The Advisory: Volume 8, Issue 2, April 2010

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An Interview with the University of Alberta’s Dean of Law:

Recognizing that Access to Justice is a Global Issue

By Derek Sankey

Philip Bryden, Dean of the Faculty of Law, University of Alberta

When Philip Bryden, the Dean of the Faculty of Law at the University of Alberta since 2009, decided to explore the idea of developing collaborative relationships with law faculties at three universities in India, it was partially a recognition that access to justice is a global issue. It was primarily meant to facilitate international student exchanges and faculty research projects.

Access to justice is a theme that runs throughout Dean Bryden’s own career. The U of A Dean has combined his academic interests with an active involvement in public service with lead roles in the Canadian Institute for the Administration of Justice and the British Columbia Civil Liberties Association, among several others.

The Law Society asked Dean Bryden about his ambitions in forging relationships in India, as well as what role universities have to play in addressing challenges related to access to justice.

Q: What is the nature of your involvement in India and what do you hope to accomplish?

A: Right now we are exploring relationships with universities in India to complement the exchanges, visitorships, faculty research projects and joint programs we have with other universities around the world.

One reason we develop these relationships is to give our students opportunities to have international experiences in an increasingly international world. A second reason is that when international students come here, their presence enriches our discussions inside and outside the classroom. Finally, we hope that in some instances we will be able to develop deeper international collaborations, such as joint research projects or joint programs.

Q: Is there any link to access to justice issues related to those international relationships?

A: Not directly in terms of increasing the number of lawyers available in Canada. Nevertheless, we hope that international experiences help our Canadian graduates to better serve a multicultural clientele because of increased cultural awareness and perhaps by encouraging them to improve their foreign language skills.

Q: What can law schools do to better address the fact that, despite no real increase in the number of law school undergraduates since the early 1980s, the demand for legal services continues to increase?

A: Both the nature of demand for legal services and the ways those services are provided is continually changing. We encourage our students to think about the many different ways. It is possible to have a successful career in law, and to think about their career paths. Law schools probably need to do more to help our students understand the different business models lawyers use in their practices. We have begun talking with our business school to look at educational models to help our students develop a more sophisticated understanding of the business side of professional practice. We are also interested in doing research on how legal services can be provided in cost effective ways. The Canadian Forum on Civil Justice has been putting together a proposal on the cost of justice in collaboration with researchers at the University of Toronto and Osgoode Hall, and we hope this research will, among other things, help lawyers develop new ways of providing legal services that are affordable for clients of modest means and still enable lawyers to earn a reasonable income.

Q: What other role do international relationships play in a student’s legal education in Canada?

A: The population of Canada has grown and many Canadians who would do well in law school can’t get in, so they’ve started going overseas for legal education and come back. In other instances, foreign trained lawyers immigrate to Canada. In 2009, the National Committee on Accreditation issued 260 certifications of qualification to graduates of foreign law schools. That number was roughly the size of the combined graduating classes of the Law Faculties at the University of Alberta and the University of Calgary.

Derek Sankey is the editor of Business in Calgary magazine and a freelance writer for the National Post, Calgary Herald, Canwest News Services and a communications consultant for the University of Calgary.

Biography of Dean Philip Bryden

Prior to joining the University of Alberta as Dean of Law in 2009, Philip Bryden served as Dean of Law at the University of New Brunswick for five years. He was previously a member of the University of British Columbia Faculty of Law from 1985-2004.

He practised law in New York City with Donovan Leisure Newton and Irvine from 1979-81 and in Vancouver as Associate Counsel to Heenan Blaikie from 1993-2004.

He has held numerous positions with public service organizations, including the B.C. Civil Liberties Association, the Council of Canadian Administrative Tribunals and the Canadian Institute for the Administration of Justice.

Dean Bryden’s research and teaching interests lie primarily in the field of administrative law, but he has also done work in the areas of constitutional law, human rights law and labour law.

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