Law school flourishes despite complications

Samantha Garvey, Roving Editor Ω

After more than 30 years of the same law school options in Canada, TRU changed the landscape, opening a new law school in Sept. 2011. After accepting 75 students into its inaugural class, how has the law school established itself over the first year of its existence?

“Our main theme, we are attempting to blend learning the law with learning the professional skills to put that knowledge to use,” said dean Chris Axworthy. “[That is] a unique combo and will make our students more marketable in the future.

“What we hear from lawyers across the province [is that] people are impressed with what we’ve achieved.” But that was no easy feat. “Trying to establish law school at TRU has been an enormous challenge,” Axworthy said. Everything from establishing salaries for new staff to admission for students through the registrar came with difficulty. “At every turn, we’ve had challenges at this university … We have had significant success outside the university. All of our challenges have been within the university.”

“Part of the challenge is recognizing that law has different needs than an undergraduate program,” said Robert Fischer, president of the TRU Society of Law Students (SLSTRU).“The growing pains of being new, setting up services and getting jobs and the career office, that was sort of a challenge.”

But the experience of the students may not reflect the obstacles of the first year. Fischer said the student body has established a camaraderie not found at other schools.

“It was a very good communal environment,” he said. “Everyone was pretty tight-knit and very helpful. I found it very collegial and talking to other students at other universities, at other law schools, that has been a real positive to TRU.”

Fischer added that the Kamloops law community has been excellent to the school, providing opportunities to network with those already in the field.

TRU’s youth as a law school hasn’t kept the students away. Last year the school anticipated 65 students but sent out 75 acceptance letters to create a buffer for rejections. However, every student responded with a ‘yes’ in reply and 75 students joined the Kamloops campus.

Kyle Nagy was one of those students. He was accepted to TRU as well as the University of Ottawa. He said the fact the TRU is new did factor into his decision, but he chose it because he wants to live and work in B.C., so it would be better to go to school and network here too.

“For students who are sure about themselves, it doesn’t matter the pedigree that’s behind them because they’re going to get a quality education, great opportunity to network and relationship with lawyers in the community,” Fischer said.

This year, the law school received 600 applications and is ready to welcome 80 more students under the banner of first-year law.

Eventually the third and fourth floors of Old Main with be the home to law students, but the construction on that building is not scheduled to be complete until Sept. 2013. In the meantime, the Brown Family House of Learning serves as a temporary home.

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