The Every Lawyer

Conversations with the President: Ready, set... practice!

Episode Summary

Less than 70 years ago, people wanting to enter the common law legal profession in Canada took some courses, but mostly they learned to do by doing, through years of apprenticeship to senior lawyers. Today we’ll talk to two law school deans, Ian Holloway and Camille Cameron about who should be providing on-the-job training.

Episode Notes

Conversations With The President: The state of the profession, Ep 4:

Less than 70 years ago, people wanting to enter the common law legal profession in Canada took some courses, but mostly they learned to do by doing, through years of apprenticeship to senior lawyers. Today we’ll talk to two law school deans, Ian Holloway and Camille Cameron about who should be providing on-the-job training.

Ian Holloway has been dean at UCalgary Law for more than a decade. He’s also a former member of the CBA Legal Futures Initiative Task Force, where he acted as legal education and training team leader. 

Camille Cameron started her legal career in Halifax but since then has worked as a legal consultant and advisor in a number of countries including Cambodia and China. Before coming to the Schulich School of Law she was law dean at the University of Windsor. 

Dean Cameron says legal educators have to prepare students for the future, and that’s what we’re going to talk about today.

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Episode Transcription

Adam Norget: Hi, this is Adam Norget, Chair of the CBA National Young Lawyers Section, inviting you to the inaugural CBA National Young Lawyers Conference June 4th to 5th, 2020 in Toronto. The theme of the conference is Legal Innovation a Vision for the Future of the Profession and will kick off with the annual OBA Young Lawyers Gala at Gardner Museum.

This will be followed by a full day of programming on June 5th at the OBA Conference Centre featuring dynamic speakers including several young lawyer entrepreneurs, others on the leading edge of innovation in the legal tech industry and will address topics such as access to justice and wellness; a topic which is too often overlooked in our profession.

Finally, I am very excited to announce that our keynote speaker with be Supreme Court of Canada Chief Justice Richard Wagner. I would encourage you to join us and your fellow young lawyers from across Canada in June to meaningfully discuss the future of our profession. Registration for the conference is now live at; we hope to see you there.

Vivene Salmon: Hello, welcome to Conversations with the President, I’m your host Vivene Salmon. Less than 70 years ago people wanting to enter the common law legal profession in Canada were still doing as their ancestors in the UK had done. They took some courses, but mostly they learnt to do by doing through years of apprenticeship to senior lawyers. It wasn’t until the middle of the last century that legal education in Canada changed.

Perspective lawyers now required a law degree and the period of articles became much shorter. Law schools have long been criticized for not teaching practical skills. Today we’ll talk to two law school Deans about who should be providing on the job training. Ian Holloway has been Dean at University of Calgary Law for more than a decade.

He’s also a former member of the CBA Legal Futures Initiative Task Force where he acted as legal education and training team leader. Nine of the 22 recommendations made in the Futures’ report dealt with the lawyers are educated and what parts of legal education have to change to meet the professions future needs. Welcome to the podcast Dean Holloway.

Ian Holloway: Thanks, Vivene, I’m happy to be here.

Vivene Salmon: So, you were called to the Bar in 1986 in Nova Scotia and before you began your academic career working for a time with McInnes Cooper in Halifax - a firm that I’ve come to know very well - did law school prepare you to work as a lawyer?

Ian Holloway: Not at all. We had very little preparation for the profession that we were about to join and it seems quite bizarre when I put it that way but it’s true. I had a lot of fun in law school. I made some friends who remain among my closest friends but I can say that I don’t think that I could have been worse prepared for becoming a lawyer than I was.

Vivene Salmon: That’s an explosive statement [Laughs]. So, what was one thing you found yourself then wishing you’d learned in law school or that would have prepared you better?

Ian Holloway: Well, that’s a great question but what I would say is I wish that I’d been given some sense of the dynamics of the legal profession. Now, I should say too Vivene, that in a way the world was a different place. You know, I had the good fortune to article and then practice at a firm like McInnes Cooper and it was a firm which was I mean we worked hard and it was a tough place in a way but it was also very nurturing in another way.

And so, you know, they kind of took me and my peers by the hand and made sure that we learned over time everything we needed to know. And I thank McInnes Cooper every day for that. But to go back to your question, what I didn’t get in law school was any sense, any real sense of the dynamics of the legal profession or the legal system.

Vivene Salmon: So, what do you feel then for a lot of younger people in terms of the dynamics and the statement that you made that you felt that while it was tough, you felt that you were also led by the hand. Because I feel for a lot of young people now I don’t feel like they’re led by the hand or any hand at all. I feel sometimes they’re just thrown to the wind.

Ian Holloway: Yeah, no, that’s my sense as well you know, and partly it’s because the business model of legal practice, at least the private legal practice has changed. You know, the kinds of things that they did to accommodate us when we were young lawyers, I’m just not sure that the business model easily accommodates that.

I remember for example, the first time I appeared in the Court of Appeal back in Nova Scotia on my own; one of the senior partners just came along and sat at the back just to watch and then spend an hour or two with me afterwards to give me feedback.

And of course, I wasn’t thinking in these terms at that time but that guy gave up a whole day of billings just to watch some young guy cut his teeth. That probably in most firms anyway, I can’t speak for every firm but in most firms that just couldn’t happen today. So, I was very lucky that I came up with I did.

Vivene Salmon: So, switching gears a little bit; University of Calgary Law calls itself Canada’s most innovative law school.

Ian Holloway: Yeah.

Vivene Salmon: So, under your leadership the school has implemented what has been called the Calgary Curriculum; can you explain what that is?

Ian Holloway: Sure, absolutely. We – the Calgary Curriculum came about because of a pair of epiphany moments for us. The first epiphany was one that you know well because you live it every day and that is that our professional world is turning faster and faster. You know, clients today you know, their mantra is better, cheaper, faster, better, cheaper, fast. And that is placing tremendous strain upon the conventional way that we did business as lawyers.

Epiphany moment number two was we now know a lot more about how adults learn and how adults retain things than they knew in the latter part of the 19th century when the conventional model of legal education was developed. And we put those two things together and it led us to implement, to develop and then implement what we call the Calgary Curriculum.

And the Calgary Curriculum can be summed up in one line I think and that is to say that we view our mission as being to prepare students for the profession they’re joining, not the one I joined. The profession they’re joining, not the one I joined. And so, so, we had a combination of structural changes to what we do and how we do it.

So, there’s – we no longer have 100% examinations, we use as they call it in the educational lingo formative assessment in all our courses. We still have exams to be sure but we use formative assessment in all of our courses. There’s a lot more intensity in teaching than there used to be and then also the kinds of things - the courses that we offer are different than the norm.

We still teach jurisprudence and things like that but we also teach things like legal project management and we teach leadership for lawyers. We teach business skills for lawyers, we teach marketing and client development for lawyers.

We teach crisis communications for lawyers. And a whole list of courses like that which go to this mission as I described earlier of being – trying to prepare students for the profession they’re joining not the one that I joined.

Vivene Salmon: So, continuing on that question; when Ryerson’s law school opens – I know you’re familiar with that, next year – students will learn coding among other practical tools such as you’ve talked about in terms of crisis communication etcetera. Is law school really the place for that?

Ian Holloway: Well, that’s a good question. The honest answer is, is I don’t know. I mean if you’re talking about coding I don’t know. I don’t know how to code myself so, I’m probably not the best person to answer that question. But let me do what lawyers do and try to answer a different question; I think that when we – by which I mean law schools – talk about inculcating tech skills in our students. I think that what we instead should be saying – I mean yes, it’d be a great thing.

Some of our students will we know earn their living by being software developers and so, coding is a good thing for them to know. But that’s a relatively small number but I think what all of our students are going to have to be able to do if they’re going to be – if they’re going to flourish in the 21st century is to be able to engage in what they call design thinking.

And that incorporates a sense of tech awareness of tech savviness but the real mission I think is to inculcate design thinking skills. So, that when a client comes to you, you don’t provide information to her or him in discreet substantive silo terms rather you think about their problem. You help them reframe their own issue in design terms and you work with them to design the best possible outcome in the circumstances. So, design thinking, that I think is more important than coding per say.

Vivene Salmon: So, one of the other things I was thinking about as you were talking; I did an exchange to Sweden when I was a young lawyer and under the Swedish model 50% of our course mark was group work and 50% was individual.

And I remember coming back and mentioning that to some lawyers in Canada who were absolutely appalled who felt that they wanted to be marked as an individual. So, how do you feel about having more group based…

Ian Holloway: Vivene, I think that we should, I think it’s a travesty that the Canadian model of legal education – the North American model of legal education doesn’t do that. It’s crazy when you think about it. We treat all our students as if they’re sole practitioners when in fact very few of them will be. And the reality is that even sole practitioners have to work in teams you know, they work you know, with you know, accountants or social workers or you know, other sorts of other sorts of professionals.

And so, the ability to learn how to work constructively in a team. The ability to learn how to deal with difficult members of the team. Those are all critical skills for today’s and tomorrow’s lawyers. And that’s one of the things we’re trying to do here at Calgary. It’s - a number of our courses are assessed in what you described as the Swedish model with the significant chunk of the grade being based upon group work.

Vivene Salmon: I feel we’ve had a really interesting conversation. I found it very, very interesting when you were talking about technology and innovation and that’s something that we’re hoping to have in National Young Lawyers Conference here in Toronto in the spring, that we’ll focus on just those topics. Before I let you go, I’m just wondering if there is anything more that you’d like to add with respect to our conversation this afternoon.

Ian Holloway: Well, there is one other thing and I think it’s, it’s a question that I think that the Canadian Legal Academy needs to ask itself and that is; are we admitting the right people to law school? Of course, lawyers need to be smart, they need lots of high-functioning grey matter upstairs. But they need other things too.

You know, they need emotional intelligence, they need a team ethos, as we were talking about, they need you know, resilience, they need the ability to delay gratification. And so, the question is when we do admissions in law school are we probing for those kinds of skills or those kinds of attributes as well as we could or as well as we should?

We’re trying to do that at Calgary but I have no doubt that we could do better and I bet the answer, the honest answer at most Canadian law schools would be that they could do better too.

Vivene Salmon: I think you’re probably right because that was probably one of my very last questions was to ask you; do law schools really need to think the way they’re recruiting young people and also people that have had careers before that want to become lawyers and stop placing so much emphasis on marks as a skillset to what makes a good lawyer, what will make a good lawyer in the future.

Ian Holloway: I think you’re right. You know, the – as you know well, Vivene, our profession tops the charts in all sorts of unhealthy ways you know. You know, depression, substance abuse, you know, marriage breakdown and so on and I sometimes think to myself well, is it any wonder why we admit people who are Type A, super smart, but otherwise quite unsuited for the rigors of the legal profession.

So, maybe we need to sort of pay more attention to what kinds of attributes the profession demands and then you know, given that we’re the gateway to the profession more consciously screen for that. There are a couple of challenges though; one is that we have tools with which to measure grey matter. The LSAT and GPA.

We don’t have the same kinds of reliable tools and also that’s not perfect but it’s a reliable measure of logical reasoning ability. We don’t have the same kinds of reliable tools to measure emotional intelligence and team ethos and resilience and all those sorts of things.

So, that’s one challenge. The second challenge though I think sits on the profession. You said, and I agree with you that we shouldn’t admit solely on the basis of grades. But equally I would say that the profession when it hires needs to rely less upon using grades as the entry way.

Vivene Salmon: I resoundingly agree with you and I’d be interested to hear what some of our firms, especially partner firms have to say about that. So, with that I will say goodbye to you; thank you so much for taking the time to share your thoughts and ideas this afternoon in ways that we can improve the legal profession for all.

Ian Holloway: Well, let me thank you; I really enjoyed this a great deal and I hope we chat again soon.

Vivene Salmon: Ian Holloway is the Dean of the University of Calgary’s law school which like other established law schools in Canada is starting to think outside the box of black letter law to consider the skills that new lawyers will need to be successful in tomorrow’s legal profession. Camille Cameron gets around, born in Cape Breton she learned legal degrees at UNB and Cambridge University.

She started her legal career in Halifax but since then has worked as a legal consultant and advisor in a number of countries including Cambodia and China. She brings an international perspective to legal education. Her academic postings have included the City University of Hong Kong and the University of Melbourne in Australia.

Before coming to the Schulich School of Law, she was Law Dean at the University of Windsor. Dean Cameron says legal educators have to prepare students for the future and that’s what we’re going to talk about today. Welcome to the podcast Dean Cameron.

Camille Cameron: Thanks, Vivene, it’s a pleasure to be here.

Vivene Salmon: You’ve had a varied and very interesting career, from being a civil litigator in Halifax to training lay criminal defenders and judges in Cambodia. How much of that did law school prepare you for?

Camille Cameron: Well, Vivene, I’m sure I came to law school already with a sense of adventure but I also think that the kind of inquiry that law school encourages you to engage in made me curious about the law and it made me curious about different kinds of legal systems.

And it made me curious about the different ways in which the law can be used as a tool for good. So, I’d say it’s a combination of what I got from law school and a naturally curious and adventurous disposition.

Vivene Salmon: And do you think young people now have that same sense of adventure when they start their legal careers?

Camille Cameron: Look, I think it varies, there’s just so much – you know, for us we take in 170 students a year and in any group of 170 people, you’re going to find a wide variety of personalities, goals, inclinations and so, in that group you would have – I don’t know what the percentage would be or even how you’d measure it.

But there would certainly be a percentage of students who have that kind of curiosity and sense of inquiry. And if you look at what students end up doing after they graduate and in five, six, seven, ten years, you can see how they are spread out in so many different ways and that speaks to the versatility of the legal education they have. But it also speaks again, to their own personalities, right, which they bring to the study of law.

Vivene Salmon: And in your article about your appointment in 2015, you said the aim of the University of Windsor’s Faculty of Law was to help students learn how to learn and that inquiry problem solving and challenging conventional wisdom should be at the heart of the law school learning experience. But do you really think that is enough in this day and age given the cost of legal education and competition for employment?

Camille Cameron: Oh, I think it’s a lot; I mean there’s so many different things that law students have to learn but I think at the heart of it is that. At the heart of it is being a critical and inquiring researcher, writer and commentator. I do think that, that critical inquiry is at the heart of it.

And if I go back again, you started by asking me about my own path but I can look at myself and my contemporaries, people with whom I studied law and really that critical inquiring mind is at the heart of it regardless of what else you might include. Regardless of how curriculums or curricular change, that critical thinking is at the heart of it; yes, I do believe that.

Vivene Salmon: So, what do you then think about the new approach we’re seeing in relatively new law schools like Lakehead, Thompson Rivers and Ryerson which opens this fall; all of which are touting a more practically driven approach to legal education?

Camille Cameron: I think it’s important to look at what Canadian law schools are doing and when the Ryerson project was being discussed a few years ago; Canadian Law Deans made a comment to the extent – to the effect that it’s really important to look at what existing law schools are doing already before suggesting that a new law school is going to be different.

And if you look at the kinds of practical, clinical experiential learning that students are now getting in Canadian law schools, it’s stunning actually. And what a difference from when I was a student; I think I got an excellent

education but when I see what’s available to students now in terms of clinical and experiential learning, placement opportunities with courts, NGOs and other organizations, the real practical hands on opportunities to learn what the law is and what it can do.

It’s remarkable and if you look at law schools across the country, maybe you’ve done that already but you’d be – you know, some people are surprised at the breath and the richness of what they’re offering students quite different from when I was a law student. Now, mind you that was almost 40-years ago.

So, I think it’s – I think one has to be careful about looking at a new law school and saying oh well, you know, that’s very different from what’s happening already. Because much of what Ryerson for example, will be offering and I’m sure they’re going to do a great job, is already on offer in other law schools across the country.

Vivene Salmon: So, we’re almost at the end of our time and I think I’d like to ask you about your international career; what opportunities do you think young people have now to pursue international opportunities whether through their legal education or through employment?

Camille Cameron: So, I think there are many. I think one of the beauties of a law degree is that it is extremely versatile. If you look at again, I mentioned this but if you look at what graduates at various Canadian law schools are doing, four, five, six, ten years after they leave law school, many of them are doing something quite different from how they started.

They might start in a law firm, they might stay there for a few years. Some might stay on through to retirement but others are moving in house, they’re doing all kinds of other things and what I will say as well is that many law schools are giving them the opportunity while they’re students to gain some of that experience and to give them a taste for the different kinds of career paths that are open to them.

If you look at co-op programs, internships, placements, I would say every law school in the country has these. So, these are the opportunities. Now, you mentioned the cost of legal education and I think that’s a significant factor and it might be that some students choices are limited at least in the short-term by the desire to get their debt paid off sooner rather than later. But of course, that’s one of the reasons why law school spend so much time fundraising for scholarships and bursaries.

Vivene Salmon: And is there anything you’d like to add before we wrap up this afternoon?

Camille Cameron: I guess what I’d like to say is that you know, there’s been a – I have had an interesting career but looked at it more broadly, there’s been so much change in law school curricular since I was a student.

As I say I mean, I think I and my contemporaries got a great education but the opportunities law school – law students are getting now to experience law in the world are really quite something and I’m envious. If I were a student now I’d certainly be taking advantage of some of them.

Vivene Salmon: So, would I; thank you Dean Cameron.

Camille Cameron: Alright, it’s a pleasure.

Vivene Salmon: Cape Breton native Camille Cameron is the 16th Dean at Dalhousie’s University’s Schulich School of Law in Halifax. We want to hear your stories about the changes you’ve seen in the legal profession or think the profession needs to make. Where do you see generational conflict and how do you suggest we overcome this?

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