know that our footprint is small but let’s not limit our creativity,” said Lachemi.

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