A proposal for a Faculty of Law at Memorial University has been endorsed by the university’s Senate.
“A great deal of work has gone into getting us to this point, and I thank everyone who has supported this proposal, including the feasibility study committee, the law community and now Memorial’s senators,” said Dr. Noreen Golfman, provost and vice-president (academic).
“While there is certainly still work ahead, this is an important step for Memorial, one that I anticipate will open doors for students across Newfoundland and Labrador to study law in our province’s unique context.”
The proposal recommends the creation of a postgraduate law program with seats for 100 students per year, and the establishment of a complement of 18 permanent faculty members by the third year of the program.
The program would be a three-year juris doctor (JD) program, with one additional year of articling/internship.
The Faculty of Law is projected to have an annual operating cost of about $9 million, which supports management positions, the permanent faculty of complement and contractual faculty, administrative/professional staff and library staff, as well as operating expenditures related to running the faculty and a dedicated law library.
The proposal makes clear that the establishment and ongoing funding of the new program would be cost neutral, meaning the startup costs, building costs and program costs would have no impact on spending at other areas of the university, but funded through a differential tuition fee and through fundraising and development initiatives.
“We expect that most courses, if not all, will have content pertaining to Indigenous topics and Indigenous Peoples.”
The proposed program aligns with the curriculum suggested by the Federation of Law Societies of Canada and the 2013 Canadian Bar Association’s Equal Justice report, with students receiving the same core law education available at other Canadian faculties of law, but with two unique streams.
It is anticipated that Memorial law students would have the opportunity to specialize in two areas of legal expertise: sustainable northern resource development and social justice. Both specializations would include a focus on Indigenous topics.
“We have designed a curriculum for consideration that can make a substantial contribution to the university’s strengths in Maritime and cold oceans research, on the one hand, and arts, legal and social justice studies on the other,” said Dr. Golfman.
“Further, we expect that most courses, if not all, will have content pertaining to Indigenous topics and Indigenous Peoples. With this program, Memorial law students will also be able to undertake internships throughout the province and beyond and gain valuable legal experience.”
First step in long process
In 2012 the Law Foundation of Newfoundland and Labrador and the provincial branch of the Canadian Bar Association supported a review of the concept of a Faculty of Law at Memorial University, a position later endorsed by the chief justice of Newfoundland and Labrador.
That endorsement led to the establishment of the 2013 feasibility committee which, after extensive consultation, unanimously recommended that Memorial University consider establishing a Faculty of Law in a report delivered to President Gary Kachanoski in December 2013.
A revised committee, with a mandate to develop a detailed proposal for a Faculty of Law program, has delivered the current proposal for consideration by the Vice-Presidents Council, Senate and, ultimately, the Board of Regents.
It was noted at Senate that this is the first step in a very long process before students sit in a law school classroom, at least three or four years, President Kachanoski told Senators. However, with Senate endorsement, the concept can now proceed for further assessment and consultation in preparation for eventual submission to the Board of Regents.
The proposal that was endorsed by Senate can be found online.