Osgoode Professional Development (OsgoodePD) has been recognized for its innovative execution in converting a historically in-person, skills-based, learn-by-doing program into an online format.
The annual Intensive Trial Advocacy Workshop (ITAW) earned the Award of Outstanding Achievement in the Technology category for the 2021 Association of Continuing Legal Education’s (ACLEA’s) Best Awards. ACLEA is the international association for continuing education devoted to improving the performance of continuing legal education (CLE) professionals around the world.
The award recognized innovation in teaching and learning applied to the OsgoodePD program during the pandemic, when the 41st annual ITAW was reimagined in a virtual format.
ITAW is a six-day learn-by-doing trial advocacy program that brings together a group of more than 100 instructors and guest speakers, all active members of the bench and bar and trained in teaching oral advocacy. When the in-person event was cancelled due to the pandemic, the OsgoodePD team embraced the opportunity to bring it to the many litigators who depend on the program in a virtual format.
Ensuring the design of the program kept ITAW’s core elements, the program transitioned to online in only a few months, requiring the team to leverage its resources in new and creative ways. OsgoodePD staff and faculty had to be trained in online learning and the use of technological platforms, and equipment had to be repurposed so that ITAW could be run remotely.
Offering the program with a blend of asynchronous elements gave participants the flexibility to learn at their own pace, in any space. The online format also increased accessibility to those outside of Toronto, and made this a viable program for sole practitioners and smaller firms.
ITAW participants gained invaluable experience in the practicalities of trial advocacy, and were able to practise their trial advocacy skills on digital platforms that have taken on increased importance during the pandemic. In this sense, the program prepared participants to be effective advocates in the new world of digital trial advocacy. Furthermore, participants received an electronic portfolio of their performances to allow them to further review and reflect on their skills development post-program.
“This was an excellent course that will certainly have an impact on my practice. I cannot recommend it enough,” said program participant Dianne Jozefacki, Hicks Morley Hamilton Stewart Storie LLP. “You receive invaluable feedback on performing direct and cross-examinations and opening and closing statements, which are key skills that all lawyers who want to be oral advocates must master. I know that I will be a better lawyer for taking this course.”
Learning from this, OsgoodePD has used this innovation to transition other interactive CLE programs online, optimizing the use of digital platforms like Zoom to deliver skills-based CLE in an effective and engaging way.
Due to the success of the online ITAW, the 2021 the program was considerably scaled up and sold out with an extensive wait-list.
“ITAW is a valuable course for new and senior calls alike,” said participant Samira Ahmed, justice for children and youth. “The faculty, lectures and on-your-feet learning will leave you with new confidence and strategies for successful trial advocacy.”
York University’s OsgoodePD offers a broad and flexible range of interdisciplinary graduate-level and continuing education legal programs to professionals with and without law degrees.