Legal education for the public goodAn interview with Dean of Law W. Iain Scott
From the collapse of a major law firm to the establishment of two new law schools in the country, Canadian legal education needs to adapt to a changing landscape. W. Iain Scott, dean of the Faculty of Law and former CEO and chair of McCarthy Tétrault LLP, is leading a process of renewal and innovation at Western’s law school to give students exceptional opportunities to lead and serve within the legal community in Canada and overseas.
Q. When students attend Western's law faculty, what do you want them to take away from their experience?
A. Beyond teaching the core areas of Canadian law, the analytical skills of legal practice and the art of effective legal writing and advocacy, we provide an environment where our students learn to be global citizens who serve the public good. Wherever our graduates put their legal skills to use, we want them to have the training to be ethical lawyers, effective practitioners and community leaders.
Q. What makes Western’s law school distinct from others?
A. During the past 25 years, we have become the pre-eminent school in Canada focusing on business law in the global environment. To sustain and build on that reputation, we’re providing an unmatched depth of courses and experiences that prepares students for the future. That future will include more focus on corporate social responsibility (CSR), which will require graduates to draw on different disciplines – from human rights to international to environmental law – in order to offer multifaceted legal advice to clients within a global context.
We are able to integrate corporate social responsibility into our program because of our strong tradition in teaching ethics. Ours was the first law school in Canada to make legal ethics a mandatory part of the curriculum. Understanding the moral and ethical obligations of their profession makes our students better citizens and better lawyers, improving their ability to promote public good in society and across the globe.
Another strength is our size. Except for one other law program, we’re the smallest law school in Ontario. That enables us to offer small group instruction for our students, which deepens their experience of legal research, writing and reasoning skills, and creates a cohort who are collegial and committed to their collective success.
Q. How is the legal profession changing? How is the faculty responding?
A. The economics of legal practice is under pressure in Canada and elsewhere. We’ve also witnessed the difficulty law graduates have encountered in finding articling placements with firms to fulfil their requirements after graduation. That’s why we are reviewing our curriculum to see how to adapt and respond to these and other changes to the legal profession. Some options include adding courses in project management and financial literacy to give our graduates the skills they need to establish their own firms or succeed in other commercial settings.
Any decision to shape our program must enhance rather than narrow the aspirations of our students, and provide experiential learning opportunities to apply their knowledge. Law schools that develop engaging programs, by helping students develop intellectually, personally and professionally, will thrive.
Q. What are the faculty priorities for the Be Extraordinary campaign?
A. As a faculty, we’ve been successful in our recent fundraising efforts to endow two academic chairs focused in business law. We’re grateful for the support our alumni and partners have contributed to strengthen our school. To continue that success, we are looking to our alumni and friends to create more scholarships and bursaries for our students. By enhancing the student awards program, we can support more deserving and promising young minds.
We also want to expand our endowed funds to not only provide greater student support, but to offer more opportunities for faculty research and visiting scholars – all of which will build on the success of our academic mission.
Q. How can alumni be involved in supporting the faculty?
A. Our alumni base of more than 6,000 individuals provides an incredible network for our students and great support for our future plans. We plan on engaging more of our alumni from around the world to become mentors for students, connecting them with real-world, professional opportunities. We’re also looking to our alumni to offer valuable perspectives on our strategic priorities – ensuring the continued success of Western Law.