A Professional Career Perspective
Learning abroad may have once been seen as an optional extravagance. It now needs to be recognized as a national imperative. Providing students with international experience is a smart investment in their future success – and Canada’s
The Canadian government has come to the realization that the future prosperity of the country is dependent on developing an incoming generation of professionals with the skills and knowledge management capability to be active participants in the global economy and international political arena. “Global education generates the skills, understanding, outlooks and relationships that can help our country at a time of rapid change in the world and at home”.
Go Global Education Report Misses Mark on Legal Education
The Go Global Education for Canadians report is laudable in noting that “the Study Group’s conclusion is that Canada needs a more strategic and ambitious approach to global education” Unfortunately, the depth and scope of the report is limited in adopting an insular Canadian post-secondary institution approach that emphasizes generic abroad semesters and international institutional exchanges. To quote:
The report uses “global education” and “international education” to describe organized learning experiences for Canadian-based students that take place outside Canada and that are part of an academic program at a Canadian university, college or institute.
I’ve counselled and referred more than 900 Canadians to leading edge global law schools for professional LLB and LLM/MA degrees. In many instances, I’ve had to redress deficiencies and inaccuracies in the information provided to them about abroad professional legal education and career opportunities by domestic post-secondary institution professors and guidance counsellors. What you will now read is an informed professional perspective on how aspiring lawyers and legal services professionals can access international leading edge legal education and gain exposure to aspiring professionals in the global arena, both in the EU and Asia, that will facilitate building networks with those professionals.
The Rhodes Model-
Preferred International Education Route for Aspiring Professionals
The Rhodes Scholarship and Rhodes Scholars are world renowned. The program was established by mining magnate Cecil Rhodes to attract the best and brightest, primarily from within the British Commonwealth, to the UK. They would be exposed to leading edge international education at Oxford and network with peers from other countries. Canadian Rhodes Scholars would become conversant with cultures from all parts of the world, notably Africa and Asia, and engage in learning processes and informed dialogues with aspiring leaders in government, the professions and business in the international arena as well as attend global forums at the renowned Rhodes House adjacent to the campus. Chrystia Freeland, current Minister of Foreign Affairs, among other prominent Canadians, are testament to the value of the learning outcomes of the model.
Leading edge global UK law schools have adhered to the Rhodes architecture and operational framework. In a name brand UK law school, aspiring professionals encounter a cosmopolitan mix of law students from around the world, prominent among them cohorts of the best and brightest aspiring professionals from Asia, an area the report targets for international education exchanges and linkages. You’ll do more than see the terrain in a semester abroad. You’ll interact with aspiring professionals who will be determining the future direction of that terrain. In fact, the Singapore Institute of Legal Education (SILE), has designated four of Canada Law From Abroad partner law schools as primary providers for legal education. The University of Southampton is a preferred destination for aspiring Hong Kong legal professionals.
Then there’s the LLM/MA Law and “Combined LLM” graduate legal studies programs. The School of Oriental Asian Studies (SOAS), the historic British Commonwealth university for “Whitehall” public servants, is a global centre for professional education and networking on Asian and African legal and political issues. The Sultan of Brunei endowed the Brueni Gallery on the campus, a treasure trove of permanent and visiting exhibits and presentations from Middle East luminaries on any and all matter pertaining to the Middle East.
The Canadian Government has embarked on an ambitious infrastructure development program in establishing a leading edge Canadian Infrastructure Bank. The federal government and provinces are committed to funding “smart infrastructure” with public procurement that provides the foundation for the creation of innovative social enterprises. The University of Bangor has a non- law degree direct entry LLM Public Procurement Law & Strategy program that’s applied research focused. It’s affiliated with a global procurement week where more than a thousand public procurement professionals from around the world convene to share expertise and intelligence on procurement issues. Students get to observe and network with the best and brightest in the global public procurement profession. The LLM degree global procurement week linkage is a modern- day adaptation of the Rhodes model.
Accessibility and Affordability
The Federation of Canadian Law Societies (FLSC) criteria for an accredited law Canadian law degree are two years of post -secondary education plus three years of legal education. However, Canadian law schools have artfully and artificially ratcheted up entrance requirements to four years of baccalaureate education plus three years of legal education. A study done by Ontario law schools found that, with the deregulation of law school tuition, law students from families where parents had university education and middle and upper middle- class incomes were overrepresented in the law student population.
I created Canada Law From Abroad (CLFA) as a mission driven organization to provide Canadian students with the opportunity to participate in an affordable international professional education experience by enrolling in fully accredited top tier UK three-year law degree programs directly out of high school, or with two years of undergraduate education or in a two year “accelerated” law degree program with a baccalaureate degree. The overall cost of legal education is reduced with the abbreviated educational time lines. Moreover, when they attend UK law schools they are provided with an opportunity to network with a vibrant mix of aspiring professionals from the British Commonwealth and EU, contrary to the PLU cohorts that dominate the Canadian law school environment. Accreditation of UK law degrees to Canadian standards is now a routine process. The introduction of the Law Society of Upper Canada (LSUC) law practice program (LPP) has transformed articling into an equal opportunity professional qualification learning experience.
The LLM/MA Law & Combined LLM Degrees
UK is the Leader in International Education for New Age Professionals
The conventional practice of law has plateaued. A knowledge management information paradigm shift is taking place. Law is being integrated into a dynamic “21st Century Professional Services Market”. Disruptors in the form of a growing breed of savvy professional service providers are providing clients with professional services options that are now challenging the dominance of lawyers as the preferred first choice for legal services. “Law if necessary but not necessarily the law” is the career credential for LLM/MA Law professional services providers. The “Big Four” consultancies are dominant disruptors in the knowledge management spectrum. Their strategy, as elucidated by Deloitte Touche, is as follows: “From a professional perspective, it’s more interesting helping clients solve the whole problem than just the technical legal aspects”
Collaboration by specialists is the key to success in professional services. That’s the central theme and message reiterated by Heidi K. Gardner, Distinguished Fellow at Harvard Law School’s Center on the Legal Profession, in her recently published very reader friendly treatise.
Most savvy and ambitious professionals today understand that it’s in their economic interests to become truly expert at one topic. Ideally, that one topic is both arcane (in the sense of not being easily learned) and critically important (meaning there’s a market for this skill).
The UK LLM Degree has an internationally recognized status as a distinct stand-alone professional degree with admission requirements distinct from the UK LLB or U.S JD model. Unlike Canada, all non- law baccalaureate degree holders are eligible for admission to an increasing number of innovative “Combined LLM Degree programs” of study that are related to their baccalaureate degree; many with an international focus that will address professional services voids in Canada (Medical Law & Ethics, MA Health Law & Palliative Care). Virtually every non- law undergraduate degree has an association with some aspect of law and/or legal regulation. Non- law baccalaureate degree holders can leverage their undergraduate passion into a professional career credential by combining it with a graduate LLM/MA Law degree. Canadian and U.S. JD degree students can take advantage of an international professional education experience through innovative year abroad LLM/MA Law programs of study during their second and third year.
Taking Action: A Pan-Canadian Approach
Some moments call out for leaders to set national goals and do what it takes to reach them. This is one of those moments: global learning is a national imperative.
Canada Law From Abroad and The LLM Professional Career Launcher (www.professionalcareerlauncher.com) is doing what needs to be done to integrate professional legal education into global learning.