With the first full week of classes beginning, some of you are sitting with your head propped up trying your best to not fall asleep. Others may be thinking you’ve chosen one too many courses in which the professor employs the Socratic method to the fullest extent possible. Basically, you want out.
To the first year students: too bad. For you, this is all part of the experience of law school and you simply have to learn to manage it. Next year will be different. But for those of you in upper years, it’s not too late to drop one of those carefully selected courses and take something that’s a little more likely to keep your attention.
Canadian Lawyer 4Students has taken a look at some of the more interesting course selections being offered by law schools across the country. Our list is by no means exhaustive, but it will help you to see what else is out there.
Media and entertainment
We all have our guilty pleasures. Lots of people spend those quiet moments in class catching up on the latest celebrity gossip blogs. Others set aside the tort casebook to get their video game fix. How often do you stop and think about the legal issues that go along with your fun?
Many schools offer courses on media and entertainment law. At the University of Toronto Faculty of Law, its media and defamation law course offers a glimpse into how news broadcasters and other media centres face legal challenges on a daily basis.
If you’re a movie buff, Brenda Cossman’s law and film course may be for you. It examines “the ways in which law, lawyers, and the legal system have been represented in film.” Imagine being able to watch your favourite legal flick as part of your law school education (and yes, Legally Blond is included on the list of course materials).
The University of British Columbia Faculty of Law is offering a course focused entirely on the video game industry. In the class description, you’ll find “North American video game revenues have surpassed both domestic film box office receipts and record/cd sales.” If it’s how you spend your spare time outside the classroom, maybe you can make a career out of it.
Raising issues of everyday life
The legal education system teaches you all about people and their property. But where does your golden retriever fit into the mix? He may be your best friend, but what legal status can a dog have? More and more schools are offering courses on animals, as incidents of animal cruelty hit the mainstream news. At Dalhousie Law School, for example, professor Vaughan Black’s seminar asks whether animals should be viewed as “objects (property), as legal subjects (rights holders), or as something else altogether.”
If you follow sports, UBC’s course on the law of the Olympic Games may be for you. The course follows everything from the initial bid process to drug testing requirements. Many schools have offerings on general sports law where you can learn about criminal repercussions of violence in the game, and the legalities of sponsorships.
Back at Dalhousie, you can find professor Jocelyn Downie stirring up a discussion around how health care ethics and the law interrelate. If you’ve ever had surgery, you may question whether your doctor gave you the opportunity for informed consent. Topics can include anything from assisted suicide to designer babies. Last year, a popular topic in the class was the legal and ethical factors surrounding the HPV vaccine.
Around the world
Perhaps you’re looking to broaden your perspective. Going to a Canadian law school means often times being limited to a North American context. What about other countries? Courses on international law are quite common, as are specialized listings for specific regions. At Osgoode Hall Law School, for example, you’ll find a course on Chinese law inspired by the media attention surrounding the recent Olympic games. Discover how things differ from our western point of view.
To get around, you’ll need to travel. McGill University Faculty of Law offers several graduate-level courses that explore the airline business (admission to undergraduates is possible with permission). As the industry goes through major changes thanks to skyrocketing fuel prices and airline bankruptcy, knowing how the law operates may come in handy for those of you with a corporate law focus.
Planes only go so high, of course. Take it a bit further with space law. Another graduate level course at McGill, being taught by Ram Jakhu, focuses on international law as it relates to activities in space. Learn about everything from the exploitation of natural resources to the legal status of registered spacecraft.
There are plenty of options out there to spice up your schedule. If you’ve always been interested in a certain hobby or topic outside of law school, it’s worth checking to see if there’s a course available to get some more insight. Choosing a course here and there that engages you on a topic you’re passionate about will help to make those mandatory courses seem a little less troublesome.
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