New ways to learn

Reading case law is such a big part of legal education but many lawyers advise on issues that have never been litigated. Our cover story on food law is such an example.

One of the things I remember most from law school is reading case law. A lot of case law. I have a distinct memory of trying to fit as many textbooks full of cases as I could on my bicycle basket so I could go home to read them, a bit afraid I might topple over into the street with the weight. While I did have some laws to read, too — the Criminal Code and the Charter, for example — most of my first year was spent reading decisions that set out precedents, from Donoghue v. Stevenson to R. v. Oakes. While my courses did branch out later in law school, the precedent was set at the outset that the common law was the foundation of the Canadian legal system.

The practice of law, though, new lawyers often find out, is much more multi-faceted. Many lawyers spend a lot of their time advising clients on issues that have never been litigated, with only a vague legislative and regulatory framework to guide them. That is perhaps best evident in the area that graces our cover this month: food law.

“The things that come across my desk are quite varied week to week — a novel food application, an investigation into food additives or companies looking for test market authorization for products,” food lawyer Glenford Jameson told us. “They all have different components to them, and that’s something that’s really satisfying.”

The academy is also realizing the benefits of moving away from the traditional approach to legal education. University of Ottawa law professor Heather McLeod-Kilmurray told us that her food law course gives students a better perspective of the realities of the food and agribusiness industry. “It’s a really good case study of how real life works — you don’t just do one thing, all these different threads are interconnected.”

So, for law students, I would encourage them to make room on their bicycles (or maybe now it’s their iPad) for the Safe Food for Canadians Act alongside their textbooks full of case law. It will no doubt help them succeed in providing real world advice.

Ontario coverage

While we don’t cover every province in our regional wraps every month, this month we intentionally left out a lot of coverage from Ontario for a reason. There is one big story in the province this month, the bencher elections.

We do have an opinion piece this issue on one of the election’s hot button issues, the statement of principles, but it come from a non-Ontarian — Alberta lawyer Elias Munshya. Munshya’s opinion will no doubt spark more debate about the role of a regulator in improving diversity.

For more local coverage, though, check out our sister publication, Law Times. It will be delivering up-to-the-minute coverage of the many debates and issues leading up to the April 30 election at bencherelection.ca. And even more immediate coverage will take place on Twitter, where you can follow @LawTimes and use the hashtag #BencherElection2019 to be part of the conversation. On April 16, Law Times will be hosting a Twitter debate.

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