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Back to Law School

Back to Law School Roundup: News, analysis and opinion

Friday, September 03, 2021 @ 2:43 PM | By Richard Skinulis

Richard Skinulis %>
Richard Skinulis
For the second year in row, we have set out to cover the issues and challenges faced by Canadian law schools and students due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

The main theme we heard from all law schools was how to welcome students back while keeping them safe. The tricky legal and ethical questions of testing and mandatory vaccination policies for students, staff and others on campus were tracked across the country, with our reporters looking at provinces and their law schools in articles that included informative links so readers can keep up to date.

Although most schools opted for some level of in-person attendance, many included a hybrid approach that emphasized a virtual option. The pandemic thus forced academic institutions to innovate and exploit the possibilities of information technology — everything from Zoom to multidirectional microphones — as teaching tools.

Law students themselves wrote personal accounts of how the changing academic landscape impacted their lives. They offered coping tips as well as personal accounts of their experiences in writing online exams, the importance of mentoring, embracing technological change and how the pandemic has affected their mental well-being.

This is of course an extremely fluid situation which we will be following closely with news and Analysis columns and articles over the coming year. Here then is a wrapup of this year’s Back to Law School articles.

Mandatory vaccination policies for post-secondary institutions implemented across Ontario

Mandatory COVID-19 vaccination has been the rallying cry for schools across Ontario, with the president and CEOs of Colleges Ontario and the Council of Ontario Universities, calling on the provincial government to “provide a province-wide policy that would require the vaccination of postsecondary students, staff and faculty, to help ensure optimal public health protection for all.”

University risks liability by not requiring on-campus COVID-19 vaccination proof: McGill law profs

As law schools in Quebec reopen for in-person classes without requiring students and staff to show they are vaccinated against COVID-19, 35 McGill University law faculty are warning that the situation not only exposes people on campus to “serious health consequences” from the deadly virus, it could also fail to meet an “emerging standard of care” and discriminates against people with disabilities — as well as people who are pregnant or immune-compromised — thus exposing McGill (and by implication other universities in Quebec) to the risks of civil liability and human rights claims.

Back to school in Alberta, B.C. to include masks, proof of vaccination

As students in Alberta and British Columbia return to classes this fall amidst the fourth wave of the COVID-19 pandemic, the usual assortment of bookbags and mobile phones will have to be supplemented by a mask — and in some cases proof of vaccination or a readiness to undergo testing.

Mixed approach by handful of Canadian law schools

Law schools in Saskatchewan and New Brunswick will be adhering to vaccine policies recently rolled out by their respective universities, while Manitoba’s law school will continue virtual learning for the upcoming fall term. Meanwhile, Nova Scotia’s Dalhousie University, home to the Schulich School of Law, wants students, faculty and staff to complete a survey detailing their “vaccination plans and actions.”

Roomies and Zoomies: Pandemic has sparked new terms, some innovation in law school teaching

The COVID-19 pandemic has taken its toll on both law students and law professors, but the good news is it is also spurring some welcome and long overdue innovations in the traditionally staid and passive model of law school teaching.

Best of both worlds: The virtual door to opportunity | Bo Kruk

The second week of March 2020 forced a dramatic change on a profession steeped in tradition. In a matter of days, classes that had remained much the same since the days of slates and chalkboard were teleported to the 21st century. As COVID-19 swept around the globe, five words became a common refrain: “Hold on, you’re on mute.”

Why teaming up with a mentor at law school really works | David Yun

Over the past few months, through the author’s involvement with the 2021 Western Law Orientation Committee, he has been planning the 1L/3L Mentorship Program under our People Portfolio. This program matches incoming first-year students with third-year students based on mutual interests and common backgrounds.

Moving beyond the pandemic: Reflections from a rising 3L | Jennifer Fahrenholt

When the author did a cost-benefit analysis of going to law school in her mid-30s and following her dreams of a legal career as a second career, she certainly did not factor a global pandemic into the equation. Nobody saw that on the horizon. Despite the challenges, a full year of virtual law school was a fascinating experience and one that will be a topic of conversation for years to come.

Social media and legal practice | Serena Eshaghurshan

In some of the author’s previous articles in The Lawyer’s Daily, she discussed various tips and tricks for incoming and current law students. In this article, she took a different direction and discussed the interplay between social media and success in the legal profession.

Proactive approach to Ontario law students’ mental health | Ocean Enbar and Monica Santos

It’s back to school season and law students across Ontario are gearing up for yet another unconventional academic year. Aside from the added challenges stemming from the pandemic, the law school experience is already recognized to be an undertaking full of heightened degrees of pressure and stressful experiences.

Pandemic reshaping education | Shreeya Devnani

Across the globe, almost everyone is asking the same question, “When will we get back to normal?” For many law students, normalcy meant going to school, attending classes in person, speaking with professors in office hours and meeting up with friends. Undoubtedly, the pandemic has changed these routines and behaviours for all.

Should Ontario law society sponsor judicial exchange program?

As September approaches, another school year is again upon us. Ideally, the situation concerning COVID-19 will continue to improve, and provided that is the case, foreign exchange programs will likely resume. Such programs typically partner local students with students abroad and involve both hosting the foreign student and visiting with the host family in return. They are touted to offer a number of benefits, including exposure to and immersion into the foreign language and culture. That got Michael Lesage to thinking, should the law society sponsor a judicial exchange program for Ontario’s judicial leadership?

How to academically succeed in Ontario law schools

The results are in. You log into your portal to see your grades and a feeling of disbelief washes over you. Your highest mark is a 73 per cent? Your lowest undergraduate mark was a 76 per cent? How can this be? You go on Facebook and see people discussing their grades. A 90 per cent in a course? What? This scenario is a common one for many first-year law students.

Lessons learned from online bar exam technology fail

The author, Colette Self, had a nightmare a few weeks before writing the barrister exam. She was sitting at her computer unable to connect with her virtual proctor, watching the minutes go by. 10:29 a.m. 10:30 a.m. 10:31 a.m. Her exam time came and went.

Illustration by Chris Yates/Law360

Let’s keep the conversation going. If you have a story idea, or are interested in adding your voice to 
The Lawyer’s Daily by contributing an analysis article or column, about law school or anything else of interest to the legal community in Canada, we want to hear from you. Contact information for the entire team at The Lawyer’s Daily can be found here.