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Osgoode Hall Law Journal Has Its First Black Managing Editor

Osgoode Hall Law Journal

Law school journals are prestigious publications, and becoming the managing editor of one is a big deal. And for Michael Thorburn, Osgoode Hall Law Journal’s current managing editor, it’s an even bigger deal. Thorburn is the first black managing editor in the journal’s almost 60 years.

On Monday, Thorburn was formally recognized during Osgoode Hall Law School’s Black History Month ceremony. Thorburn, who is a third year law student, was given a plaque to commemorate his historical position.

What makes this even more interesting is the fact that it took the Law Journal’s executive editor, Joe McDonald, some time to realize that Thorburn was the first black managing editor. McDonald assumed that, because it’s 2017, it was unlikely that this was a first for the Law Journal. Particularly considering its been almost 30 years since Barack Obama was named the first black managing editor at the Harvard International Law Journal.

And to add yet another layer, there have been other persons of colour in leadership roles at Osgoode Hall Law Journal. However, Thorburn is the first to be officially recognized. He told Canadian Lawyer Magazine that he thinks this is because black students face more challenges at Osgoode. He also said he’s looking forward to the normalization of black students in roles like his.

Thorburn is happy to be a part of this step in the right direction in regards to diversity. However, he acknowledged that the work isn’t finished yet. Particularly considering the fact that the Law Journal doesn’t have a policy in terms of maintaining diversity when roles are filled. That said, the Law Journal does maintain that they seek out diverse candidates who can approach subjects from different vantage points.

Supporting diversity in law school is important, because lawyers who have different perspectives can better serve a more diverse set of clients. And the law community as a whole improves as law students become more diverse and they are able to find more success.

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Ryerson University To Open New Law School

Ryerson University in downtown Toronto has started the process of opening its own law school after a year and a half of internal debate. Earlier this month, following a community consultation, the university’s law school originating committee released their letter of intent.

Faculty members across all disciplines at the university are a part of the committee, and crafting that letter of intent is the first step towards developing a Juris Doctor program. To better outline what the program will look like, the university released a statement on their website that says “the proposed program focuses on innovation in legal education for the benefit of graduates, their communities, and the broader society.”

Chris Bentley, who is the executive director of the Legal Innovation Zone and Law Practice Program at Ryerson, sees a value in the proposed law school because of its differences relative to what the country already offers. He sees ways to make Ryerson’s law grads more adaptive and prepared for the changing market.

Ryerson is hoping to prepare their law students for the legal climate, and give them the tools to be creative and strategic with financial literacy, tech skills and an entrepreneurial spirit. This is something the university feels current Canadian law schools aren’t achieving.

The proposed new program also has a mandate to incorporate elements of the Legal Innovation Zone and Law Practice Program, which is currently under review by the Law Society of Upper Canada. It was recommended that the Law Practice Program be discontinued because it wasn’t a sustainable choice compared to articling.

Ryerson’s plan to start a law school is nothing new, and just like all of their programs, they want to offer something that is more practical and hands-on. After learning of these proposed plans, the Law Society of Upper Canada is interested, but states that it is still very early to definitively state whether or not the university will be successful.

Ryerson continues to collect community feedback, and there will be a town hall on October 27. The first town hall, which collected the opinions of students, faculty and staff, was earlier this month.

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TWU Law School Rejection Upheld by Ontario Appeal Court

Trinity Western University’s proposed law school hit another road block last week when the Ontario Court of Appeal unanimously dismissed its bid to have the school accredited by the Law Society of Upper Canada.

The decision was made based on the fact that TWU’s Christian community covenant is discriminatory against the LGBTQ community. In order to be admitted into TWU, each student has to sign that covenant, which states that they  have to refrain from “sexual intimacy that violates the sacredness of marriage between a man and a woman.”

Appeal court justice James MacPherson’s wrote that part of the covenant that the court took issue with was deeply discriminatory and hurtful.

In 2014, the Law Society voted 28 to 21 in favour of rejecting TWU’s request for accreditation, and the case set religious freedom against equality rights. The Court of Appeal did conclude that the Law Society’s decision was a breach of religious freedom, but a legitimate one because they were acting in the public interest.

MacPherson also wrote that although lacking the benefit of the Law Society’s accreditation will make it harder for TWU to run their law school, it doesn’t mean they can’t still do so. TWU, however, sees the infringement on their religious rights as a serious matter, and will be taking their appeal to the Supreme Court of Canada.

The Law Society of Upper Canada saw the court’s decision as another step towards promoting diversity in the field of law, and removing discriminatory barriers, which is also how OUTLaws sees it. They intervened in the case, argued in favour of rejecting the appeal, and stated that they were delighted with the most recent outcome.

The decision to reject the appeal was made unusually fast, due in part to the impending Pride celebrations in Toronto, as well as the tragedy that struck Orlando last month.

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Law Student Articles at Virtual Firm

Carolyn Grogan, a law student in Alberta, is likely the first in the province to article at a law firm that operates solely in a virtual environment.

Round Table Law is a cloud-based law firm run by Jason Morris, and until he took on Grogan, the firm consisted of him only. She is his first articling student, although he’d received requests before. Morris always said no, because he didn’t have the capacity to provide a student with a traditional articling experience.

However, when Grogan reached out, her interest in operating as a lawyer in a virtual world piqued Morris’ interest, and she knew Round Table was the only place she could learn more. Not only is Grogan interested in the technology Morris uses, but she has a fully-functioning home office, which made communicating easy.

Grogan, who is a mature law student, had a previous career in information technology and a master’s degree in communications and technology.

Aside from Grogan being a good fit for Morris and Round Table, a change from the Law Society of Alberta also had a hand in their ability to work together. The law society realized that the fact that they required most law firms to teach their articling students about several areas of law meant that smaller law firms were unable to take on students. When they made the move to change that policy, it gave Morris space to take on Grogan.

Both Morris and Grogan hope their experience will show the law community that this kind of articling relationship can work, and that virtual law firms could be the future.

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New Website for Law Students Aims to Alleviate Stress

Getting through law school is no easy feat, and the stress associated with it can take a toll on a student’s mental health. In recognition of this, Osgoode Hall Law School launched JustBalance, a well-being resource that gives law students extra support through their studies.

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How Quickly Could You Pay For Law School?

Law school is expensive. That probably isn’t big news for anyone, especially students applying to law school. Aside from assuming that a law degree will cost a pretty penny, a prospective law student might also assume he or she will eventually make that money back soon after beginning a career practicing law.

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Five Career Mistakes Law Students Make

Law school is a tough place to be, and it’s so easy to get caught up in the goals that need to be achieved by tomorrow, let alone think about what the rest of a lawyering life might look like. To help law students stay focused on their long-term futures, paralegal candidate Kevin Sambrano compiled this list of oversights commonly made by law students when it comes to planning for their careers for Canadian Lawyer Magazine.

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