Appendix B: Law Students’ Comments2017-03-03T18:35:39+00:00

The LCO held focus groups of students at the following law schools: Osgoode Hall Law School (12 students), the University of Ottawa (20 students), Queen’s University (11 students and two professors, one visiting from Sweden) and the University of Toronto (20 students in two separate focus groups). These comments have been included in the belief that they may be helpful as law schools decide whether and how to integrate the curriculum modules into their own programs. The law schools have not been identified and while most of the comments are not specific to each school, any comments that would identify a particular school have been generalized (in particular, each school has some form of intensive course called by a different name at each school and therefore each of these programs has been called an “intensive course”); however, the comments of the students from each school are available to the law dean of that school and these include the comments that would identify the school.

A. Law School 1

1. Curriculum content comments

  • Ethics component exciting
  • Practice tips very interesting idea
  • The present focus on technical legal formalism and adherence to “the law’s” internal cohesion is not connected to reality
  • Should start with some general information and then move on to more focused, specialised content

2. How, when and where to teach it

  • Needs to be available to all students or only self-selected students will participate
  • Need safe environment for people to say what is on their minds
  • Some profs don’t know how to talk about this, so tips and training for profs would be good
  • Discussions need to be sensitive to experiences of people in class
  • There is too much victim blaming discourse in discussion on domestic violence and sexual assault
  • Should be taught in first year
  • Skills component could be taught in first year small sections
  • Law school should engage with community organizations
  • Could be a legal aid clinic in the law school that dealt with VAW
  • Could integrate into “law in context” or “legal perspectives” courses

 

B. Law School 2

1. Curriculum content comments

  • Needs a unit on immigration law
  • Fact situations
  • Guidelines for profs to accompany material
  • Use outside resources and people – practicing lawyers in fields that students are interested in
  • Has to be intersectional
  • Could present content as optional/supplementary reading for existing classes
  • Has to be fully integrated and not an add-on
  • Could create a universal case list separate from other material that any prof could use as a tool in any course
  • Focus on syllabus: expectations, goals etc, not just a reading list
  • Should evidentiary issues be their own unit?
  • Should there be something on violence against men?

2. How, when and where to teach it

  • Needs to be mandatory in first year, otherwise only people who are already interested will take it
  • Could work in [intensive course]
  • Could be part of a training unit for clinics, with professional considerations integrated into it
  • Could integrate some of this material with anti-oppression material being developed for first year
  • Give students the tools
  • Three law schools – Toronto, Ottawa, Osgoode – have HPARB [Health Professions Appeal and Review Board] projects through PBSC, in which students represent clients at hearings re health professionals. This material could be integrated into the training for these students
  • Hard to engage students in large class size of first year
  • First year students have to take [intensive course]– maybe some of this could fit there
  • Perspectives requirement
  • Do a one-day stand-alone professionalism class
  • Incorporate some aspects into legal research and writing sessions in first year

3. Comments about current law school culture re VAW

  • Needs to be taught in a way that is safe for students
  • A lot of profs don’t know the basics, don’t know how to handle discussions in class about sexual assault/domestic violence
  • Many students hold incorrect assumptions about VAW that affect their approach to the material that is presented
  • Want profs to set parameters on the discussions and behaviour in classroom when these topics are being discussed
  • There is a lack of respect for women who have experienced violence, a disbelief that it happens to classmates, profs, etc.

 

C. Law School 3

1. Curriculum content comments

  • Should be policy discussions in first year courses
  • Courses need to talk critically about the law – its power, what it does, what it does not do, where there are “holes” in the law
  • Contextualization very important – tie course content to the culture of [the school]

2. How, when and where to teach it

  • Need to change the way VAW is discussed, especially in first year criminal law
  • It just needs to be discussed and it is not
  • Profs need to know how to frame the discussions better than most of them do: maybe a “best practices” document for profs
  • Could be raised in the same way that Aboriginal issues are now raised in 1st year law
  • Maybe in the [intensive course] – but some felt that some students…don’t take [this intensive course] seriously
  • Needs to be integrated across curriculum
  • Should be in every course in first year
  • Some of the problem is who the prof is
  • Needs to be part of law school culture
  • Bring in outside people
  • Develop a resource centre of case law, papers etc for students and faculty to use: could do with PBSC and collaboration with library to create resources

 

D. Law School 4

1. Curriculum content comments

  • Needs to also speak to those who have experienced violence
  • Should ensure feedback from women’s community groups as well as academics
  • Generally, there is a lack of training in advocacy/client skills to help secure articling positions – this material could form the basis for a course on client skills
  • Need a foundation in the issues before you can benefit from specifics
  • Use curriculum as an example of how to make the bigger point (e.g., voluntariness of agreement to remortgage a house)
  • Should include exposure to issues of power, control and abuse which will lead to better practice for all clients not just VAW cases
  • Teach practice management issues to screen for issues of power, control, abuse
  • Important to deconstruct stereotypes about VAW and culture
  • Teaching how to interact with clients important
  • “culture jamming” – this is what a good lawyer does

2. How, when and where to teach it

  • [Intensive course] – could be inserted here
  • Maybe not – only reaches 50 people
  • Should be mandatory material for all 2nd year students
  • Good fit with LSUC new requirements re ethics and professionalism
  • Could model on “ASSIST” program which prepares those who work with people with mental health issues – interviewing techniques, etc.
  • Should be from very beginning in first year courses
  • Problem of separate course is that it separates VAW from other subjects when it should be integrated across range of subjects
  • Could be integrated into dispute resolution course – this course discusses “culture: as in what country of origin, etc, but there could be discussion of the culture of VAW
  • Challenge may be who is teaching and what experiences/capacity they have
  • Some students were very enthusiastic about role playing as a teaching method – others felt strongly this would not work effectively
  • Bringing in experts to supplement prof’s knowledge (or lack of knowledge or comfort)
  • Practical settings/shadowing
  • Clinical situations with actors role playing clients
  • Case studies would work well – allows students to learn from one another and learn skills
  • Important to cast net wide to reach as many classes as possible to change the culture overall
  • Need to figure out how to make people receptive when they may initially be resistant, thinking it is “feminist” bias

3. Comments about current law school culture re VAW

  • Needs to be taught in a way that is safe for students
  • A lot of profs don’t know the basics, don’t know how to handle discussions in class about sexual assault/domestic violence
  • Many students hold incorrect assumptions about VAW that affect their approach to the material that is presented
  • Want profs to set parameters on the discussions and behaviour in classroom when these topics are being discussed
  • There is a lack of respect for women who have experienced violence, a disbelief that it happens to classmates, profs etc.

 

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