BHRM degree: Setting the foundation for a career in law

The School of Human Resource Management at York University has proven to be a critical starting point for many of its current students and graduates interested in pursuing a career in law. A bachelor’s degree in human resource management (BHRM) gives students a deep understanding of how people and organizations work, in addition to being exposed to a variety of complementary practices such as the study of industrial and labour relations, employment and labour law, and labour policy. These courses help imbue students with a wide array of transferable skills such as lessons in negotiations and managing successfully in complex, high-stakes workplaces, all of which are an asset to succeed in the legal profession.

Akiva Stern
Akiva Stern

BHRM graduate Akiva Stern, who is currently a litigation associate at a leading national law firm, recently published a book titled Moot: How to Win in Fake Court, and Other Valuable Lessons in Legal Rhetoric. He credits his time at the BHRM for setting the course to pursue his career in law.

“This degree was responsible for setting me on the path to law,” said Stern.

“Employment law sparked my interest in law as a career, while labour relations fed my love for the art of negotiations in business,” Stern reflected. “Whether it pertained to collective bargaining agreements or managing human capital, there was always a human quality to the HR business world. Much like human resources, law was the next stage of understanding those key social systems and how we can help people better navigate them.”

Stern highlighted mooting as the crown jewel of extra-curricular activities at law. Mooting – or the oral presentation of a legal idea or issue against an opposing counsel – is one of the very few opportunities for experiential learning during law school.

In his book, he codifies “mooting culture” so that future students can benefit from his experience, having successfully competed and placed in various competitive moots, along with participating, coaching, running and assisting in the creation of countless others. He achieved this by recording the lessons learned, cataloguing issues that often come up with mooters, and by conducting qualitative interviews of competitive mooters to extract and distill their experiences for the next generation. Stern further emphasized that today’s law students, who are often idealistically drawn to law school, sometimes lack a foundational background in basic tools of rhetoric and argumentation. His main aim was to bring those basic skills to the forefront so students could become better advocates.

Another student from Osgoode Hall Law School, Nika Arbabzadeh Broujeni, remarked: “When I started my undergraduate degree in human resource management, I had no intention of going to law school.” However, Broujeni’s mind was changed after studying Canadian law in a class on employment where she learned about the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. Broujeni added, “I had recently immigrated to Canada from Iran, it sparked my curiosity and led me to engage in my own comparative research on Iranian and Canadian constitutional law. My professor played a crucial role in facilitating an environment in which I could find my passion.”

The multidisciplinary approach of the BHRM provides a great opportunity for students to understand and learn integral soft skills such as conducting themselves in business settings, realizing what employers want in a candidate, and how to craft their value proposition for businesses. It intersects with the field of law on a substantive level because law is no longer siloed to degrees and case analysis. Rather, the practice of law has evolved into the primary objective of solving client problems, no matter how one arrives there.

According to David J. Doorey, associate professor, labour and employment law, the School of HRM offers a variety courses that introduce students to legal reasoning and the laws that govern work in Canada, including employment law, negotiations, industrial relations, occupational health and safety, equity and diversity, and a new advanced seminar called “Advanced Law of Work.”

“We’ve been fortunate to have quite a number of BHRM grads go on to law school and have successful legal careers. I think the multi-disciplinary nature of the program encourages the sort of critical thinking skills that are conducive to doing well in law school.” Doorey added, “My experience is that students become inspired to pursue legal careers after taking these courses.”