Hands-On Experience and Direct Interaction with Legal Problems
The University of Toronto Faculty of Law values experiential learning and provides myriad opportunities for students to roll up their sleeves and help people solve their legal problems. Experiential learning bridges the abstract learning of the classroom to the practical training of doing legal work. Well-designed learning opportunities provide practical learning experiences for students and legal expertise to the community. Coupling theoretical learning with logistical experience reinforces learning and increases the availability of legal services in the Toronto area. Many students crave concrete experience with clients struggling with actual legal problems in real time. Closely supervised by highly qualified lawyers, students engaged in experiential learning benefit from observation, interaction, and reflection while the entire community benefits from students’ energy and talent.
The Faculty is host to multiple clinics, which offer course credit in part time (3 credit), half time (6 credit), and intensive (12 credits) formats. Downtown Legal Services is the law school’s leading public interest clinic for low income clients. At DLS, students critically examine the many intersections of law and social inequality, while developing the professionalism and ethical literacy that is essential to practicing law. DLS houses five clinics in which students can experience five different areas of law:
- Criminal Law Clinic: students represent clients charged with summary conviction criminal offences.
- Family Law Clinic: students help clients resolve issues of custody, access, and support, through either negotiation or litigation.
- Refugee and Immigration Law Clinic: students help clients gain legal status, either by demonstrating that they will be at risk in their homelands, or that they are well established in Canada.
- Tenant Housing Clinic: students help tenants resolve matters arising from their tenancy, including evictions, maintenance problems, and infringements on tenants’ rights.
- University Affairs Clinic: students represent University students charged with academic offenses, such as plagiarism, unauthorized aid, and impersonation; and represent University students in their appeals from University decisions, such as requests for exam deferral or late withdrawal.
- Employment Law: students represent people who have lost their jobs or whose employers are not following the laws dealing with work-related issues like payment of wages, hours of work and discrimination.
The David Asper Centre for Constitutional Rights is devoted to advocacy, research, and education in the area of Canadian Constitutional rights. Students work on appellate level cases that invoke the Charter of Rights and Freedoms in innovative ways to promote social justice.
The International Human Rights Clinic enhances the legal protection of existing and emerging international rights obligations through advocacy, knowledge-exchange, and capacity-building initiatives. Students develop their professionalism and the tools of international human rights advocacy, including research and fact-finding, litigation in domestic and international forums, grass-roots mobilization, and media engagement.
The Aboriginal Legal Services is a community legal aid clinic that provides a wide variety of free legal assistance to low-income Indigenous people living in the City of Toronto.
In addition to our on-site clinics, the Faculty arranges externship places in legal service clinics throughout the community, for which student receive academic credit.
Aboriginal Legal Services is a community legal aid clinic that provides free legal services to low income Indigenous people living in Toronto. Students in ALS serve people in a variety of areas, including victims’ rights advocacy, Criminal Injury Compensation, and Gladue Programs.
Advocates for Injured Workers is dedicated to providing high quality legal services to injured workers. Students represent clients in their claims and appeals with the Workplace Safety and Insurance Board and the Workplace Safety and Insurance Appeals Tribunal.
Barbra Schlifer Commemorative Clinic is a feminist legal clinic with an anti-oppression and anti-violence mandate. Students will provide direct client service and engage in public legal education, law reform, and community development initiatives that address the root causes of violence against women in society.
Other Connections: Classroom Learning and Practice Skills
Some courses offer additional credit for students who participate in practical problem solving during and immediately after they perform their course work. Other courses are built around using simulated problems (frequently based on past litigation) and have students work through those problems as a safe, simulated trial run. Many faculty incorporate problem-based learning into their courses. A partial example of courses with practical components includes:
Aboriginal Peoples and Canadian Criminal Justice Practicum
Environmental Law Practicum
Advanced Advocacy, Problems and Techniques
Advanced Civil Procedure
Advanced Legal Research and Writing