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By Dave Yasvinski
Western's law school received its grades this year from the Canadian Lawyer magazine's annual survey, rating a solid B, up from a C minus three years ago.
The survey relied strictly on responses from over 1,000 law school graduates country-wide to determine grades. The six categories it evaluated were the quality of teaching faculty, overall percentage of caring and competent faculty members, quality of fellow students admitted, standards of testing, adequacy of facilities and technology and the relevance of the education to the actual practice of law.
Michael Fitz-James, editor of the Canadian Lawyer, said the survey results reflect what graduate students think of their law schools. "It's not me doing the rankings, it's not the magazine doing the rankings it's former students. I really have no control over it."
The survey has been conducted consistently over the last few years because it is something the public wants to see, Fitz-James added. "We do it because we are a commercial magazine and it interests our readers."
Eileen Gillese, dean of the faculty of law at Western, said changes made at the law school over the past few years are responsible for the school's grade. "It's great. The school is definitely on an upward trend. We've radically changed the school over the last two and a half years."
She said changes made to the faculty have included classroom and library renovations, curriculum adjustments and changes in professors and staff.
Western's law school has become much more focussed on the needs of a legal education, said Rob Martin, a Western law professor. "I am very pleased with the fact that the Western law school has been going up steadily in the rankings. It indicates students are happy with what is going on. [The school] is not as politicized as it was five or six years ago."
Students are fed up with getting used by professors as recruits for ideological movements, he added. "I don't think the purpose of a university should ever be indoctrination. We should be seriously trying to raise a series of intellectual issues that affect lawyers."
Nathalie Mandel, president of Western's pre-law society, said it was good to hear the law school has made changes to improve over the last couple of years. "Theory is important, but with the amount of people graduating it is important to send them into the real world with actual hands-on experience theory will only get you so far."