Tuesday, February 21, 2006

Success Stories: Trailer park to law school dean: The journey of Mayo Moran

If you are looking for some inspiration today, consider reading this article, written in the globe and mail about the University of Toronto law school's new dean, Mayo Moran. I was grateful to read that she is bucking the stodgy trends set by her predecessors and by the Bay-street firms. I hope that she can achieve some of her lofty goals to set a higher standard for our profession. She says Canadian law schools must rise to the challenge of producing a new generation of lawyers who respect "the significant ideals of our profession" and are fortified by "formidable intellectual strength and rigour." I especially liked her stated mortification of the classrooms that, in her words, have morphed into clattering "typing pools" with students clicking away on laptops.

I would also like to see the bar set higher for law school education. I would like a return to the more active, engaging style of lecture that one might have seen in The Paper Chase, a movie about the first year of law school at Harvard. All too many students get caught up in the details and forget to see the law through the forest. One of my favourite law school classes was one where the professor provided the class notes on-line the day before each class. This allowed you to download the notes, supplement them with your preparation reading, and then to truly listen and engage yourself each class. It was so much nicer to just plug in a few comments each class to further supplement your notes. Students engaged in dialogue more often, we covered far more material in a shorter period of time compared to other law school classes, and I genuinely enjoyed the class because of all of these things. Typing notes like crazy does not help you to learn legal concepts. Engaging in serious, and often difficult dialogue creates better students and better lawyers.

It was also refreshing to read about a legal education leader who has high ideals, who is not afraid to put up a fight for what she believes in.

If you know more about Dean Moran, feel free to leave a comment. Or, if you have a comment about a law professor or dean from your law school, I am sure that the rest of us would like to hear about it.

If you want to see other's ratings and comments about law professors at your law school, or a prospective law school, visit http://www.ratemyprofessors.com/SelectSchool.jsp. It is pretty amusing to see how various professors have been rated. I was surprised at how accurate the ratings were for some of my former law professors.

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