Dalhousie Law Journal


D. A. Soberman


Law Schools, Attack, creative tension, Canadian legal


We are in danger of losing the creative tension in Canadian legal education, a creative tension that has made the enterprise worthwhile. Let me explain this rather large claim. The academic study of law has a long history of close association with universities of the western world. Law was a founding faculty at the University of Bologna and formed part of all the great early universities of mediaeval Europe. Despite the fact that many students in these universities today do go on to careers in law, the study of law remains an undergraduate liberal discipline for large numbers who do not contemplate practising the profession. In contrast, the law schools of North America were founded in recognition of the fact that apprenticeship was not adequate as the sole method of training lawyers. Thus university law faculties came into existence to fill a market need for professional education. Universities were, however, more than mere physical locations for law faculties interested only in teaching traditional lawyering skills. Gradually, within the great universities of the United States, their law schools began to be recognized as places of learning, of critical analysis, and of education for broader purposes than the private practice of law. In Canada, Dalhousie, McGill, and, later, Saskatchewan followed this model in aspiration, even if a lack of resources made it difficult to follow in substance. Only in recent decades have law faculties in the rest of the country adopted this approach. At present, law faculties aspire, and must aspire, to serve both goals - professional education and critical, scholarly study of law and its role in society.