Since the common law program’s inception in 2001, it has been called the diplôme d'etudes supérieures spécialisées, which UdeM law dean Gilles Trudeau says has no resonance outside of Quebec.
To go ahead with the name change, UdeM needed certification from the Federation of Law Societies of Canada and approval from all of the law societies. The Law Society of Upper Canada passed a motion at Convocation on April 26 in agreement with the FLSC’s recommendations.
Trudeau says it’s an important modification. “[JD] is much more recognized on the market than holding a DESS,” he says. “So when in your CV you put JD from the Université de Montréal, it means more to the eventual employer than the former DESS that meant nothing outside of Quebec.”
Students may choose to take the one-year JD program after they complete their three-year LLB.
Up until this point, graduates of the DESS program were required to apply to the FLSC’s National Committee on Accreditation to receive recognition of their degrees before applying to provincial bars outside of Quebec. This process will not be necessary for graduates of the JD program as their degrees will automatically be recognized; making it easier to practise throughout Canada.
Trudeau says approximately one-third of UdeM’s law students opt for the common law degree. “More and more students see the need of being able to practise nationally because major law firms in Canada used to be more local and they have merged into very large corporations,” he says, giving the example of Norton Rose Canada LLP.
“With the globalization of the practice of law, [having a JD is] a major benefit in Canada and in international organizations as well,” he adds.
“Our students see that if they want to be able to have a practice which is internationally or nationally based, they need to be trained in common law and to be able to represent their clients everywhere in Canada,” Trudeau says.
Not all Quebec law schools offer a common law degree since civil law is practised in that province. Although the Université de Sherbrooke offers a similar one-year JD common law degree, it has not yet been certified by the FLSC.