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A taste of the real world

Western law students get chance to work with U.S. counterparts on report for Department of Agriculture
|Written By Heather Gardiner
A taste of the real world
Western law students worked with U.S. colleagues on a report about agricultural bankruptcy law. Photo: Shutterstock

In line with its self-proclaimed “international outlook,” four Western University Faculty of Law students got the rare opportunity to work with their American counterparts this summer on a project for the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

The four received fellowships to help draft a report on how to harmonize bankruptcy legislation in the field of agriculture in Canada and the United States. They were tasked with summarizing the Canadian legislation in this area.

The project was supposed to be part time for six weeks, but senior fellow and third-year Western law student Jennifer Simpson says due to the short timeline, most students put in more than the intended 20 hours per week.

Western law students worked with students at Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland, Ohio. The two universities are co-partners of the Canada-United States Law Institute, which received a grant from the agriculture department to complete the report.

The department’s interest in this report sparked from the establishment of the Canada-U.S. Regulatory Cooperation Council in February 2011, which aims to increase regulatory transparency and co-operation between the two nations in relation to agriculture and food, transportation, health and personal care, and the environment. The department wanted to specifically look at how Canada’s system differs from that in the United States.

Simpson says although the students weren’t involved in drafting the laws, they were able to help provide some answers as to why difficulties were encountered in creating similar laws between the two countries.

For example, she says one of the specific issues they addressed in the report was the ability of a foreign government to create similar regulations and statutory provisions in another country, including the various aspects of bankruptcy legislation.

Although none of the students were very familiar with agricultural bankruptcy, they did touch on several other areas of law. Each student was responsible for one aspect of the report, and had to provide the necessary background information and write a memo on it.

“It was a tremendous opportunity to not only exercise our research and writing skills, but also reapply some of the knowledge we had learned in the classroom,” says Simpson.

She worked on the constitutional issues, which she found useful.

“Being that in the future I would hope to go into administrative law, constitutional issues become fairly important to at least have the background and understanding of. So this was a chance for me to enhance that,” she says.

Simpson says she was initially interested in this project because of the policy work and the fact they would be working on a real-world problem.

“It’s something that I was interested in in terms of the ability to create viable policy alternatives and work on policy-related work that was related to law, and certainly legal issues were involved, and I saw that as a tremendous opportunity,” she says.

The students worked with David Kocan, Canada-United States Law Institute’s managing director.

The report was submitted to the department in mid-July.