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TORONTO � In an effort to have their degrees better understood and more marketable internationally, a growing number of Canadian law schools are switching from the traditional LL.B. designation to the American-style J.D. Queen’s University Faculty of Law, in Kingston, Ontario, will offer the J.D. to students starting this fall, while the University of British Columbia Faculty of Law in Vancouver is only awaiting the provincial government’s stamp of approval. The University of Western Ontario Faculty of Law, in London, Ontario, will vote on the issue on March 31, and York University’s Osgoode Hall Law School in Toronto is also in the midst of the approval process. The University of Toronto Faculty of Law was the first in Canada to make the change in 2001. “Our students have been keen to go forward [with the degree change] because they think it will help them in terms of securing international opportunities,” said William Flanagan, dean of Queen’s University Faculty of Law. “It’s been our experience that when our graduates go abroad, they often encounter difficulty explaining what an LL.B. is � that it is in fact the same as the U.S. J.D. in terms of second-entry legal education,” Flanagan said. In Canada, as in the United States, a law degree is a second-entry or graduate degree that typically takes three years to earn. There also, law students typically already have undergraduate degrees. The movement for the American juris doctor has also taken off in other Commonwealth countries, such as Australia. Melbourne Law School began offering the J.D. in 2000 along with the LL.B. and is now on route to only offering the J.D. In Asia, the Chinese University of Hong Kong School of Law and the City University of Hong Kong School of Law are among those that now offer the J.D. An edge in the U.S.? Switching to J.D. in Canada only changes the degree’s name, but does not lead to American Bar Association accreditation or a new curriculum. After going through several steps in the approval process, the law schools typically give their alumni an option to switch to the new degree. As far as U.S. firms are concerned, the Canadians may benefit from the degree change, said Danice Kowalczyk, a managing director in the New York office of BCG Attorney Search. “Most large U.S. law firms look very favorably on graduates from Canadian law schools,” she said. “Having said that, there is some confusion with the Canadian legal system and the degree designation.” But Ann Israel, president of Ann Israel & Associates, a New York-based legal recruiter and consultant, said she doesn’t think switching to the J.D. will make a difference for Canadian lawyers when it comes to employment at major U.S. firms. “They are aware of what the honors are at the top Canadian law schools and they are aware of how the system works,” she said. “It’s a law degree and if the firms are interested in a Canadian attorney because the work is transferrable, then it doesn’t matter what they call the degree. You can call it whatever you want and it’s not something that’s changing the lawyer.” Canadian law school deans said that the while the LL.B. � which stands for legum baccalaureus or bachelor of laws in Latin � is a second-entry degree just like the J.D. � juris doctor or doctor of laws � not all recruiters or law firms outside of Canada understand that. As a result, some think it’s an undergraduate degree or are confused about what it is, they said. Queen’s University Faculty of Law’s Senate unanimously approved a motion to switch to the J.D. in February. Out of the current class of 460 students, only seven have said they will stick with the LL.B. designation, Flanagan said. But Flanagan acknowledged that not everyone is pleased. “I think it’s fair to say that some alumni have looked at this as an American designation and that’s one that shouldn’t necessarily be adopted in Canada,” he said. “But this of course is a designation that’s being adopted more around the world.” Darren Russell, who will graduate from Queen’s this spring, said he would not switch to the J.D. designation. Russell said he plans to stay in Canada, but also doesn’t see how changing the degree name could be perceived better internationally. “There is no real change in the substance of the program, it’s the same program and it’s just a change in the name,” he said. “And I’m a little skeptical about the argument that it may improve job prospects internationally � it’s all based on anecdotal evidence and there is no sound proof.” Furthermore, Russell said the change could actually create more confusion because some Canadian law schools have partnerships with American law schools, which leads to a U.S. J.D. Having a Canadian J.D. that is not accredited in the United States could be even more confusing, he said. Turning the tide At the University of Western Ontario Faculty of Law, students were polled in 2001 about whether they wanted the J.D. designation and the response was overwhelmingly negative, said Dean Ian Holloway. Another one taken again last fall showed an overwhelming number of students in favor of the change, he said. “I’m not sure that I can say personally I favor the change, but when University of Melbourne � which I consider to be one of the best in the Commonwealth world � changed, it gave me pause to rethink my position,” Holloway said. So far, about 102 alumni have indicated they would support the change, while 55 are opposed to it, Holloway said. Richard J. Morelli, president of the University of Western Ontario Law Alumni Association, said he has not decided whether he would change his degree to J.D. if the school’s proposal is finalized. “It’s a good question because I’m of two minds,” said Morelli, a partner in the Kitchener, Ontario, office of Borden Ladner Gervais, a Canadian law firm with more than 700 lawyers. “One is that I’ve earned my degree and it is what it is and really there is no sense in changing it. On the other hand, I’m a believer that as times change you should change with the times.” On the other side of Canada, the University of British Columbia Faculty of Law also approved the change in February. Response has been positive from students and alumni, said Claire Young, the law school’s senior associate dean. “Some students have said, ‘I’m working in the U.S. and everyone here has a J.D. and they did the same thing,’ ” she said. Even outside the United States, having a degree that is understood globally opens more doors in today’s globalized legal world, said Patrick Monahan, dean of Osgoode Law School. “There is a feeling that increasingly, as our students market themselves internationally, the J.D. designation will give them better opportunity to market themselves and that it is a more accurate reflection of what their actual degree is,” Monahan said. About 75% of the students who voted on the proposal were in favor of it, Monahan said. About 70% of the 870 students voted, he said. Lynnsey McCall, a London-based partner with the legal recruiter Major, Lindsey & Africa, said she understood the desire to switch to the J.D., but did not think it would necessarily help with employment in Europe. “I don’t see it as an added benefit because firms will still look at the length of time and practical experience � they want parity between Canadian lawyers and English lawyers and they will be evaluated in terms of their experience rather than the name of the degree they have,” said McCall, associate practice group leader for Europe.

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