All first year students take one of their substantive law courses in a small group format. The small group course includes legal writing and legal research training, including training in computer assisted research. The small group format ensures that all students have the opportunity to get to know their colleagues well, to participate in meaningful classroom discussion and to enjoy continuous feedback from the professor. Small writing assignments and regular critique and assessment by the professor are part of the small group experience.
Students may select any of the small groups - CML 1203 (Criminal Law), CML1207 (Torts) or CML 1206 (Introduction to Public and Constitutional Law). A small group consists of 18-25 students. Conversely, a large group consists of 75-80 students.
Each small group is invited to meet with the Dean of the Common Law Section and a judge or senior lawyer for an informal exchange of impressions and experiences during the first year program.
- Criminal Law and Procedure
General principles of criminal law; burdens of proof; the physical and mental elements offences; select defences; basic elements of criminal procedure; the impact of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms on both substantive and procedural issues.
Liability for interference with interests in personality, property, reputation, economic and domestic relationships; intentional interference and privileged conduct; negligence; products liability; automobile accident compensation; liability of occupiers of land; strict liability; nuisance; misrepresentation; vicarious liability.
Introduction to concepts of property, ownership and possession, and the law relating to interests in real and personal property. Specific topics include: gifts; bailment; finders; doctrine of tenure; contingent interests; estates; future interest; natural resources; water rights; First Nations land law; co-ownership; easements; restrictive covenants; adverse possession; trusts and their impact on family property and commercial relationships. This course will also introduce the principles of equity.
Study and analysis of the basic principles of contract law. Topics covered include: conceptual and historical introduction; formation of contracts; operation of contracts; discharge of contracts; remedies. Introduction to agency.
- Introduction to Public Law and Constitutional Law
Introduction to the structure of the Canadian legal system, sources of law, the federal legislative process and statutory interpretation; the legal system's constitutional basis; the organization of courts and tribunals in Canada and appeal processes; and the role of the courts in overseeing legislative and administrative action. It also introduces students to basic principles of Canadian constitutional law: sources of the Canadian Constitution; constitutional supervision and the role of the courts; the advent of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms; the framework of the Charter; an introduction to the fundamental rights and freedoms protected by the Charter; and an introduction to constitutional remedies.
- Dispute Resolution and Professional Responsibility
This course teaches ethics, professional responsibility, legal problem-solving, transaction facilitation and dispute resolution through negotiation, mediation and arbitration.
- Principles of Legal Research
Introduction to the fundamentals of legal research including research techniques, bibliographical sources and the rules of legal citation.
- First-Year Thematic Course
Course designed to allow first-year student to broaden their knowledge of a specific topic in law. Topics will be set on an annual basis to respond to emerging trends.
Conflict Resolution Studies in the First Year Curriculum
The Common Law Section has adopted a three week intensive teaching term, known as the January term, during which each student is required to take one course only.
In first year, the intensive January course is Dispute Resolution and Professional Responsibility. This 3 unit course draws on substantive law taught in first year Contracts, Torts, Property, and Public Law and Legislation to introduce approaches to dispute resolution. Through exercises and simulations, students learn interviewing skills, the advantages and limitations of different dispute resolution processes, negotiation preparation and techniques for resolving disputes and building new agreements, client representation in a mediation and the basics of arbitration. Ethical practice issues are also explored.
Six hours of classes and exercises in the fall term introduce the foundation framework for dispute resolution: surfacing the interests that underlie a client’s position. Web based assignments and exercises and a teaching assistant chat line provide continued practice and learning between classes. The January term is then devoted to immersing students in dispute resolution studies. There are no other first year classes or assignments during this three week time period. This is a very exciting time at the law school, as we typically have over 50 practitioners from Ottawa and the surrounding areas as guest lecturers, demonstrators, and simulation coaches for the more advanced student simulations.
First Year Academic Support
The Education Equity team plans an academic support program to help first year students in their transition to law school. Tutorial sessions are conducted in all first year courses by second and third year students who have a strong academic record, but also the required skills and empathy to respond to students' academic needs. Students who require a more structured environment to develop the useful legal skills benefit most from tutorial sessions. Skills‑based sessions are also offered to provide practice in analytical thinking and exam writing. The Section also encourages and supports study groups in second and third year, and ensures the proper infrastructure for continued peer support and collegiality among students.