November 2, 2009
Canada Report Calls for National Standards for Law Schools
In Canada, admission to the bar is regulated by the provinces, just as it is in the United States through the state bar examination process. Unlike the United States however, there are not national standards which govern the core competencies of the academic program and school infrastructures. This is the subject of a new, final, report of the Task Force on the Canadian Common Law Degree, from the Federation of Law Societies of Canada. The Task Force notes in the opening pages that the report and recommendations have not been endorsed by the governing body and does not represent the official position of the Federation or its member law societies. Nonetheless, it is causing quite the stir in Canadian legal academic circles. See this article in the Law Times for that aspect of the discussion.
Some of this movement for a national standard is driven by the internationalization of law practice. A Canadian legal education or its equivalent has always been a requirement (among others) for admission to the bar, but defining the equivalences is not easy in light of a national standard. The report also recommends minimum standards to which all law schools should conform:
- The prerequisite for entry to law school must at a minimum include successful completion of two years of postsecondary education at a recognized university or CEGEP, subject to special circumstances.
- The law school's program for the study of law must consist of three academic years or its equivalent in course credits.
- The program of study must consist primarily of in-person instruction and learning and/or instruction and learning that involves direct interaction between instructor and students.
- The law school must be adequately resourced to meet its objectives.
- The law school must have appropriate numbers of qualified academic staff to meet the needs of the academic program.
- The law school must have adequate physical resources for both faculty and students to permit effective student learning.
- The law school must have adequate information and communication technology to support its academic program.
- The law school must maintain a law library in electronic and/or paper form that permits it to foster and attain its teaching, learning and research objectives.
Note the last standard, to maintain a law library in electronic "and/or" paper form. Although the report does not elaborate much on a facility or collection development, the standard as announced seems to have a bit more leeway than what is conservatively applied to American law schools via the ABA. The ABA no longer requires volume counts as part of the reporting statistics. That represents some liberalization of the annual reporting process. With Westlaw, Lexis, and other viable online case repositories one would think that redundant print subscriptions would be reduced or eliminated. That is obviously not the case with most U.S. law libraries. Should Canada ultimately adopt national law school standards, the academic law libraries there may show that relying on electronic versions of primary law don't diminish the quality of legal education. [MG]