This can be happening at Macdonald Hall

Increasing enrolment at the Faculty of Law is a good decision in the long run although it will mean big changes

Queen’s University Faculty of Law has released a preliminary report about expanding enrolment, which will change the atmosphere and reputation of the law school.
Queen’s University Faculty of Law has released a preliminary report about expanding enrolment, which will change the atmosphere and reputation of the law school.

Aarondeep S. Bains, JD ’14

Earlier this month, the Queen’s Law Students’ Society (LSS) released its Report on Student Opinion: Proposed Enrollment Expansion. The Report took the opinion of 37 students, over email and social media, regarding a proposal by the Faculty of Law administration to expand enrolment.

It’s unclear if students from all three years in the law school provided their opinion, so it may not be the single voice for the law school.

During the past three years, Queen’s Faculty of Law has had an incoming class of around 165 students. The 2013-14 Strategic Planning Committee for the Faculty has proposed two potential increases in enrolment: either by 35 students or by 50. The Report by the LSS suggests that, based on these 37 student opinions (less than ten per cent of all law students), a majority are strongly opposed to the proposed expansion at both the smaller and larger number.

This stance by the LSS is short-sighted and may not represent the views of students across all three years.

Four main concerns are raised in the report, relating to school community, quality of education, student support services and firm placement rates.

The Report suggests that the inclusion of 105 students in total over three years will diminish the community atmosphere of the law school. This comes at a time when we hear stories from other law schools that show how large environments can completely divorce students from their colleagues and faculty community.

The Report also suggests that the increase in student numbers will severely affect the availability of professors to teach courses and the ability of students to participate in clinical opportunities. The Correctional Law Clinic, Family Law Clinic and Business Law Clinic are already very competitive programs. While not required, these clinics provide Queen’s students experience that is rarely available in larger cities. Here, students can directly interact with clients at an early stage in their careers.

In the past, course offerings have been an issue for the Faculty. However, the Report is probably wrong to suggest that expansion will decrease its offerings. Instead, it’s likely that an increase in enrolment will provide the Faculty with the financial means to hire more full-time staff and decrease the pressure on existing professors.

The third concern is similar to the concern for clinical opportunities. The Report suggests that the Faculty’s support services (personal and career counselling) won’t be able to accommodate the increase in students.

The law school currently provides one of the best, if not the best, support services for law students in the country. Support staff help students with exam/work accommodations or personal matters, and are as much a part of student’s lives as their friends and professors.

The fourth concern mentioned in the Report may be the most important issue to students, and spans across all law schools: jobs.

Earlier this year, the Journal reported on the articling crisis and the course-based solution adopted by the Law Society of Upper Canada.

If students are unable to find articling positions as required to become a lawyer, they may now, in lieu, elect to participate in a course offered by the Law Society that is combined with an internship. This proposal has raised more questions than it has offered to solve and as such, Queen’s students are uncertain if it’s a viable solution at all. Until then, finding a job placement is the most important issue to many students here.

Law schools much larger than Queen’s continue to have high enrolment, and refusing an expansion will only make it more difficult for Queen’s to

retain its reputation as a university that produces some of Canada’s leading lawyers and legal academics.

From my experience, discussions and comments by students in second and third year suggest that Queen’s law students are open to a practical solution.

I’ve noticed that while there has been discussion on the degree of expansion, many upper-year students see the reality and the need to grow. They understand the financial constraints caused by provincial tuition freezes and the Faculty’s current size. It’s true that an increase in students will affect the law school’s community environment; however, the Faculty wouldn’t be adding 35 students to existing classes. Instead, the proposal suggests adding a new small section that will take all of its classes together and share some with other small sections in first year. It’s in these small sections that the true community atmosphere begins. Together, students

overcome the difficulties of first year and later share these experiences with their colleagues and incoming students.

Without increases in enrolment, the Faculty will lose out to universities such as the University of Toronto or Osgoode Hall when it comes to academics.

Both of these schools have much larger student bodies and far higher tuition rates.

Queen’s Law has always been on the path to creating excellent lawyers. It graduates individuals who value the support of their colleagues and who are not merely motivated by personal achievements. Yes, there’s a difficult step in our path. However, it’s important to look up and beyond the problems of today to ensure we continue providing the legal profession with lawyers who know the value of collegiality and friendship. This means taking a turn from what we’re used to.

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