To continue our education themed week, we explore legal education in Canada. Today we compare the increase in availability of legal education between 1867 and 2017. Legal education has certainly expanded over the last 150 years and we’ll provide a small glimpse of just how much.
In 2017, prospective law students have several options of cities, provinces, and institutions to pursue their legal education. There are currently 20 fully approved Canadian law schools, offering both common law and civil law programs.1 Further, Trinity Western University is considered a new law school and will obtain full approval by the Federation of Law Societies of Canada once their students graduate.2
Prospective students can choose from a wide variety of schools and are able to base their decisions on several factors. Maybe one school is in their hometown? Maybe they are interested in a certain area of law that one school specializes in? Or perhaps they base their choice on reputation? Regardless of what a student is seeking out of their legal education, Canada’s law schools offer many options. If we flashback to 1867 a different picture existed.
The oldest law faculty in Canada is at McGill University, which formally opened in 1848.3 The school opened in response to young professionals who had been independently pursuing legal education and sought classes in a formal program.4
The first common law school in Canada opened 16 years after Confederation. Dalhousie’s Schulich School of Law opened its doors in 1883 and “became the model for law schools across Canada and across the British Commonwealth.”5 At the time of Confederation individuals seeking a formal law school education only had McGill as an option. Otherwise, they needed to take classes informally.
The University of Alberta is western Canada’s oldest law school, but did not exist at the time of Confederation. There was a large influx of eastern settlers during the 1880s. Many of them were professionals, including lawyers.6 By 1898, the Law Society of the Territories formed and created a formal articling process.7 The province of Alberta formed in 1905 and the University of Alberta officially opened its doors in 1908.8 At that time, the law school was being developed but had not officially opened its doors. The Faculty of Law officially began offering a Bachelor of Laws degree in 1912.9
The University of Alberta’s first class only consisted of 8 students, but by the second year 50 students were registered in the program.10 Although the enrolment numbers increased substantially within a year, they are minuscule compared with the 180 new first-year students the faculty admits currently. Further, when the faculty opened, students were mainly taught through on-the-job articling training right away, and students only took classes part time.11 Now students are expected to take 3 years of full-time academic training before beginning their formal articling experience.
Legal education is increasingly growing in Canada. Every province, excluding Newfoundland and PEI, now houses at least one law school, with future institutions always becoming a possibility. With more locations to study and areas to specialize the possibilities for what legal education can expand into is endless.
1 “Canadian Law School Programs” (2017), Federation of Law Socities of Canada, online: <ww.flsc.ca/national-initiatives/canadian-law-school-programs/>.
3 “History of the McGill Faculty of Law” (2017), McGill Faculty of Law, online: <www.mcgill.ca/law/about/history>.
5 “History & Tradition” (2017), Schulich School of Law, online: <www.dal.ca/faculty/law/about/history-of-schulich-school-of-law.html>.
6 “History of the Faculty of Law” (2017), University of Alberta Faculty of Law, online: <www.ualberta.ca/law/about/history>.