It has been a little more than a month since Camille Cameron joined the Schulich School of Law as dean, and she’s still in the adjustment phase.
“I am in the stage of getting to know people and talking to faculty and staff and students and trying to find out . . . what’s on their mind; what are we doing well, what can be done better,” says Cameron.
A Nova Scotia native, Cameron is all too familiar with Halifax, where she did her undergrad and practised law for 10 years. “Coming home” has been a treat for Cameron, who was glad to reunite with family and friends.
Prior to her return the Dalhousie University’s law school, Cameron served as dean of the University of Windsor Faculty of Law for three and a half years.
“It was, in the end, an opportunity too good to pass up as difficult as it was to leave Windsor,” she tells 4Students.
So far, the experience has been only positive. Dalhousie wants Schulich law to be known as a national law school, says Cameron. It is remarkably diverse, with students coming from coast to coast.
“That is a strength and one we want to build on,” she notes.
Within the school, Cameron has noticed that teaching and thinking about what and how to teach; working seriously with the community; and the effort to make students feel welcome is exceptional. Professors use technology in a way that increases student interest and design assessments in creative ways, she says.
While academic administration takes time and long-term plans will depend on what she’s learning now, one thing Cameron knows for certain is that the changes taking place in the legal profession will shape the legal education of the future.
“The legal profession is changing. The way that legal services are delivered has to change. People are looking now at access to justice issues and the demands met and unmet for legal services, and thinking of ways to meet those demands,” she says.
And these changes will certainly include technology that will slowly intertwine with day-to-day legal operations, development of alternative business structures, and the Law Practice Program, Ontario’s unique alternative to articling.
“As legal educators, I think we need to be sure that we are educating our students for the world they are going to be entering and working in as legal professionals” says Cameron.
“We have to focus on vital skills like critical reasoning, critical thinking, and writing; really effective communication, oral and written, and understanding and appreciation of law reform, understanding the interaction of law and policy.”
As for specific issues, Cameron is mostly concerned about how ABS changes may affect teaching law students. Because it is not clear where the law profession is headed in that regard, she reiterates that critical thinking skills and covering all competencies will serve students well in the next 10 to 20 years as these structures begin to take shape.
When it comes to the LPP program, “I think it’s going to take a while to see how it is working.”
So far the new dean has heard mixed reviews of Ontario’s pilot project and is hesitant to say what will come of it.
“I think it depends on the quality, frankly, you can do a lot in four months if you get yourself in a good situation with good supervision, so it is hard to generalize.”
Technology in law has had enough of an impact that — in addition to learning critical thinking, writing, and communication skills — Cameron says students must have an appreciation for the relationship between law and technology and the legal issues that exist around it.
“We’ve seen, for example, with the Internet how many issues arise around intellectual property and so on. And now we’ve got drones and we’ve got robots and we’ve got automation, so I think there are going to be even more issues,” she says.
Cameron agrees there is certainly room to grow as a lawyer in the privacy, e-commerce and dispute resolution areas of law.
“It’s useful for students who are interested to get some understanding of some of the very specific ways in which technology is being used in the practise of law whether it is by courts or whether it is by lawyers in practise,” she explains. And, of course, the law dean’s words of wisdom continue to be “work hard, but have some fun and try to make a difference.”