The Law Society of Ontario is set to consider whether to endorse Ryerson University’s proposed new law school.
The LSO’s professional development and competence committee will ask benchers at Convocation Thursday to give their blessing to the proposal, which was preliminarily approved by the Federation of Law Societies of Canada at the end of 2017.
If the law school gains the necessary approvals, it is expected to open its doors to a first class of 150 students in September 2020.
When asked whether Ontario needs another law school, LSO Treasurer Paul Schabas said it was not for him to say.
“I think the Ryerson proposal does identify that there are quite a lot of Canadians who are leaving the country to go to law school, which suggests that there is a demand and I think it will be for the government to decide whether that’s an appropriate use of their resources to support another law school,” he says.
Schabas says the question for benchers will be simply whether to endorse the FLSC’s decision, barring any public policy reason, as the approvals process to accredit law schools is largely delegated to the federation.
“Our role is limited to recognizing that the federation has approved their curriculum [and] that it meets the national requirement,” he says.
When the FLSC provided preliminary approval, it recognized three concerns that it had with the proposed program. These included a concern that the law school would need consistent provincial funding in order to be sustainable, as the university expects annual tuition fees would be set at $20,000. The university countered this by saying they would raise fees if provincial funds were not available.
The other concerns involved whether the law school would have adequate physical resources, as well as the fact that the proposal did not include a target student-to-faculty ratio.
Ryerson has pitched the new law school as a program that will be more focused on innovation than existing law schools. This characterization drew some criticism from the Council of Canadian Law Deans, which said that Ryerson’s focus on innovation did not differentiate it from existing schools.
If endorsed by the law society, the law school will still need to be approved by the Ontario Minister of Colleges and Universities.