Faculty of Law dean talks about rankings, strategic planning
With the recent release of Maclean’s magazine’s 2013 law school ranking, Senior Communications Officer Craig Leroux sat down with William Flanagan, Dean of the Faculty of Law, to talk about the rankings and the strategic planning process underway in the faculty.
Craig Leroux: Queen’s did very well in MacLean’s law school ranking this year. What’s driving our success?
William Flanagan: Over the years Queen’s Faculty of Law has moved up steadily in the Maclean’s ranking. We were third last year and we held that position this year, tied with McGill. A significant factor in the rankings is the number of times faculty members are cited in journals, and Queen’s is third in that category. That speaks to the high quality of our professors as legal scholars and leaders in their profession.
What isn’t captured in the rankings, but where Queen’s clearly excels, is in the quality of legal education we provide. One measure of this is the well-respected Law School Survey of Student Engagement. Queen’s gets spectacular results when it comes to the indicators of what makes a great law school. In fact, when asked whether they would choose Queen’s again, 96 per cent of our third year students said ‘yes’. That is significantly higher than the average at other Canadian law schools, which is 81 per cent.
CL: What are the benefits and drawbacks of being a smaller-sized law school?
WF: Until Lakehead University opened its law school this year with sixty students, we were the smallest in Ontario. Our size and tightly knit community are integral parts of our character and contribute to the student learning experience. The drawback is that fewer students ultimately means less revenue and therefore fewer resources.
We already do a great job, and we want the Faculty of Law to continue to be competitive among the very best in the country. To do that we need to find ways of increasing our revenue so we can invest more into our programs. That’s one of the main reasons we are currently renewing the faculty’s strategic plan.
CL: We’ve heard in the news recently that the faculty is considering increasing the size of its entering class. Is this one of the options under consideration?
WF: That’s right. As part of the renewal of our strategic plan, we are looking at a number of options to increase revenue, including the creation of graduate certificates and diplomas, and offering additional undergraduate classes to serve the other faculties at the university. We are also considering a modest increase in our enrolment.
Unlike most Ontario law schools, Queen’s class size hasn’t grown since the 1970s. One idea is to increase our incoming class by about 35 students. That would generate enough revenue to hire an additional six faculty members, building our course offerings and enhancing the learning experience for all students.
CL: Are you concerned about increasing the number of law students at a time when some graduates are having difficulty finding articling positions?
WF: Queen’s students do very well in obtaining articling positions. In fact, data from the Law Society of Upper Canada show that our graduates have the highest placement rate in Ontario. I think that we provide a great program for our students – one that is very well respected across the country – and that our students will continue to do well in obtaining placements.
CL: What are the next steps in the strategic planning process?
WF: The process of renewing our strategic plan involves a wide consultation with the Queen’s law community. We worked throughout the summer with faculty and staff and now that our students have returned they are also very engaged in the process. We will take this feedback and eventually bring forward a proposal to our Faculty Board, which includes representation from faculty, staff, students and alumni.