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Private B.C. university vying for new law school

|Written By Heather Gardiner
Private B.C. university vying for new law school
If approved, Trinity Western University would have the fourth law school in British Columbia.

After more than three decades without a new law school in Canada, it seems that every university is vying for one.

Last September, Thompson Rivers University welcomed 75 first-year students to its new law faculty in Kamloops, B.C., and in the fall of 2013, Lakehead University in Thunder Bay, Ont., will be home to the first law school in northern Ontario.

The latest proposal comes from Trinity Western University, a private Christian university in Langley, B.C., which hopes to offer a three-year JD program to 60 students starting in September 2015. If it receives approval from the B.C. Ministry of Advanced Education and the Federation of Law Societies of Canada, it would be the fourth law school in British Columbia.

Janet Epp Buckingham, an associate professor at Trinity Western, has been involved in developing the proposal for the past five years. She says establishing a law school has been in the university’s long-term plans for 20 years.

“[TWU’s] real focus is on developing leadership, and lawyers are leaders in their communities,” she says. “This is a step we want to take because it fits within our mission and mandate as a university.”

Established as a junior college in 1962, Trinity Western is now a full university that offers several professional programs, including business, nursing, and education. It is privately funded and would require a substantial amount of funding for a new law building.

If approved, it would be the first Christian law school in Canada, which  Buckingham says would bring a unique perspective to the law.

“We have a lot of students who are interested in social justice, human trafficking, and care for the poor and there are biblical principles on justice and just society that will form part of that curriculum,” she tells 4Students.

Along with weaving Christian values into certain courses, students would also be able to specialize in charities and social justice or entrepreneurial law.

Ian Moes is an associate at Kuhn LLP in B.C., and a graduate of Trinity Western. He says “you’ll learn all of the same basics you’ll get at any other university . . . [the Christian aspect] just affects the environment in which it’s taught.”

Keeping in step with the recent push for more experiential learning at law schools, the university plans to emphasize practical education.

In light of the national articling shortage — currently most prevalent in B.C. and Ontario —  Buckingham says TWU would have a stronger focus on skills training with a full course in practice management, a half course on the introduction to the practice of law, and a mandatory practicum component.

“The whole focus is really going to be on building skills alongside building legal analysis and understanding so that when students graduate from the law school they would be able to go into a small firm already with skills that they can use and apply,” she says.

TWU also plans to hire an articling co-ordinator to encourage small firms to take on articling students in an effort to create new articling placements.

Located just an hour outside of downtown Vancouver, Buckingham says the law school would take an outwards approach by encouraging graduates to practise in smaller communities where there is a greater need for lawyers.

“There’s a real problem — there are a lot of under-served communities,” she says. “There really does need to be a focus in consciously encouraging people to locate in underserved areas.”

She says the university has received tremendous support from the Langley community and local bar associations.

As a resident of Langley, Moes says having a law school nearby would be beneficial for students in the area.

“Geographically, it will be a huge bonus for people who want to go to a law school in the Fraser Valley area of British Columbia,” he says.

The university expects to receive approval of its proposal within six to 12 months.

  • lawyer

    first of all are we all not supposes to die on dec. 21 2012 so say the christians however it would be god to have honest and not crooked lawyers coming out of school
  • BF

    Benno Friesen
    #Re Not Necessary---Avoid
    Try using your blind stereotyping when you lay a case before aa judge. See how far it takes you.
  • Not Necessary

    Unfortunately, education in all respects is about one thing and one thing only: money. Do not kid yourselves. Despite these Fundamentalist Christians who claim to want to open a law school to do good socially, I can assure you that although this might be true, it is also true that this is also an attempt to make more money. It always is. I am frightened that this school will be able to push its agenda and pump out fundamentalist lawyers. Yikes! I can tell you one thing - if I ever start my own firm, graduates from this school (if approved) will not be hired.
  • Re: Not Necessary

    I love how you throw around the word "Fundamentalist". Have you ever met anyone who works/teaches/studies at TWU? If you did you'd adjust your view on how short-sighted you think they are. "Critical Thinking" is key in all TWU's teachings. How about you get to know some of the professors before you judge the graduates.
  • Beatnuck

    david dickinson
    Make sure when you advertise for employees you specify that they must be atheists. Then explain how it is a bona fide occupational requirement.
  • RE: Private B.C. university vying for new law school

    Josh Gregg
    Trinity Western, although located in a rural area of B.C., has a high percentage enrollment of international students, like that of UBC or SFU. It might be interesting to see the means that a law school could develop on a moreover international scale, I think the Lowermainland B.C. is a perfect place for that to occur. A central christian message is the importance of global responsibility, an ecumenical dialogue especially is a conversation that often takes place in law, and I would love to see the school pursue such an international reputation if this is approved.
  • RE: Private B.C. university vying for new law school

    Not all people who get a legal education want to practice law
    That's the standard line law schools use to justify pumping out tons of grads. However, if you actually survey law students, 95% or more want to practice law. It is nice to say just enjoy the study of law but when you are paying $20,000/year in tuition, 99% of students want at least a reasonable chance of finding work in the field they spent years studying. This isn't a liberal arts degree folks. This is a professional degree and right now the supply of grads exceeds the demand for legal servies which is not growing. That's why there was an articling task force recently because students are not getting jobs. BTW in the USA, they've abolished articling and pump out JD's like crazy but unemployment among youner lawyers is just awful due to supply far exceeding demand. This isn't a case of an expanding pie.
  • Against Education?

    The law should not be for a select few. I find it strange that people, especially a law professor, on this board are against a more legal education and want would prefer not allowing people from learning the law. Not all people who get a legal education want to practice law. If the current legal education is so “great” and is creating “great lawyers”, then what do they have to worry about right?
  • Consultation? News to me.

    I'm an active lawyer practicing in the Fraser Valley near this school and my partners are all active in the community - many on the local bar associations and chambers of commerce. I attend the local bar association meetings regularly. My friends also practice in Langley and Abbotsford and yet the first we heard about this was on this site. That's contrary to what the school said in their press release about how they consulted and there was great support among the local bar. I know they did consult with a few select (aka Christian) firms but if they want my support they'll have to consult with the majority of Fraser Valley lawyers who are actually not fundamentalist Christians. If they are trying to say they are inclusive, they are not doing a very good job so far in their "sales pitch".
  • RE: Private B.C. university vying for new law school

    Funny - I practice in the community and I have not heard a groundswell of support for this proposal. The Lower Mainland including Langley and Surrey are saturated with lawyers. UBC provides more than ample numbers of graduates and even they have great difficulties finding work. I disagree with the comments saying this will drive down legal fees for clients. This has been proven categorically incorrect in the USA. All it will do is create more unemployed young people. It will be fine for established lawyers and firms who can get cheap labour from an expanding pool of underemployed and unemployed junior lawyers and law graduates.
  • RE: Private B.C. university vying for new law school

    Mark H -- legal fees will not decrease if law students cannot article (a necessary step to becoming a licensed lawyer). More law students within the current articling model only benefits the schools bottom line. They know there is a HUGE market are there for law degrees. A law degree is only a degree, not a license to practice law.
  • RE: RE: Private B.C. university vying for new law school

    Mark H
    Maybe it is a good time to get rid of articling. The program is a complete waste of time anyway.Young lawyers sit around and punch out memos which aren't even read by partnes . Large firms article students and dont usually teach family and criminal, two fields of law which are needed the most. People seem to forget the legal system is for society not for lawyers.
  • RE: Private B.C. university vying for new law school

    James T
    Flooding the market with law graduates will not bring down the cost of legal services. This experiment was tried in the USA and the UK and, in fact, legal costs are even higher in those countries than in Canada. The fact is that clients are not price sensitive and will pay the big bucks to the top high profile lawyers. Who will suffer from more enrollment in law schools will be the junior members of the bar and the less well connected who already have a terrible time finding junior lawyer positions. This idea from out of touch academics warrants a "fail".
  • RE: Private B.C. university vying for new law school

    Jeff L
    According to a famous Maclean's article a few years back, there is indeed a chronic shortage of lawyers in Canada--one that, one would presume, stands to get much worse as the boomer retirement wave takes full effect.

    According to Maclean's, "Despite the growing number of experts who say Canada needs more lawyers, there’s one powerful group that disagrees—the lawyers themselves."
  • Boo-Hoo

    Mark H
    I’m guessing most comments above are from lawyers or current law students. None of them have mentioned the costs of legal fees and the lack legal representation in rural areas or for poorer members of society. The current legal educational system is for wealthy kids with connections who graduate with a major sense of entitlement and want to live in cities. More competition and more Christian values is just what is needed!
  • RE: Boo-Hoo

    Law student
    This has got to be a troll post. More christian values is exactly what the world doesn't need.
    Most of these law students have no intention to move to rural areas; if this law school opens up, you had best believe that they will all be vying for vancouver jobs.
  • RE: RE: Boo-Hoo

    Mark H
    A troll post? Since when does referring to our Constitution became trolling? Wow, we have veered far away from our constitution.
    "Charter s29. Nothing in this Charter abrogates or derogates from any rights or privileges guaranteed by or under the Constitution of Canada in respect of denominational, separate or dissentient schools."
  • Why?

    Too many students are graduating from law schools already established in Canada, and cannot find articling positions or jobs after articles.

    Our secular and public law schools are just fine. If law students want to practice Christianity they are welcome to do so.

    One of the main points of law school is to teach students that only a position with sufficient evidence can be sustained. Faith by definition is accepting ideas with no or insufficient evidence. Students and lawyers are free to do that as much as they wish ... outside law school and outside their practices.
  • RE: Private B.C. university vying for new law school

    Just what we need - another law school flooding an already overcrowded field. There is absolutely no shortage of lawyers in the Lower Mainland of British Columbia. In fact, supply exceeds the demand in most areas. I think the Federation of Law Societies would be insane to approve this in light of the fact so many students (and junior lawyers) are unemployed.
  • RE: RE: Private B.C. university vying for new law school

    The Law Society of BC president recently (may 07, 2012)said this in relation to whether UNBC should have a law school:

    "... we do encourage the expansion of law schools because we realize that truly is the answer to the access to legal services problem.”

  • Professor Emeritus of Law, McGill University

    We in Canada,-- particularly in a weak economic environment,-- risk repeating the U.S. malady of overbuilding institutions which are likely to produce law students unable to find employment relevant to their legal education, and often burdened with debt.

    The U.S. now has a very large number of law graduates, often heavily indebted, unable to find adequate, or even any, employment relevant to their legal training, especially when they are not graduates of the most prestigious institutions. The depth of bitterness is reflected in the blogging on a scatalogical website devoted to the subject.

    Ontario has been struggling to find articles for all graduating law students.

    Professional schools are prestigious for universities and are usually expected to be advantageous financially. So they are attractive projects. Of course, additional law schools must almost inevitable strain public financial, already constrained in a recessionary economic environment.
  • RE: Professor Emeritus of Law, McGill University

    Jeff L
    This idea that Canada has a glut of lawyers is not borne out by the facts. To quote Macleans:

    "Today, Canada has 16 common law schools, the same number it had three decades ago, when the population was smaller by a third. While some schools have opened extra spaces, the impact has been minimal—in 2006, 2,973 law students were admitted to the profession, just 133 more than a decade before.

    ...Canada, with a population of over 33 million, has the lowest number of law schools per capita of any Commonwealth country: in a 2007 survey, he found that the U.K. has 75 law schools for a population of nearly 61 million, while Australia has 28 law schools, and 21 million people. Naturally, Canada also has a small supply of lawyers. Here, there’s about one lawyer or notary for every 421 people. In the U.S., it’s one lawyer for every 265 people."
  • RE: Professor Emeritus of Law, McGill University

    Stephen, your comment would be more credible if you provided some evidence that the legal environment in BC was relevantly similar to the US or to Ontario. Would adding 180 lawyers to BC really increase legal unemployment or threaten the availability of articles? How many lawyers will be retiring over the next 30 years in BC, say? What is the optimal number of lawyers graduating in BC over that period? Do you not think that additional rural lawyers would increase access to justice? Are the costs of law school in Canada and, in particular, what TWU proposes, similar to the costs in US? Are the current unemployment rates of lawyers in BC similar to that of the US? How does adding a law school at TWU (a private university) strain public finances? Is "overbuilding" university faculties, creating more people with legal knowlege, a really bad thing? Do some current lawyers oppose the idea for fear of additional competition?
  • RE: RE: Professor Emeritus of Law, McGill University

    I should have said adding 60 lawyers per year, not 180. The total number of law students at TWU is proposed to be 60 per year for 3 years of law school. The total new law student positions will be 180 if approved.
  • Lawyer

    Gerry Laarakker
    I agree with you. We didn't need a lawschool in Kamloops, we don't need one in the Lakehead. W'll just create a new genertion of otherwise unemployable ambulance chasers.

    Exactly what is it that makes a "Christian" law school different? Are secularly trained lawyers not interested in Human Rights, etc.? Shades of Jerry Falwell's "Liberty U."
  • RE: Private B.C. university vying for new law school

    Jonathan Westphal
    "In light of the national articling shortage — currently most prevalent in B.C. and Ontario —"... so why exactly does BC need another law school?
  • RE: Private B.C. university vying for new law school

    Articling shortage does not equal job shortage. Rural communities are in desperate need of lawyers, also certain areas of law are seriously underserved. Finally, studying in BC does not mean articling in BC. This university has a large percentage of students from other provinces/states/countries, to which they return after graduation.