While the Thompson Rivers University Law class of 2015 recently celebrated its graduation, members of the inaugural TRU Law class of 2014 are now joining the ranks of fully practicing lawyers across the country. It is upon this momentous occasion that time should be taken to not only reflect on TRU’s four-year journey to this point but also to reflect on what the future holds for this fledgling institution.
Curious readers of 4Students can dredge back through the site archives to find stories of varying importance relating to TRU. Whether it was the founding dean’s unceremonious exit from the program, the new dean’s entrance to a once-in-a-lifetime snowstorm, the completion of the new law faculty building or issues with registration, TRU has had myriad of both good and bad occurrences during its short tenure. This is to be expected from a program attempting to find its footing and build the necessary infrastructure to service its many students and administrative staff members.
While problems persist, the influx of both human and economic capital has helped to iron out the vast majority of wrinkles the school has faced thus far. That being said, issues related to scheduling, personnel or registration are universal to all law schools across Canada. One need only look at the unfortunate issues affecting the University of New Brunswick Faculty of Law to know that no law school is immune from the drama that inevitably unfolds when hundreds of highly opinionated type A’s congregate in a small, competitive environment.
The cumulative effect is that, in many ways, TRU is functioning as any other Canadian law school. TRU students are now working at law firms big and small, are going through the off-campus interview process like any other student, and quickly becoming known as being every bit as qualified and competent as their non-TRU peers might be.
My personal experience in a national law firm has been very rewarding and exciting. From the beginning, I have noticed no special care or treatment being directed toward where I attend school. As one of many TRU students who found themselves the first ever representative from the school at their chosen firm, I was afraid I might inadvertently sabotage the chances of future classes. Yet, whether I stumbled or succeeded, I did so merely as another student, not another TRU student. Thankfully, the skills I’ve learned at both school and work have led to more victories than defeats, as well as a tacit understanding that one need not attend UBC or the University of Victoria to practice law in B.C.
TRU alumni Chris Albinati once wrote an article for 4Students entitled “A law degree with added value (that can’t be taught).” In it, he extolled the virtues of those who have received an education at TRU by reference to the struggle they faced and the character they built in going to law school during the early growing pains of the institution. As part of the third incoming class at TRU, I spent half my first year in the undergraduate building and half of it in the brand new facility. As such, I truly appreciate the improvement in the learning experience a dedicated environment brings and thank those who came before me for laying the literal and figurative groundwork that all TRU law students now rely on.
The incoming fifth class will not experience these same struggles, nor will they have any concerns about a lack of mentorship, career resources or discrimination against them in the legal community. They will have role models to look up to regardless of what kind of law they envision themselves practicing, something not as readily available to my cohort or its predecessors.
This begs the question: What differentiates a TRU student from the rest of the pack? Will the character that has imbued past generations of students pass itself through to the next through osmosis? Will the next generations proceed along with the same chip on their shoulder that some of the earlier students had? As is always the case, this remains to be seen.
And what of the various mandates upon which TRU was founded? TRU has largely been hamstrung by its sponsorship by the University of Calgary, Faculty of Law, which forced it to adopt similar class offerings and teaching rubrics for a five-year period. Soon, this shackle will be gone and TRU may be able to widen the breadth of its clinical, rural, and aboriginal initiatives to better fulfill its original purpose of increasing access to justice, rather than simply being another school that churns out Vancouver-bound lawyers. That being said, TRU students also bear high tuition costs (about $9,500 per semester). When combined with large numbers of students hailing from major metropolitan areas, one can hardly fault them for migrating back to urban centres in which to do battle against mounting student debt.
Ultimately, while TRU has achieved a form of equilibrium, there is still much work to be done. It is on the backs of the newly called lawyers, articling students and summer students to set the example of what a TRU student can contribute to the profession, as well as on the shoulders of the administration to set the groundwork for future successes. With a new dean, new alumni, new building, new scholarships, new clinical initiatives, and a new group of eager students arriving in the fall, the future looks bright for TRU, as well as for those who sojourn forth with its crest on their degrees.
Cole Rodocker is a summer articled student at Blake, Cassels and Graydon LLP and will be returning to the firm for his articling year. He will also be returning to the Thompson Rivers University Faculty of Law to complete his education in the fall. He can be reached at ColeDanielRodocker@gmail.com