As most of Canada’s larger universities now have affiliated faculties of law, it falls to younger and smaller universities to adopt legal education. Recently, Lakehead University was unsuccessful in convincing Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty that it would be prudent to establish a law school there, although this rebuff will not likely dash its long-term hopes.
Along these lines, yesterday’s Speech from the Throne by BC Premier Gordon Campbell, a Liberal, contained an interesting tidbit: “A new law school will be opened at Thompson Rivers University in Kamloops in collaboration with the University of Calgary.”
Thompson Rivers University?
Thompson Rivers is a small institution (less than 10,000 students) which until 1995 was known as “Caribou College” and did not even become a full university until 2004. In response to the BC Throne Speech, one journalist questioned why the government would mandate a law program at Thompson Rivers, in association with “a kooky, right-wing Alberta university,” when Simon Fraser University would have been a much more appropriate choice.
That raises a good point. Canada’s club of law-degree-granting universities is fairly small, with only 20 schools featuring full-fledged legal programs. All of these institutions are historically established or far larger than Thompson Rivers, or both. It is arguable that these institutions are thus able to provide strong facilities and cross-disciplinary education, as well as the less tangible advantage of proximity with a large knowledge-based social milieu. The minuscule Thompson Rivers, on the other hand, “in the longer term… will seek to develop dedicated space for the TRU Law School.”
The title of this post may come across as institutional snobbery, but this is not true. Rather, it seeks to draw attention to the question of whether Canadian legal education should move toward the situation in the US, where an abundance of no-name backwoods law schools saturate the market with marginally-educated lawyers. It would have made far more sense to create a law school at Simon Fraser University, which would be sizable (and reputable) enough to sustain a unique legal program without having to rest on the intellectual capital of another institution.