York University’s Osgoode Hall Law School is embarking on a bold three-year strategic plan that will not only chart its academic direction, but also help to define the law school’s values at a time of rapid and significant change in legal education and the legal profession.
Access Osgoode Strategic Plan 2017-2020 builds on York’s 2015-2020 University Academic Plan and renews the law school’s commitment to five key areas of focus:
- Accessibility – seen through many lenses including student financial support, knowledge mobilization, and diversity and inclusion.
- Community Engagement – contributing to and strengthening the communities in which we live and work.
- Experiential Education – the exploration of law in action and reflective learning.
- Reconciliation with Indigenous Peoples – in all of its forms ranging from curriculum development to research strategies and community life.
- Research Intensification – pushing the bounds of legal knowledge and shaping the public debate.
The Access Osgoode Plan, which was unanimously approved in principle by Osgoode’s Faculty Council on Jan. 9, is the culmination of a year-long planning process that involved a number of consultation sessions with students, staff, faculty and alumni.
The themes of community engagement, experiential education and research intensification had figured prominently in the law school’s previous strategic plan (Experience Osgoode Strategic Plan 2011-2016), but there was a strong consensus within the Osgoode community that accessibility and reconciliation should also be cross-cutting goals over the next three years.
“The high cost of tuition is a serious barrier to access to legal education,” said Osgoode Dean Lorne Sossin. “In recent years, Osgoode has engaged in a range of ambitious accessibility initiatives to ensure that the pool of applicants remains diverse and inclusive. We intend to expand those initiatives and develop new approaches to increase not only financial accessibility to law school, but also accessibility in curriculum design and delivery, and accessibility for law students with disabilities.”
Osgoode continues to pursue accessibility to legal education in ways that are student-centred. By way of example, Sossin points to the law school’s recent decision to move ahead with a Flex-Time initiative to make the law school more accessible to students who face barriers that make participation in the full- time Juris Doctor program difficult or impossible, such as work or care responsibilities, financial restrictions or health concerns.
In addition, Osgoode is building on its past initiatives to strengthen and deepen ties with Indigenous communities and ensure that curricular reform and course development emphasizes thoughtful and deep engagement with Indigenous legal traditions and Indigenous justice issues.
“We are establishing a new Reconciliation Fund in response to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission Call to Action for Law Schools with a goal of deepening Indigenization at Osgoode,” said Sossin. This new Reconciliation Fund will provide resources for Osgoode’s “Anishinaabe Law Camp” as well as initiatives to build relationships with Indigenous communities, expand scholarship and partnerships in Indigenous law, and ensure all Osgoode students are exposed to the culture, law and history of Indigenous peoples.
Some goals set out in the plan already are coming to fruition. New experiential programs have been developed in Feminist Legal Advocacy and in Securities and Investor Protection, which will bring the Osgoode’s total number of experiential education programs to 18 (the most of any law school in Canada); a Journalist in Residence program has been launched (following on the heels of the successful Artist in Residence program that began in 2013); and new certificates for students in areas of Tech Transformation and Developing Client & Community Relationships have been added to Osgoode’s Learning & Leading Series.
In conjunction with the launch of the Access Osgoode Plan, the law school is unveiling a new communications initiative – “Make History with Us.” A reference to Osgoode’s rich history and reputation for leading new ideas in legal education, this initiative is designed to enhance awareness of the many strengths of Osgoode’s Juris Doctor, Graduate and Professional Development programs.
To read Sossin’s commentary on the Access Osgoode Plan, visit his blog.