More than 100 years ago — 125 on Oct. 7, to be exact — William Reeve made a speech in front of a crowd of law students.
The then-dean was marking the opening of the current version of Osgoode Hall Law School and the beginning of the school’s legacy as we know it today.
Current dean Lorne Sossin says the speech could have been ripped from his faculty counsel a week ago — Reeve spoke of why it was necessary to have lawyers who can think critically and analyze issues and not just learn on the job.
As the 125th anniversary of Osgoode approaches, the school is celebrating with different events and a contest. Sossin came up with a that calls on students to submit ideas for the future of law using the Twitter hashtag, “#oz125.”
A panel of judges — consisting of Sossin, associate dean Trevor Farrow, assistant dean of students Mya Bulwa, communications manager Virginia Corner, and vice president internal, Legal & Literary Society, Christopher West — will choose the winning tweet and three runners up.
On Oct. 7, the students will have 12 hours to submit their tweets for consideration. The creator of the winning idea will receive $1,125 for the legal and lit club of their choice, to be used to fund events or initiatives the group has.
The three honourable mentions will get $125 each, again for the club of their choice but it must be different from the receiver of the grand prize.
Sossin says the contest is meant to celebrate historical tradition, but also put the focus on the future. History isn’t just stories told of the past, he explains, but history is something you make. The school has been making history for 125 years, Sossin says, and it’s only natural to look for ways to carry on that tradition.
“The question for the contest is how are we going to continue to make history in the future?” Sossin asks.
“To play on that theme . . . history is something that we celebrate but we celebrate it most by continuing a legacy into the future and being agents of change is a way to be true to that history at least in the Osgoode tradition. We wanted students to share their vision.”
West, who is a second-year law student, says the contest is a good opportunity to
have a conversation about what students feel Osgoode can do in the future to continue to innovate legal education.
He has begun e-mailing students and posting on social media sites such as the school’s Facebook page to drum up interest. He says the clubs are also on board with encouraging participation.
Sossin agrees the contest is about looking to the future with big picture ideas.
He lists some of Osgoode’s more innovative projects, like starting the first community legal clinic at Parkdale or being the only law school to implement mandatory curriculum changes such as the experiential and public interest requirement. Like those concepts, the winning tweet should be an idea that says something essential about legal education — big ideas but within the realm of possibility.
“Part of me also is caught up in lots of imagination of what legal education will grow to become, my tendency is to go for short term ideas we can breathe life into but leave room for tweets that might not happen in the next few years but show us the destination we’re journeying towards that have an inspirational feel that are compelling and say something necessary and bold and engaging,” he says.
What concepts should the tweets delve into? Sossin has some suggestions. Perhaps an environmental justice clinic? A human rights collaboration with NGOs overseas? The big idea could be new areas of learning and study and how to shape public debates through research, or a new partnership with a law school somewhere in the world Osgoode has a kindred passion with. Any number of small and large scale initiatives would be welcome and would open up a dialogue on the future, Sossin says. A digital JD, free JD, or even a flextime JD students could do in and around other pursuits in their lives? The possibilities are many.
The important thing is that the winning tweets should “be ideas that will shape our continuing to make history in the future,” Sossin says.