The Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law will offer a new program in fall 2013, preparing students to practice law in both the U.S. and Canada.
The three-year North American Law Degree program will cover American and Canadian law, allowing students to meet both countries’ certification requirements. It will also connect students to practical law experience through clinics and externships, which are shorter work experiences that still allow for the opportunity to shadow practicing lawyers.
Degree candidates can take the Arizona Bar Exam in their last semester. Doing so will allow them to focus exclusively on Canadian licensure once they graduate.
Law school dean Douglas Sylvester said it is uncommon for American lawyers to seek certification in other countries.
Although the degree is referred to as a North American one, it does not offer the opportunity for students to pursue certification to practice law in Mexico. However, Sylvester said, this could be a future possibility for the program.
Sylvester, a dual citizen of the U.S. and Canada, holds a bachelor’s degree from the University of Toronto, a juris doctor from the University of Buffalo and a master of laws from New York University. He said he would have been interested in a similar program if law schools offered it while he was a student.
Sylvester spent eight months working with faculty and Canadian contacts, including the Canada Arizona Business Council, to develop the program.
The college will consult the Federation of Law Societies of Canada, which develops standards of regulation for all lawyers in the country, to prepare students for Canadian licensure.
Sylvester said he believes the degree will give graduates a competitive edge in the job market, where the demand for dual-certified lawyers is rising.
Lawyers with knowledge of both American and Canadian law are becoming especially valuable in the business sector as more Canadian businesses expand to Arizona, Sylvester said.
Sylvester said the Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law is the only school in the position to offer a dual-certification program, though other universities offer four-year joint degree programs.
“I think others may try, but none will have the strength and expertise of our program,” he said.
Associate dean Judy Stinson said the law school faculty approved the new program unanimously. The increasingly international nature of law makes the program relevant, and it will address a shortage of lawyers and law schools in Canada.
“We hope it will add more international students,” Stinson said. “Students from Canada have different perspectives.”
Stinson added that the college hopes to attract students from countries other than the U.S. and Canada who have an interest in studying both countries’ law.
The CABC and other Canadian contacts are promoting the program internationally, while Sandra Day O’Connor representatives advertise it at U.S. law school recruitment events.
Stinson said the program’s main selling points are networking connections and opportunities for real experience.
“It seems like such a great opportunity,” Stinson said. “It’s something I wish I would have had in school.”
First-year law student Tarik Jalanbo said he would be interested in the program.
“It’s always nice to have multiple certifications,” Jalanbo said.
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