Sooner or later, it’s a choice almost every Osgoode student stares down. And with more clinical education programs than any other Canadian law school, there’s lots of choice to go around.
That range of selection was on full display Oct. 18 during the law school’s annual Clinical Education Fair. At tables spread throughout Gowlings Hall, students and directors representing 17 clinical programs were on hand to field questions from eager 1L students contemplating which offerings to apply for.
“It’s incredible – there are so many options,” said 1L student Jeremy Vyn from St. George, Ont. “For someone like me who has no idea what area of law to pursue, it’s so interesting to go from station to station and see the passion in people for what they’re doing.”
Vyn said he was leaning towards applying to the Intensive Program in Criminal Law or the Intellectual Property Law and Technology Intensive Program. “I have a lot to think through now,” he added after surveying the options.
Osgoode’s wide range of clinical programs weighed heavily in his decision to apply to the law school, he noted. “Seeing the vast amount that are here was a big factor,” he explained, “especially not knowing the direction I want to go in in my legal career.”
With an undergraduate degree in microbiology, Brandon Connor from Mumbai, India said he’s counting on Osgoode’s strength in experiential education to provide him with the kind of front-line legal experience he can show to future employers.
“I look at these clinics as an opportunity to fill that gap and give me the background I need,” he said.
In between fielding student questions at the Osgoode Business Clinic table, 2L student Carissa Wong said that working with clients has been one of the most fulfilling aspects of her involvement in the clinic.
“It’s very practical and a lot of our clients are people who can’t afford legal services, so it’s really rewarding,” she said.
Wong added that one of her current clients is a new immigrant to Canada who is starting a business. “She’s putting everything she has into it,” she said, “so it’s nice to play a part in that.”
In selecting students, a strong work ethic and a passion for the clinic’s specific area of law is more important than marks or legal experience, said Scarlet Smith, program director for the Community and Legal Aid Services Program (CLASP).
“Students sometimes think that you’re supposed to come with all the legal knowledge, but that’s not true – we train you,” she said. “Our focus is more on students showing a commitment to the kind of work we do through different avenues like lived experience or community work.”
Serving mostly low-income clients, CLASP students carry out work related to criminal law, immigration law and administrative law – and have even been involved in cases that have risen as high as the Supreme Court of Canada. Last year, said Smith, the clinic received well over 200 applications and ultimately hired 64 junior caseworkers and 70 interpreters.
The clinical programs, some of which are combined with course work, range in length from one semester to a full 12 months. In many cases, students are supervised or mentored by practicing lawyers.