Official Launch of the Social Justice CaucusA Social Justice Caucus (SJC) has been established in the Common Law Section. The SJC is a joint initiative of faculty and students aimed at fostering collaboration to enhance social justice programs and activities in the Faculty, the legal profession and the broader community.
The Social Justice Caucus was officially launched during Careers Week in early March 2011. As part of Careers Week, the SJC organized a social justice speaker series panel entitled, “Big Firms and Social Justice Lawyering: Compatible? Contradictory? Complicated?” The panel consisted of Professors Vanessa Gruben, Mark Power, Penelope Simons and Jennifer Bond, who each reflected on their diverse experiences working in big firms and undertaking social justice work. The panel prompted a lively discussion and was very well received.
On Career Day itself, the SJC, in collaboration with the Office of Student Services and Career Development, organized a series of Social Justice Roundtables. The Roundtables brought two social justice legal practitioners together with a group of eight students for an extended and informal group discussion of career paths in social justice. The practitioners came from legal aid clinics, small- and medium-sized labour and human rights firms, non-governmental organizations, government agencies, and the Department of Justice. The discussions were very interesting, and afterwards both students and practitioners enthusiastically endorsed the ongoing inclusion of this event in Career Day. Mike Anderson, a Common Law student who attended the roundtables, said, “The Social Justice Roundtable experience provided an exclusive opportunity to interact closely with professionals that work outside of the world of the 'big firm.' The open and informal nature of the dialogue allowed all sitting at the table to ask questions they had always wished to pose, but were afraid to ask in the large lecture hall setting. A ‘must’ for anyone entertaining non-traditional practice options.”
Another student, Maria Cristina Harris, added, “The roundtables were a great opportunity to interact with practitioners I would otherwise have never met and to find out more about their distinct career paths.”
The Roundtables were followed by the Social Justice Career Fair, which saw representatives of more than forty firms, organizations and departments speaking with students at information booths. Over lunch, the Social Justice Caucus welcomed Catherine McKenna of Canadian Lawyers Abroad, who gave a fascinating presentation to about one hundred students on her winding career path and the lessons she has learned about finding opportunities to work on social justice.
These events have gotten the Social Justice Caucus off to a great start. We look forward to welcoming the participation and ideas of more students and faculty. If you are interested in becoming involved with the caucus, please contact joint co-ordinators of the Social Justice Option, Professors David Wiseman and Suzanne Bouclin, for more information and student contacts.