Last week, MLS held a feedback session on proposed changes to the JD curriculum. Although these changes might not affect current students, the law school nonetheless seeks students’ feedback and opinions. The input that we give now will be important for future JD students.
Needless to say, the proposed changes will affect different students in different ways. In particular, later law students will no doubt be keen to know what changes are going to be made.
Therefore, we at the LLSN would like let you all know that MLS is seeking feedback and we encourage students to provide input. It is especially important for later law students to tell MLS what they think of these proposals so that the law school can factor these perspectives into their decision-making.
What changes are proposed?
The biggest change on the table is a new first year subject called Disputes and Ethics. This will be a combination of Dispute Resolution and Legal Ethics, and will be taught in second semester of first year. For more information about the new core unit, check out the Proposed Recommendations outlined below.
Because of this new Disputes and Ethics subject, there will be space left over for another subject. The review committee has proposed three options which they seek student feedback on. The three options are
Allow students to take an extra elective;
Require students to take a subject with an international or comparative orientation; or
Require students to take a subject out of a group of subjects that have an experiential learning element, primarily from the PILI suite.
Other changes include the provision of skills workshops, increased experiential learning and a greater focus on reconciliation, international opportunities, comparative law, and technology and innovation.
What issues were raised by students?
Students who attended the feedback meeting raised some very compelling issues in relation to these options and recommendations.
The impact on international students of making an experiential subject compulsory was noted. For students who are uniquely impacted by the upfront costs of subjects, requiring them to engage in unpaid interning can be difficult. This is particularly the case when many students participate in internships and clerkships in their own time. For international students, whose fees are hefty, making practical learning a core component of the JD may create unnecessary strain and double up on initiatives they’re already involved in.
Similarly, while practical skills building was universally valued, concerns were raised around making experiential learning compulsory. Issues were raised around students’ capacity to balance their workload, the outsourcing of learning from the university to the profession and the usual complications around students doing unpaid work.
That said, it was acknowledged that practical learning is important and often expected by employers upon graduation. As such, providing experiential learning in a supported and structured manner can indeed be valuable for many students.
Importantly, some queried the ability to provide experiential learning for students interested in commercial law. While PILI is invaluable for students who seek a career in public interest law, interning and unpaid placements are not as accessible in commercial law due to legal restrictions. It was suggested that this might be a gap for the university to address in an equitable and fair way.
Attendees at the meeting were also universal in their support for historical and indigenous context in the JD. However, there are still uncertainties as to how to proceed so this process is still very much in progress.
What do students need to do?
The law school wants your feedback on these proposed changes. It would be valuable for the school to hear a variety of perspectives. As such, later law students are encouraged to offer their thoughts on these proposed changes.
If you’d like to offer your considered and respectful thoughts, email Jeannie Paterson: firstname.lastname@example.org