TRU Law Students Shadow Judges

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During reading break in February, 2016, judges of the Provincial and Supreme Courts in Kamloops took part in the Judge Shadowing program organized for students enrolled in the Faculty of Law at Thompson Rivers University.

This year 22 students took part in the program in which groups of up to three students are assigned to spend a day with a judge. After an introductory discussion relating to law, litigation and the duties of judges, the students then watch the judge sitting in criminal, civil or family divisions. Following court, there is a further opportunity for discussion with the judge about the practice of law and the nature of judging, though not about the specific cases the students observe.

TRU Faculty of Law in the Old Main Building

This unique program, now in its second year, was inaugurated by the Honourable Mr. Justice Richard Blair (Retired), formerly of the BC Supreme Court in Kamloops. Justice Blair is the first Judge in Residence at the TRU Faculty of Law.

From the students’ perspective, the Judge Shadowing program is an opportunity to engage in discussion with a judge and gain insights that would not likely be available otherwise. For the judges, it is a refreshing opportunity to meet law students, future members of the legal profession. These law students tend to be an enthusiastic and impressive group who bring with them a remarkable variety of talents and backgrounds.

An article by Christine Anderson on the Thompson Rivers University Faculty of Law website reports students’ comments on the impact of their experience:

“Listening to the judge’s meticulous reasoning made me realize that everyday they perform a delicate dance, balancing community and legal perspectives,” said Anoosh Salahshoor, a second year law student from Toronto.

Greg von Euw, a second year law student from Vancouver, echoed this sentiment.“I witnessed how the judge empathized with both the plaintiffs and defendants—it made me see that a legal education is nothing without understanding the effects that judges’ decisions have on people’s lives,” said von Euw.

“It really opens the door for students. It creates a comfortable level of accessibility to the judges,” stated Blair, who has decades of experience as a former BC Supreme Court Judge and Provincial Court Judge.

Natalie Paul, a Kamloops native in her first year at TRU Law, would agree, saying she felt her experience was so much more than just a one-day shadowing program. “I received some really great advice from a judge that will help me not only throughout law school but throughout my legal career.”

There are other programs in the province in which Provincial Court judges volunteer to mentor and help educate law students. UBC’s Allard School of Law offers a for-credit judicial externship program where a number of law students each university term are placed in a Provincial Court judges’ office to assist the judges with legal research and learn from them. The Kamloops Provincial Court chambers are fortunate this term to have a UBC intern present in chambers, though the intern may assist judges around the province.