The proposed Memorial University law school had some notable supporters Tuesday night — Chief Justice Derek Green and former premier Clyde Wells.
© — Photo by James McLeod/The Telegram
Former premier and former chief justice Clyde Wells speaks at a public meeting Tuesday evening about the benefits of having a law school at Memorial University.
A lot of the debate Tuesday evening boiled down to whether there were jobs available for young people graduating from law school, but towards the end of the evening, Green weighed in, arguing that’s not really why Memorial University needs a law school.
“It is not the function of a law school to populate the bar of the province. It may be one of the incidental effects of a law school,” Green said. “A law school has a much broader purpose. It is to give a broad legal education to people who want it, who may then use that legal education in a wide variety of ways.”
Green argued that effectively nobody studies and critiques his decisions, whereas in other provinces with law schools, judgments get studied, dissected and criticized much more.
Wells, and a lot of the other people advocating for a law school, focused on the cost for students who have to go to the mainland to study law.
“Fundamentally, it provides an opportunity for students in Newfoundland to have access to a legal education at a reasonable cost,” Wells said. “Students from Newfoundland have not had fair access to legal education compared to students from New Brunswick and Nova Scotia.”
On the other hand, several younger people were at the meeting to say it’s a hard struggle for young law school graduates to find articling work, and then jobs.
A mother spoke on behalf of her daughter who is working in Ontario after recently graduating from law school. She said she was “absolutely incensed” because a law school would do nothing except build false hope for young people when there aren’t jobs available.
“There’s already not enough work for the lawyers who are being graduated,” the woman said.
A committee from Memorial University has been studying this for several months. Dean of arts Lynne Phillips, who is chairing the committee, said it plans to have the final report done in October.
She said part of the challenge is going to be pulling together a lot of different interests, and arguments for and against starting a law school.
“There’s lots to digest for sure, and there’s different perspectives,” Phillips said.
She said the final report will give an estimate on how much a law school would cost, but that will only be one aspect of the overall picture.
She said the committee will also look at feasibility, merits and potential concerns of a law school.
“We’re not expected to make our recommendation on the basis of whether we can afford it or not,” she said.