“Are Canadian Law Schools ‘Psychotic Kindergartens?'”

An emeritus University of Western Ontario law professor by the name of Robert Martin is nothing if not outspoken about his view “that Canadian law schools are far too focused on teaching niche legal issues and being politically correct.” [Brian Baxter, AmLaw Daily]


  • As a recent grad of another Canadian law school, let me simply state a general agreement with the sentiments of this professor. That he taught at a school ranked lower on the list of Canadian institutions does not, in itself, detract from his argument.

    It is absolutely true that ridiculous feel-goodism and speech codes has created an oppressive air – unsubtle indoctrination plays a major part in all mandatory curriculum. I could get into specifics but will refrain from doing so because I don’t want to “out” myself as it were. Suffice it to say, there is no shortage of incidents like what we saw with the recent Harvard law evolution and intelligence e-mail fiasco. They just don’t make the news because it’s not Harvard, even if the intimidation of students by faculty is even more objectionable than what happened in Cambridge.

    Anyway, I don’t want to beat the Speech Codes horse to death here – particularly as there is at least a more neutral argument to support what our dear professor is saying. And from what I’ve seen, it applies equally to American schools.

    Law schools see themselves not as lawyer training schools, but academic institutions. It’s run by a professors, not lawyers, and when you’re a hammer, every problem is a nail.

    The trends seem to be hiring academics with legal degrees to teach law courses. A professor is a specialist who wants to teach his/her seminar on the postmodern gender theory in family law, or Aboriginal approaches to corporate governance or whatever, but to do that they also have to consent to teaching other things. The result is that the “practical” stuff lawyers will need – business organisations, family law, contracts, torts, etc. – are often taught by people who know little about the subject and who teach “the basics” just so they can teach their special course. That is not good, at all, for the formation of legal professionals.

    Worse still, schools in Canada appear to be actively moving away from having practitioners teach courses despite the fact that practitioners do so more cheaply than a professor, and of an invariably superior quality. Like any other cartel, you have to cut competition from more competent people willing to do a better job for less.

  • The problem with law schools today is that what gets one ahead in a legal career is thinking of all kinds of great new things we can do with the law.

    The law isn’t build for great ideas about what it can do. The law is built for dogged application of existing principles. It has its limits, even if the academy doesn’t want to believe that. But professors who don’t practice law wouldn’t know that.