Law School – Law is Cool The law school blog and podcast from Canada Wed, 30 Sep 2015 13:10:01 +0000 en-US hourly 1 1338880 Students Writing LSAT With Accommodation Will Not Have Law School Applications “Flagged” Thu, 05 Jun 2014 17:28:10 +0000 The non-profit organization Law School Admission Council (LSAC) based in the United States was penalized $7.7 million USD to compensate over 6000 students from the past 5 years for application to accommodate. Prior practice included Law School Admission Test (LSAT) scores being “flagged” on law school applications if accommodation for extra time was applied during examination. The decision impacted domestic United States schools and many other schools abroad where they accepted LSAT scores with law school applications. The United States Department of Justice claimed of “widespread and systemic discrimination” by the LSAC where they intervened with the Americans with Disabilities Act. The LSAT continued to be a key criterion for law school admissions in the United States where excellence in the LSAT was highly prized. The LSAT scores are used throughout Canada and played an important role to determine how schools were ranked. There was no French language LSAT version so Quebec-based schools and University of Ottawa’s French section were not affected. Due to jurisdiction issues, Canadian school officials do not have control over LSAT’s examination policies and procedures. Lorna Turnbull, the dean of Manitoba’s Robson Hall Law School indicated such powerlessness and commented on the incredible amount of money potentially required to exclude LSAT scores for law school admission. Canadian officials are required to accommodate students in accordance with the relevant human rights legislation within their respective jurisdictions. Lorna Turnbull added that Canadian schools have suffered from such passive acceptance for quite some time. The class action lawsuit was initiated by 3 students in California and ballooned to almost 40 claimants where it prompted the United States Department of Justice to issue a consent decree to the LSAC to have breached the Americans with Disabilities Act with systemic discrimination. Sarah Triano, a teenager from the state of California and the class action initiator from 1997 was repeatedly denied accommodation due to her immune deficiency disorder and battles with depression. A piece of statistic from the Osgoode Hall Law School 2013 entering class showed 8% of the students with some sort of disability. The interviewees to the article noted accommodation was meant to create equal opportunity. Ravi Malhotra, an Ottawa law professor and human rights committee of the Council of Canadians with Disabilities was concerned the practice of “flagging” accommodated students infringed the human rights of Canadians.

by Ho Cheung

Source: Canadian Lawyer Mag

]]> 4 3603
Auditions for Third Canada-wide Twitter Moot opened Thu, 14 Nov 2013 22:14:10 +0000  

Vancouver.  West Coast Environmental Law is inviting law students from across Canada to participate in a unique social media competition.  The “Twitter Moot”, to be held on Friday, February 28th, 2014, at 10am PST, will see teams from Law Schools from all across Canada participate in a mock court hearing over the Twitter social media platform, arguing an appeal to the Supreme Twitter Court of Canada.   Students are invited to audition – over Twitter – by December 6th, 2013.

“We want to get people talking about mining, Aboriginal Rights and environmental law,” explained Andrew Gage, Staff Lawyer.  “This is taking an important legal debate out of the court room and onto Twitter.”

This year’s Twitter Moot will focus on an appeal of Ross River Dena Council v. Yukon, a precedent-setting decision of the Yukon Court of Appeal which last December held that the Territory’s mining laws did not provide for adequate consultation with the Ross River Dena Council.  Similar (although not identical) laws are in place in many of Canada’s provinces, making the case an ideal one for the Twitter Moot to focus on.

The Twitter Moot is scheduled to be held at the same time as North America’s largest Public Interest Environmental Law conference, held each year at the University of Oregon, and will be profiled at the Conference.  “This will give the students unparalleled exposure to some of the top environmental lawyers in North America.”

The hashtag for the Twitter Moot is #twtmoot.  West Coast Environmental Law made social media history when it held the world’s first Twitter Moot in February 2012.  The event was a trending topic in Canada, with an audience in the thousands.  The second Twitter Moot was held in November 2012.

West Coast Environmental Law invites inquiries about sponsorship opportunities.  For information about how to field a team, visit

– 3

Law School Tech Chat to discuss Law Student’s Social Media usage Wed, 06 Nov 2013 18:36:56 +0000 Last month this blog focused on the twitter chat #CBAfuturesChat, which was a student focused consultation run by the Canadian Bar Association’s Future’s initiative. Now that it’s November, the twitter chat has shifted to a more professional, practicing lawyer focused consultation, but law school students are of course still welcome.

Last night saw at least one familiar student still participating, @JMackenzieLaw engaged in a conversation about the use of technology in law with lawyers, professors and business consultants.

If you are a law student, and interested in learning more about how your peers are using social media, consider checking out next week’s episode of the Podcast Law School Tech Chat. It is a weekly podcast by faculty of American Lawschools that discusses issues of Tech use in Lawschool, and this coming week they will be discussing students and social media, so check it out!

Jonathan MacKenzie is this week’s top Social Media Student at Law (@JMacKenzieLaw) Tue, 15 Oct 2013 15:59:46 +0000 Last week’s #CBafuturesChat was a discussion of the articling in Canada.  The focus of the talk shifted from Law School to recent grads, and with that, the conversation shifted to students at law instead of law students.

Coming to the front of the Student’s at Law last week was Jonathan Mackenzie, who just completed his articles. I sat down with him briefly to talk:

Q: As a lawyer who is just starting his career, what role do you see social media playing?

A: For me, the draw of social media is in the opportunity it gives you to brand yourself and establish yourself as an expert in a certain area. Prior to the emergence of social media, it took a tremendous amount of work and a certain amount of luck for a lawyer to build a solid reputation prior to emergence of social media – print publications were one of the only sources for brand building. I have been to many senior lawyers’ offices and seen newspaper and magazine clippings all over the walls. While print publications still hold their prestige today, social media has made advertising and brand building more accessible to newer lawyers that are just starting out. I am fortunate to be in a firm where I can be involved with business development and client acquisition processes and am excited to help my firm use social media, among other tools, to build our brand and ultimately, acquire more clients.

Q: You seemed really active and engaged in the twitter chat, have you participated in one before?

A: This was actually the first twitter chat I have been involved in. I have been interested in using social media to build a personal brand for quite some time but did not feel that I had enough to offer. Now that I am finishing my articling and becoming more involved with the business operations of the firm, I am able to begin my efforts in earnest. I haven’t had any formal training with social media but I do enjoy picking the brains of my colleagues who work with social media for a living to find out what tips and tricks they have for me.

Q: We saw more articling students and young lawyers show up, but not as many students who had yet to start their articles, do you have any advice for them on articling?

A: I would say that it is very important to find your “fit.” I know that this is a frustrating thing to hear for prospective articling students – I hated being told to find my “fit” when I was looking for articling. Having gone through the process, I can appreciate now that this was truly a very important piece of advice. I am not necessarily speaking about the type of work you will be doing, because I think it is almost impossible to know straight out of law school what type of law you want to practice. I am speaking about the culture of the firm and whether you can see yourself being happy there. Look for a place where you think you will be accepted and where you will be able to learn both about the law and about yourself.

Q: I noticed a couple of practicing lawyers from the chat spoke with you during the chat, and are now following you on twitter. Was growing your follower count one of your plans for the chat?

A: I got a chance to have some great interactions with some of the participants in the #cbafutureschat. This is one of the things I like about twitter – the ability to interact with large groups and use these interactions to connect with people you are interested in connecting with. Increasing my followers per se was not one of my goals for the chat, but connecting with interesting people in the legal field was certainly a goal of mine and I’m happy to say that this was accomplished.

@uOttawa and @TRULaw_SLS lead the way on #cbafutureschat Tue, 08 Oct 2013 22:19:17 +0000 Here at Law is Cool we are keeping an informal tally of which schools are participating the most in #CBAFuturesChat. Schools get 1 point if atleast 1 student participates in the chat. Schools get an additional point if they have the most students participate (In week 1 that was uOttawa) and an additional point if one of their students is featured in the weekly ‘social media highlight’ here at LawIsCool (Last week’s winner was Thompson River’s James Wagner).

Law Student Leaderboard

Law School Week 1
University of Ottawa 2
Thompson Rivers University 2
Queen’s University 1
Lakehead University 1
University of Victoria 1

There are some pretty big name schools missing from this list, what does that tell you?

Every Tuesday in October is #CBAfuturesChat Fri, 27 Sep 2013 19:02:40 +0000 FuturesChat Launch (Host -Omar Ha-Redeye) - Sept. 25 (Final)

Every Tuesday in October is #CBAfuturesChat, hosted by Law is Cool alumni Omar Ha-Redeye of Fleet Street Law.

The CBA Futures Initative is a project that is reaching out to lawyers across Canada to talk about the future of the legal industry.  The twitter chat is one of the ways they are reaching out to engage with students to get input on topics that are relevent to their lives like:

  • the primary objective(s) of legal education
  • the advantages and limitations of the articling system in providing an appropriate level of professional training to prospective lawyers? Are there other options?
  • the necessary changes with respect to legal education in Canada
  • how legal services can be changed to improve access to justice
  • how to achieve more equitable representation of historically under-represented groups

We’re super excited that the CBA is reaching out and trying to engage with students, and we encourage everyone to chime in on Tuesdays at 7pm.

Online Law School Suggests Playlists for Students Wed, 21 Aug 2013 22:27:44 +0000 Washington University in St. Louis offers a chance to earn a Master of Law online, but sometimes online education lacks the seriousness and gravity of studying law in a fancy stone building with wooden floors and books on the walls.

Well, now you can at least feel fancy while you study in your underpants.  WashingtonU has posted a playlist of classical music it suggests can help increase students’ concentration and retention.

In all likelihood, a student who is ready to to work towards their Masters probably has a fairly decent study routine down, but the thought is nice, and the use of spotify shows that at least this law school know’s how the internet works.

]]> 1 3540
LSUC Publishes Articling Task Force Report Tue, 16 Oct 2012 18:39:17 +0000 This article was originally published on

The Law Society of Upper Canada (LSUC)’s articling task force has released its final report on its proposed solution for what has been dubbed the “Articling Crisis” facing recent law grads in Ontario.  The report directly concerns current law students, new graduates of law programs, law firms, and those considering entering the legal profession.  Its main recommendation is the creation of a new Law Practice Program (LPP) — a blend of coursework and co-operative work placement — to co-exist with the current 10-month articling requirement.  If approved, the program would start in the 2014-2015 licensing year, and run for five years.  The full report is accessible here, titled Pathways to the Profession: a Roadmap for the Reform of Lawyer Licensing in Ontario.

In addition to writing the bar exam, law students in Ontario must currently complete a 10-month position as an “articling student” with a practitioner certified by the LSUC within three years of graduation to become a licensed lawyer.  Slow growth in articling positions has failed to keep up with the swelling number of graduates from law programs in Canada, and has left as many as 15% of law grads without an articling position.

A minority of the LSUC’s task force recommended abolishing the articling requirement altogether (for an interesting take on the issue, see Dean Lorne Sossin of Osgoode Hall, “Should Articling Be Abolished?” 2010).  Instead, they would prefer to see articling replaced with a two to three month-long transitional licensing program, consisting of online courses on both substantive legal issues, and business, professional, ethical issues.

The Report’s Main Recommendation: the Law Practice Program (LPP)

The LSUC’s report recommends the creation of an approximately eight-month training program to replace the articling requirement.  It would be composed of four months of training on specific competency areas, and a four-month co-operative work placement.

I. Training Program Component

The training component of the LPP will be delivered by one or more “third parties” who will deliver an approximately four-month (or longer) program on the “established competencies” currently contained in the LSUC’s articling goals and objectives.  These include professional responsibility, interviewing, advising, fact investigation, legal research, file and practice management, drafting, negotiation, and advocacy.  The LPP is also recommended to incorporate the use of practising lawyers as instructors or support staff.

The LPP will conclude some form of assessment or test, but that remains unclear.  One possibility is the creation of an in-person practical skills test, where candidates interview a client, negotiate, analyze an ethical problem, draft an opinion letter and write an affidavit.  In the words of the task force, “further analysis of this issue is required” (para 167).

II. Co-operative Placement Component

One of the goals of this co-op work placement is to help relieve access to justice issues in the country by making new legal graduates more available to work in high-needs areas.  The other aim is to keep a “practical work experience” component in the lawyer licensing process, which is one of the primary benefits of the articling experience.

It would consist of 17 weeks, or about four months’ work at a site that “meet[s] the goals of transitional training” (para 154).  The third-party deliverer appears to play a role in securing these co-op opportunities for its registrants, similar to post-secondary institutions who partner with employers to offer four-month placement opportunities.  The report does not specify how this would work.

Changes to Articling

The LSUC task force also included recommendations to reform the articling process.  Currently articling students’ progress in skills development during their 10-month placement is unmonitored.

For greater progress appraisal, the report recommends the creation of new documentation requirements for principals: a training plan, a mid-term evaluation, and a certification that the articling student is a “fit and proper candidate for licensing.”  The articling student must also contribute to the mid-term evaluation, and complete a final self-evaluation.  The task force postponed making recommendations on timelines, e.g. when students would choose to apply for articling positions or the LPP, and how this would fit with bar examination sittings.

Next Steps

The LSUC task force recommends that the two alternative requirements, articling and LPP, begin to coexist in two years — during the 2014-2015 articling term.  All currently enrolled law students who plan to graduate 2014 and later are affected, and may enrol in the LPP as an alternative to articling. Third-party LPP providers will have to be identified and approved.  The assessment measures used to test graduates of the LPP will also have to be crystallized.

Issues and Concerns

The report’s recommendations raise several important issues and concerns.

I. Increased Financial Burden on Law Graduates

Less articling placements are available in part because training a new law graduate is expensive.  Articling positions are traditionally paid, and the salary of a legal practitioner in training can be a heavy burden, especially on private firms of less than 10 lawyers.  The task force recommends that the LPP become an alternative to articling.  Who will pay for what will essentially become a post-graduate online training requirement?  Law graduates, after paying for a degree that isn’t enough to get them a job.

Furthermore, the report suggests that the co-operative work experience placement will be unpaid.  Increasingly, unpaid articling positions are offered to those unable to find paid positions.  Combined with the swelling costs of a legal education in Canada, this will only further burden law students with debt post graduation, and limit their options.  The LSUC task force puts financial responsibility for debt squarely on the shoulders on new entrants to the legal profession.

The problem is that heavily indebted law students may not be able to financially justify working on access to justice issues, working for vulnerable populations, moving to rural areas, or other areas that do not support high legal costs.  Students who work in those areas as part of an unpaid articling position or co-op term will quickly move on once their debts require repayment.

Does this justify abolishment of the articling and LPP requirement?  No, because quality concerns about the newest entrants to the legal profession should remain a primary consideration of any reform.  However, the LPP cannot be said to be a solution to access to justice issues in Canada when it only adds to the costs of legal education.

II. Introduction of a Two-Tiered Licensing System

Another concern mentioned by the report is the creation of a two-tiered licensing system in Canada, where some law graduates have a full 10-month articling opportunity with a law firm, and others have to pay for an online course and a four-month unpaid co-op placement.  Ensuring both paths remain consistent, and produce equally competent legal professionals, will remain a challenge over the next five years.

This challenge can be met by detailed evaluation methods that emphasize practical skills.  The quality and cost of the proposed LPP program remains to be seen, but there is potential to create a system that produces better legal professionals than it does today.  The existence of two programs will be temporary.  After a five-year pilot, I think it will result in the combination of a single result that combines the best components of the two.

III. Isn’t there a role for law schools?

The most surprising omission from the report was the brevity of the section on law school reform.  Let’s look at the problem from another perspective: students now pay to attend law school for three years, graduate, and then rely on law firms to offer them a paid 10-month articling term to learn all the practical skills they need to become lawyers.  Law schools have essentially discharged their responsibility to train legal professionals.  Along with the LSUC, up until now they have put that duty on private and public legal practitioners.  Private practitioners can no longer afford to train the increasing numbers of law students that schools are graduating.

These graduates, depending on the richness of their summer experiences, know how to study, but may never learn in law school how to negotiate, interview, draft legal documents, or advocate for clients.  This report provides law schools with an excellent opportunity to enrich their educational experience, by offering practical skills development courses (in person or online) that satisfy the demands of the LPP.  The LSUC task force has said it out loud: these skills can be taught outside of a firm.

Law schools will remain valuable as institutions of higher scholarship with opportunities to study legal philosophy under academic supervision.  However, most law students choose to attend law school to become lawyers, not academics.  Let’s hope Canadian law schools take up this opportunity to lead from the front.

Call for Action

What do you think?  Is this requirement enough of a change?  Who should offer the LPP requirement, and how should it be evaluated?  Or should articling be abolished altogether?  Comment here, tell the LSUC, contact your alma mater or current Canadian law school.  This may change the face of the legal profession in Ontario, and could be the beginning of changes across Canada.

]]> 4 3503
The Innovative Advocate: Canada’s Legal Future Sat, 29 Sep 2012 15:53:27 +0000 The way legal services are delivered in Canada is changing.  Increased competition and a demand for lower prices has pressured law firms to slow hiring and deliver their services more efficiently.  After finishing my first year at Queen’s Law I started thinking about how law students can help firms meet the demand.  It starts with an open-eyes look at where our industry is moving.

Lawyer blended with a computer and USB port

The reality is that corporate in-house clients are demanding routine process work be done for less, putting pressure on law firms to deliver their services faster with less overhead.  2012 also marked the first year that non-lawyers are allowed to own law firms in the UK, dramatically expanding the capital available for those firms’ investment and growth.

Here at home, lawyer-only firm ownership still reigns in Canada, but mergers with international players push our largest firms into ever-greater levels of competition.  Lawyers-turned-entrepreneurs in Canada are in turn growing their shares in the consumer market by launching online legal services.

New entrants to the market still haven’t quenched the demand for lower legal costs. Canadians face serious access to justice issues, and even middle-class litigants find themselves increasingly forced to represent themselves in court.

How are law students responding to these challenges?  Traditional not-for-profit work in legal clinics like Queen’s Legal Aid and Pro-Bono Students Canada is popular while in law school, but how many students continue their pro-bono efforts post graduation?  How does this solve the problem for clients who aren’t poor but still can’t afford legal advice?

I believe the change starts with how legal services are delivered.  I believe it starts by getting students thinking about innovative ways to bring the law to Canadians.

Law-students for Technology and Innovation (LFTI) is a student-run organization Nikolas Sopow and I created this year at Queen’s Law.  We’re passionate about finding better ways to deliver legal services.  We’re law students, but we’re not afraid of the changes coming to the Canadian legal scene.  Within three weeks we recruited four more executives to our team, and we’re still growing.  By 2015 we plan to have LFTI clubs at every law school in Canada.

Our projects this year are as diverse as our leadership team.  We’re hosting a speakers’ panel in Winter 2013 titled Technology on the Legal Frontier: Current and Future Ways to Practice Law.  We’re fundraising for computer literacy skills in Kingston by hosting a LAN party for video-game enthusiasts.  We’re blogging on the latest legal tech to hit app store shelves.  And we’re letting everyone know how the delivery of legal services is changing, so our classmates are prepared when they graduate.

If you’re a law student, consider starting a group like LFTI for your class.  Being prepared for the changing legal environment in Canada is about more than making a living as a lawyer.  It’s about making legal counsel affordable, providing greater access to justice, and ensuring Canadian firms remain competitive in the global market for legal services.

What areas of legal service delivery do you think could be improved?  How does legal education need to change in order to keep up?  Be creative, and ask tough questions. The innovative advocate is Canada’s legal future.


]]> 1 3489
Canada’s Newest Law Student – Helena Guergis Fri, 31 Aug 2012 13:57:54 +0000 If you are starting law school this fall at the University of Alberta, you’ll have a celebrity of sorts in your class.

Helena Guergis, the former MP who unsuccessfully sued Prime Minister Harper and the Conservative Party of Canada, is starting law school this year according to the Toronto Star,

Her first year of legal studies in Edmonton begins less than two weeks after a judge tossed out most of a $1.3 million conspiracy and defamation lawsuit she filed against Prime Minister Stephen Harper, the Conservative Party and others after she was expelled from caucus in 2010.

No word yet as to whether she plans to get extra credit during law school for the appeal she’s supposedly planning.

]]> 2 3459