TRU Law school looking to partner with communities for practical experience

TRU Law seeks partnerships

As Thompson Rivers University’s inaugural law class celebrates the 10-year anniversary of its graduation, the school says it’s still working to fulfill its mission to produce lawyers for small communities.

TRU Law’s dean Daleen Millard said the school has always sought to be innovative throughout it’s 14-year history, including a goal of populating communities in the Interior with law students and lawyers.

“The idea is to see where we can partner with community in Williams Lake, Lillooet, Barriere, Salmon Arm, Merritt, to really also show students how to work in communities and to really provide better opportunities for legal representation,” Millard said.

"Looking at ways to also place students in those remote areas, to learn from community lawyers, I think that's definitely one of the things that we would like to achieve."

While the COVID-19 pandemic delayed the project, Millard said she felt it was still a "very important project."

“My specific objective will be to create those opportunities where students can actually work remotely, and even go into summer programs in some of our remote regions to see the opportunities."

With artificial intelligence on the rise, Millard said she’d also like to see more “soft skills” implemented into the school’s legal curriculum.

“Those fine tuning, wonderful things that we can do with clients, things that computers cannot do, that we need to drill down on,” she said.

An "entrepreneurial spirit"

Millard said many of the students in the young law school have an "entrepreneurial spirit." She said many of them create their own opportunities whether through networking, clubs or events.

“Because of our specific location, we need to really make things happen. We have to invite guests onto campus, and we love doing that, and we have to work harder at creating all those opportunities for students to connect with remarkable lawyers and they seize on every single opportunity,” she said.

Being a younger program, she said the law school isn’t bogged down in tradition, allowing the school to “move with the times” and implement new programming.

TRU Law graduate turned TRU law assistant teaching professor Murray Sholty agreed the school has an “entrepreneurial spirit” that is apparent in the faculty as well.

“TRU Law, they’re starting to introduce new courses that have that business and law and innovation type aspects to it, and that’s really exciting because I think that’s quite innovative for a law school within Canada,” Sholty said.

A new business law minor was approved by the TRU's board of governors in February.

Building the school from the ground up

Sholty, who is an alumni of TRU’s first law class, said TRU Law was the first law school to open in Canada in over three decades, and they were the guinea pigs.

In the class’ first year, they established the Society of Law Students, organized the inaugural TRU Law gold tournament, and various clubs, including the South Asian Law Students Association, Black Law Students Association, Indigenous Law Students Association and Animal Rights Club.

He said the school had to be build from the ground up — literally. Sholty said the law building wasn’t finished construction until their final year.

He said many of the school’s graduates have brought the “TRU spirit” with them.

“A good portion have started their own firms, or they're working as in house legal counsel, or they're starting their own business, or in some cases, even teaching at different universities,” he said.

TRU’s first law students arrived in 2011 and graduated in 2014. The class’ 10 year reunion was held over the weekend on campus.

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