The Law Commission of Ontario is seeking applications from law students for its summer 2018 research program.
The positions are open to both law students and law graduates currently enrolled in Ontario law schools.
The LCO is an organization that provides public policy makers and the legal profession with advice on legal reform and other legal policy issues. The LCO’s mandate is to make the legal system more relevant, accessible and efficient, using technology to accomplish this where possible, to simplify or clarify the law, stimulate debate and promote scholarly legal research.
“It’s an interesting job. I think the people who have worked here tend to find it interesting because it’s more than just legal research,” says Nye Thomas, executive director of the LCO. “Legal research is certainly part of it, no question, but given the nature of our work and our organization we tend to branch out beyond that and I think students tend to find that quite interesting.”
Thomas says the hires will be tasked with writing, researching, developing presentations and doing consultations. In the past year, the LCO has focused on law reform and technology, he says. They have been researching consumer protection, digital rights in terms of consumer protection, artificial intelligence in the justice system and digital rights in the regulation of online speech in terms of defamation law and content moderation.
“In the last year we’ve been doing an environmental scan of technology issues,” he says.
Michael Dockstator graduated from U of T Law and is currently a student researcher at the LCO. He worked under Thomas on developing the law reform and technology project.
He says his work at the LCO is giving him something he found lacking at law school.
“The biggest thing is it just gave me a lot of insight into the policy and consultation aspect of the law which does not, or at least in my experience, is not entirely well pronounced or well represented in law school,” Dockstator says.
Currently in the master of information program, completing a concentration in critical information policy studies, Dockstator began his time at the LCO researching the sharing economy, which includes services such as Uber and Airbnb, to determine what type of projects the commission could pursue in that area.
Technological change and its effect on the legal field will continue to consume much of the commission’s time. In the LCO’s Defamation in the Age of the Internet project, the organization is looking at how advances in communications technology have made certain laws obsolete.
From presidential tweeting, online bullying, to robots and algorithms delivering ads or political messages based on the preferences and values derived from our digital footprint, the internet and social media have transformed the public sphere. The LCO’s Defamation in the Age of the Internet project asks how to balance protection of reputation and freedom of expression.
“We’re trying to be at the cutting edge of new areas of legal regulation,” Thomas says.
The Defamation in the Age of the Internet project is being headed up by Dr. Susan Gratton, a research lawyer at Osgoode Hall Law School. It is now seeking public consultation, where they will hold focus groups and accept submissions up until March 30, 2018.
Given that many of the reform issues the LCO is dealing with are related to technology, Thomas says candidates with some technological or engineering background will be ideal.
“We’re trying to hire students who have a demonstrated interest and a demonstrated aptitude in some of these issues, so they can contribute to our project,” he says. “Coming from an engineering background or a computer science background or a technology background certainly helps.”
The LCO is also currently working on the Last Stages of Life project, which “considers how the law shapes the rights, choices and quality of life for persons who are dying and those who support them.” Their research includes access to palliative care, assisted suicide, end-of-life decision making for the dying and their family, including the withdrawal and withholding of treatment. Their report on the findings of their 2017 consultations and recommendations will be released this year.
The LCO is also working on Class Actions: Objectives, Experiences and Reforms, a project reviewing the 25 years since Ontario’s Class Proceedings Act. They will review data on the ever-increasing class action lawsuits in the province, surveying those involved to analyze how these cases have affected access to justice, judicial economy and deterrence.