Students interested in pursuing a career in the legal profession can now start their education at Selkirk College.
In a new program launching in the fall of 2017, Selkirk College will offer a two-year diploma in Law & Justice Studies. Students will acquire skills, training and support and be well suited upon graduation to continue pursuing their legal career, an in-demand profession.
“The average age of lawyers in Canada is over 50 years and we will soon be facing a shortage of lawyers across the country,” says school chair of University Arts & Sciences Tracy Punchard. “The situation is even more critical in rural areas.”
Selkirk College’s new Law & Justice Studies Program aims to address the critical need in rural communities like the West Kootenay.
“Research has shown that students who come from rural areas and begin their education in a rural setting are more likely to return to rural areas as professionals,” says Punchard.
Clair Berland is a lawyer who got her start at Selkirk College before the new program was formalized. She graduated in 2002 and went on to complete her undergraduate studies at the University of Victoria and complete law school at the University of Manitoba.
After working as a crown counsel with the Family Law Branch of Manitoba Justice, Berland is now back in the West Kootenay.
“Rural law practice is where it’s at,” she says. “People go to the big cities thinking there is so much going on. But because there is so much going on you have to focus at a very narrow level. Here you get to be a jack-of-all-trades, there’s a variety of work and the bar in the West Kootenay is amazing.”
The Law & Justice Studies program prepares students for a variety of legal careers including law, law enforcement, paralegal, criminology and social justice among others. Takaia Larsen, University Arts & Sciences coordinator, says the program aims to connect students to these rural legal professionals in their communities through partnerships and collaboration.
“Students will get first-hand knowledge and experience as they connect with local lawyers, judges and advocacy groups who are working every day to increase access to justice in our local region,” she says. “It’s important to Selkirk College to work toward addressing inequalities in the legal system.”
Larsen describes the program as learner focused and accountable to student needs while encouraging exploration of personal interests through undergraduate electives.
“Legal professionals come from a broad range of academic backgrounds. Flexibility and choice are important to this new program,” she says.
Starting a legal education at a small post-secondary institution provides a strong foundation for students. Berland says with the individual attention she received, she was able to succeed in her future studies.
“I worked far harder and had a steeper learning curve than I would have had I gone straight to university,” she says. “Selkirk College honed my skills — paper writing, research — all the critical building blocks you need to go on to navigate the university system.”
Law & Justice Studies at Selkirk College is now taking applications for September admission. Apply today at www.selkirk.ca/apply.