It is my great pleasure to be writing to you in my capacity as the new CALT president, elected at the June AGM in Winnipeg. Gemma Smyth, from the Windsor Law Faculty, was elected as the Vice-President. Derek McKee agreed to stay on as our Secretary-Treasurer for yet another year. Thanks to the efforts of past president Shauna Van Praagh, we have a large Executive this year representing almost every province. The Executive has four main committees: a website committee, membership committee, policy committee and annual conference committee. As usual, we also have graduate student representatives on the executive.
At the annual conference in June 2014 in Winnipeg, last year’s President, Shauna Van Praagh, organised a discussion on the future of CALT. Considering the number of law professors in Canada, CALT’s membership base and finances are sadly not what they could be, or used to be. Our limited membership constitutes a limit as to the activities of CALT. We therefore reflected on whether CALT was still relevant as an organisation for Canadian legal educators. The overwhelming response from the numerous participants at this discussion was that yes, CALT is still relevant today, perhaps more than ever considering the recent and ongoing developments in legal education. For that, however, we need to rebuild ourselves and most importantly, increase our membership base and visibility.
This is therefore a transition year on many levels : transition to a new website and social media presence, transition to a new way of managing memberships, and transition to a revitalised and more specific role in Canadian legal education debates. Our plans for the 2014-2015 academic year include preparing the new website so that we can manage our own membership, create and use a listserv, host a blog and provide teaching and learning resources. We will continue the usual CALT activities (prizes, annual conference, journal). The new and improved website should be up and running by the 2015-2016 academic year. We are also now on Facebook to increase our visibility and to be able to share legal education articles and resources with people who “like” the page. CALT is also on Twitter (@CALT_ACPD).
CALT’s role in legal education debates and developments
Through our policy committee, CALT is also working on defining the role that CALT can play in the current and future legal education debates. At a roundtable held in Winnipeg, it became clear that CALT must play an active role in these debates, but our membership base does not allow us to speak for Canadian law teachers. Our very limited resources also constrain the responses we can formulate. For the time being, we feel comfortable with the following mandate in relation to legal education debates and developments, which we have recently adopted as an executive and will likely propose as an amendment to our Constitution:
1. CALT will facilitate legal education debates through:
(a) space in the annual conference program to debate/discuss and, if appropriate, formulate a collective response to, an issue/issues of broad concern to the professoriate across Canada, and,
(b) a website and other online resources.
2. In some cases, the Executive of CALT will provide leadership in participating in discussions where the interests of legal education and pedagogy are implicated.
3. CALT will provide support, connections and/ or facilitation for research projects related to legal education in Canada.
4. CALT will support grassroots efforts to support and/or endorse members’ efforts to advocate policy positions.
5. CALT will share research projects and results regarding legal education.
CALT’s 2015 annual conference will be held in Ottawa, June 2-3, 2015, with Congress and jointly with CLSA (June 3-5). This year’s conference theme is « Law and Ideas: Research, Teach, Learn, Transform » and we encourage each of you to submit a paper, workshop, panel or roundtable proposal. There are many current issues in law and legal education to discuss, and the CALT conference and policy committees and board are working to create some forums for these discussions. The success of this conference ultimately depends on your participation!
Increasing membership and visibility
We understand that law teachers already join a number of organisations in their area of scholarship. Our membership committee this year is working on brainstorming ideas to attract more faculty members to CALT. Our dependence on the CBA for membership drives and registration has also been a huge constraint on our ability to make initial sign-ups and renewals as seamless as possible. This year we are going with an independent membership website for registration and fee payments, and hopefully next year, our own website will take care of all of that. We are also working on redefining our membership and fee structures to propose amendments to our Constitution at our AGM in June 2015. We would love to hear your thoughts on increasing our membership base or on our fee structure.
We can agree that there is a need for this organisation. There is a need to provide spaces and forums for discussing and exchanging ideas about legal education and about teaching and learning in law. There is a need for an organisation to formulate collective responses to legal education debates and developments. There is a need for a journal that fosters the scholarship of teaching and learning in law (CLEAR- the Canadian Legal Education Annual Review). To be able to achieve these ends, however, we need to do more than agree on them. Are you a member of CALT?
I look forward to exchanging ideas about what matters to legal educators in Canada with you throughout this year,
President, Canadian association of law teachers