Osgoode has a rich history in clinical legal education. Our current offerings are the most extensive in Canada and among the most innovative in the world. Clinical legal education is centred upon a pedagogical approach in which students take on responsibility for real client matters, guided and supervised by lawyers who are skilled in their fields. Central to this approach are opportunities to connect practice experiences to theory through the process of reflection. Along with their clinical instructors and program directors, students explore issues of professional identity and values, skill development, contextualized problem-solving, and the systemic impacts of law.
Osgoode has continued to build on the success of its early programs, and now offers students 18 clinical and intensive programs to choose from. The programs vary in their credit value, structure, subject matter, and learning objectives, providing students with a range of options to choose from that best meet their learning goals.
Credit values range from 5 to 15 (the 15 credit programs are referred to as “intensives,” and are equivalent in credit value to a full semester at Osgoode).
Structure and Location
Some programs are single semester, while others take place across the fall and winter semesters. The Intensive Program in Poverty Law at Parkdale Community Legal Services is the only program offered twice each year, once in the fall semester and again in the winter. While some of Osgoode’s clinical programs are housed at the law school itself (CLASP and the Mediation Clinical Program for example), others place students with organizations and law firms in the Toronto region and beyond. For the latter programs there are two basic models: one in which all students enrolled in the program are placed with a single organization (the Anti-Discrimination Intensive at the Human Rights Legal Support Centre and the Disability Law Intensive at ARCH Disability Law Centre, for example); and the other where students are individually placed with particular organizations and firms (the Criminal Law Intensive and the Aboriginal Lands, Resources and Governments Intensive, for example).
The subject matter covered by the programs is tremendously varied, in many instances organized around broad fields of substantive law and practice (for example criminal law, intellectual property law, disability law, and poverty law), or particular social problems (for example gender-based violence, investor protection, and the wrongful conviction of the innocent).
Each program has multiple learning objectives, and each provides opportunities to meet those objectives through a combination of theory, practice, and reflection. Many of the programs seek to foster a complex understanding of law, its impact, and its dual and complicated role as both a source for, and impediment to, justice. Again, while varied, many programs offer a deep integration of theory and practice in laying the foundations for a range of skills, including interviewing, negotiating, mediating, and community organizing for social change. In their approach to skill development, Osgoode’s clinical and intensive programs push back against the simplistic dichotomization of “theory” and “practice,” bringing rich theoretical sources to bear upon “skills” and “practice.”
Other Things You Should Know
Joint Programs and Eligibility
Students who plan to apply, or have applied, to a joint-degree program (JD/MBA; JD/MA (Philosophy); JD/MES) are presumptively ineligible for Osgoode’s clinical and intensive programs. The Assistant Dean, Students or Associate Dean (Students) may grant an exemption to this policy with the consent of the Academic Director(s) of the clinical or intensive program concerned and only if the application for an exemption is received prior to the student accepting the offer with the clinical or intensive program. No applications for exemption will be entertained once the student has accepted the position.
Law Journal for Credit and Eligibility
Students who enrol in one of Osgoode’s clinical or intensive programs are eligible to apply for Senior Editor, for-credit positions with Osgoode law journals. However, the director of the clinical or intensive program concerned and the editor-in-chief of the journal must both agree, in each instance, that this is feasible, and must develop a plan to ensure that the obligations and responsibilities of both the program and the journal are met.
Withdrawing from a Clinical or Intensive Program
After you have accepted an offer you will only be permitted to withdraw with the consent of the Assistant Dean, Students or the Associate Dean (Students) based on reasons which are deemed to have substantial merit, upon consultation with the Program Director or the Director of Clinical Education as appropriate. Withdrawal after the commencement of an orientation period or a program itself will be permitted by the Associate Dean (Students) only for the most compelling of circumstances. In either case, an applicant’s withdrawal from a program after having accepted may be taken into consideration in respect of any future applications to any clinical or intensive program.
Programs with insufficient enrollment are subject to cancellation. In those circumstances, before cancellation occurs, best efforts will be made to increase enrollment where possible. Further, best efforts will also be made to assist students enrolled in a cancelled program to find an alternative clinical or intensive program in which to enrol (where possible and subject to available space and program approval). Any program cancellation will also be made, as far as possible, in advance of the regular course selection process.
Maximum Number of Programs
Absent truly exceptional circumstances, students are permitted to take only one intensive program in the upper years of their JD program (that is, only one 15-credit program). However, students are permitted to take an intensive program and another clinical program that has fewer than 15 credits (so, for example, a student could take the Intensive Program in Poverty Law at Parkdale Community Legal Services (15 credits), and the Feminist Advocacy Clinical Program (9 credits)). Similarly, students are permitted to combine clinical programs of fewer credits (for example, the Advanced Business Law Workshop (5 credits) and the Osgoode Business Clinic (7 Credits)).
Accommodations in Clinical and Intensive Programs
Clinical settings often depart markedly from the classroom environment and as such, the necessary accommodations may differ from those required for classroom learning. Our goal is to facilitate a collaborative effort to pre-plan accommodation needs and strategies with attention to the unique context of the specific placement. Once accepted into a program, a formal application for accommodation can be made to the Director of the program in which you are enrolled, Nancy Sperling in the Office of Student Services, or an accessibility counsellor at York’s Student Accessibility Services (SAS). We also encourage you to be in touch during the application and selection stage if you would like more information about the expectations and requirements of particular programs, the work processes of a placement partner, or other information that would be helpful to your decision-making. Please also be in touch with the relevant Program Director, or with Nancy Sperling in the Student Services Office, if you anticipate the need for accommodations in the selection process. Please review our detailed Accommodation Information Sheet.