Law centennial creates connections

With 100 years on the books, the College of Law is looking at its centennial anniversary as a chance to not only celebrate, but also shape the future of the college and the people connected to it.

By Colleen MacPherson

"Certainly 100 years is significant. As a college, we are at a historic juncture," said Sanjeev Anand, dean of the College of Law. "It's an opportunity for us to re-examine the nature of the legal practice and align college competencies in order to best serve the public."

The Federation of Law Societies of Canada, he continued, recently released a report that highlighted certain competencies needed in a law education. "For the first time in 40 years we have accreditation pressure. I think for us the requirements (for accreditation) are modest because we have strong experiential learning programs already, but it is a chance for us to look at how we can bolster teaching of hands-on lawyering skills, like interviews, trials, advocacy and negotiating."

Anand likens it to teaching a medical student without seeing patients. "Law students rarely have to deal with clients, how does that make sense? I personally want to see us become more responsive in engendering these skills but not at the expense of what we do well."

Anand sees the anniversary as a great time to get the discussion started. "Because we have to alter our curriculum to ensure our graduates are qualified, it is a perfect time to engage with alumni, academics, legal professionals and colleagues about wider reform. That is what the 100 year celebrations will enable; it will bring these people to the college and highlight that these reforms need support and additional resources."

It is also a chance for those connected to the college to get to know the new dean. "A lot of alumni don't know me—I've been away from the U of S for more than 10 years so I need to be introduced. They need to know that I am here to talk to them about the college and get their input."

This is something Anand is serious about. "This is not just optics. We are a tight community and I want to make sure we stay that way. We all have an interest in the success of the college."

In Anand's opinion—based on his educational and professional experience in law—the College of Law at the U of S has had a lot of success developing strong relationships with its graduates. "Maybe it is the size of the college, maybe the connections we have with the judiciary or professionals, maybe it is purely because it is Saskatchewan, but we have a sense of community. There is affection for and pride in the college. I am not sure what the exact reasons are for that, but we need to bottle that up."

That pride, he continued, helped the college to expand and renovate its facilities. "Our teaching spaces are second to none in Canada and made possible because of the generosity of our community."

That community will continue to play an important role in the college's success by helping to launch a variety of initiatives, he explained, like the Centennial Student endowment fund to expand student experiences, an Aboriginal lecture series and even a complement of research chairs or positions in areas from business law to environmental, energy and natural resource law.

"These are priorities in the college but so is the library which is in need of an update. The centennial is a chance to get involved. We might discover the consensus is that the school needs ‘X', and there is a lot of support to achieve ‘X', whatever that might be. I think reconnecting will create a lot of synergies and ideas."

Anand is clear that the centennial is still about celebrating all that has been accomplished over the past 100 years. "This is a time for reflection. We are one of the best schools in Canada; we punch above our weight and have achieved a lot. If schools in the East or West had our faculty, our students, our alumni, they would be bragging. But we are modest. Luckily, there is a dean who will do the touting of our achievements: we have opportunity, vision and good will to make this one of the best publicly funded schools in North America. That is a point of pride for all of us."