TWU conference will explore Christian approach to law

A conference for pre-law and law students will take place August 28 - 29. Photo supplied by TWU.

A conference for pre-law and law students will take place August 28 – 29. Photo supplied by TWU.N

Note: This conference has been postponed to November 14.

A Pre-Law Student Conference will take place August 28 – 29 in downtown Vancouver and at Trinity Western University (TWU) – at the end of the week in which the BC Supreme Court is hearing TWU’s application for judicial review of the BC Law Society’s decision to reject the university’s plan to develop a law school. The conference is co-sponsored by TWU and the Christian Legal Fellowship (CLF).

The law society is declining in advance to accept graduates of the proposed TWU law school, based on the fact that the school requires students to sign a covenant in which they promise, among other things, not to engage in sexual activity outside of marriage between a man and a woman. TWU’s application is for a reversal of the law society’s stance. 

 

Earl Phillips, executive director of TWU's School of Law, wants to offer students the opportunity to better understand how Christian faith relates to the law.

Earl Phillips, executive director of TWU’s School of Law, wants to offer students the opportunity to better understand how Christian faith relates to the law.

Earl Phillips, executive director of the now-developing TWU School of Law, said the timing of the pre-law conference is no coincidence, because there is expected to be considerable interest in the legal and pre-law communities regarding the court case.

The conference agenda, however, is broader than the discussion that might come out of the Supreme Court hearing. The event is designed to help pre-law and law students to gain some sense of a Christian approach to the study and practice of law.  

Describing the conference agenda, Phillips said, “We will talk about being a Christian and a lawyer, as a foundation for true professionalism and a call to service.”

Briefly summarized, the agenda covers:

  • What to expect at law school
  • Challenges to faith at law school
  • Philosophy of law and theories of jurisprudence
  • Christianity and the law
  • Support for Christian law students

The Friday evening event is set for a yet-to-be-determined downtown Vancouver location. The all-day Saturday portion of the conference will take place at the Northwest Building on TWU’s Langley campus.

John Wade is a world renowned expert on mediation.

John Wade is a world renowned expert on mediation.

Noting that one of the likely points of discussion will be around mediation law, Phillips said that one of the conference’s keynoters will be John Wade, internationally known for his expertise in that particular discipline.

“He has 40 years as a law professor, leading [in the fields of] mediation and negotiation skills,” Phillips noted.

Wade’s biographical notes point out that:

Wade . . . is a nationally and internationally acclaimed expert in dispute resolution, legal education and family law. For the last 40 years he has taught at two Australian, three Canadian, one French and four US law schools. He has led over 250 courses in mediation and negotiation for law firms, government and industry in UK, Hong Kong, New Zealand, USA, Indonesia and Australia.

Since 1987, [he] has mediated hundreds of disputes in areas of family property, organizational, succession, insurance and child disputes. He has developed a specialty in family property conflicts. In 2011, John was named by the International Bar Association as one of the top nine commercial mediators in Australia.

In 2013, [he] moved to Vancouver with his family, and continues his mediation practice and teaching there.

Regarding the significance of mediation, Phillips noted: “All lawyers, Christian or otherwise resolve disputes without going to court . . . understanding that litigation [may not be] the way to go.”

Speaking personally, he added: “As a labour lawyer, knowing that we have to live and work together, is like mother’s milk to me.” (Labour law was a large part of Phillips’ practice as a former Vancouver managing partner at McCarthy Tétrault LLP before taking up the TWU position.)

Janet Epp Buckingham is an expert on the history of law and religious freedom in Canada.

Janet Epp Buckingham is an expert on the history of law and religious freedom in Canada.

Other speakers include Janet Epp Buckingham and her husband, Don Buckingham. Epp Buckingham is a director of the Laurentian Leadership Centre, TWU’s Ottawa presence, which offers one semester courses and internships for third year students. She also wrote Fighting Over God: A Legal and Political History of Religious Freedom in Canada, published last year by McGill-Queen’s University Press.

Don Buckingham, for his part, is chair and CEO of the Canadian Agricultural Advisory Tribunal. Both hold doctorates in law. (The couple met years ago, while both were clerking at the Supreme Court of Canada.)

Other panelists will include law students or recent graduates, some of whom did their undergrad work at TWU. Current law student Dan Buckingham, recent grad Jesse Legaree and practicing lawyer couple Carmelle and Michael Dielemann will be on hand to share their experiences.

The university’s president, Robert Kuhn, also a well-known lawyer (he is still a partner with Kuhn LLP), will attend the opening night to meet students.

Also part of Friday and/or Saturday sessions will be Barry Bussey, legal counsel for the Canadian Council of Christian Charities; André Schutten, who holds a similar position at the Association for Reformed Political Action; and Derek Ross, executive director of the Christian Legal Fellowship.

Promotional material for the session notes that

TWU, CLF and all the presenters are donating time, services and space, and De Jager Volkenant & Company, Barristers and Solicitors, are sponsoring the Saturday lunch, to keep the cost for students to $20. Students who need it may be able to get assistance with the cost of travel and accommodation. 

Pre-law or law students can register here, or contact Phillips at Earl.Phillips@twu.ca

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