"We're bringing Quebec's legal system into the realm of student life."
More and more, Experiential Learning (EL) is becoming a guiding light in transforming Concordia University into a truly Next-Gen institution. As students prepare to enter the workforce, gaining hands-on experience is often on the top of their mind. In providing students the opportunity to be mentored by a lawyer or a Judge of the Court of Quebec, the Jurist-in-Residence Program is succeeding in giving students what they seek.
Eight attorneys and six judges participate in the program. Being the first Jurist-in-Residence appointed to an English university in Quebec, Judge Minc has quickly gone to work developing programs and events for students at Concordia. The Law Meets Engineering lecture series, launched in September 2019, is widely popular, as is the Mentorship Program which is presently in its 3rd year. The Mentorship Program was developed with the goal to give the student population “a better understanding of the legal system and its essential importance in a free and democratic society” says Minc. Pairing students with practicing lawyers in a variety of legal fields has proven both popular and fruitful. Through the program, students are developing skills, expanding their professional network, and engaging in career exploration in a way that otherwise is not possible. Minc has seen the outcome of the mentorship program over the years evolve; and has seen students “abandoning their pre-conceived notions of the justice system and how they previously regarded judges” and reiterates that “without this program, students would not have the opportunity to be able to be so close to the workings of the justice system.”
Mentorship is Crucial to Student Success
Me Mark Paci, a criminal and civil lawyer for over 40 years, has been a mentor in the Program since its inception in 2018. Me Paci organizes onsite court visits and proceedings for his mentees. On one occasion, students were introduced to the parties and lawyers involved in a case over which Me Paci was presiding, allowing them to see an entire courtroom experience from multiple perspectives.
“I was able to advise the students as to their career paths and the steps to take if they desired to pursue a career in law,” says Paci, adding that he helped some students with their law school applications and even provided some students with letters of recommendation. Me Paci describes one particular student whom he encouraged to apply for law school despite the student’s self-doubt: “after some discussion and much encouragement, I convinced her into applying to multiple laws schools, so as to increase her chances of being accepted into one of them. To her disbelief, she was accepted by multiple law schools.” Paci is still in touch with this student and sees her as having “grown in stature as a student and as a person.”
Antonietta Calitri, another mentor in the program since its inception, echoes the experiential student learning happening within the mentor/mentee relationship. “I think the students have learned to have confidence in themselves, to always be open to opportunities and possibilities, learn and explore different things, not to be afraid to ask questions and seek help when in need. I think they also learned the importance of networking, getting involved in professional legal associations, learning from one another, and hopefully, the importance of having a mentor throughout their academic and professional life.”
Nicholas Bertram an intellectual property lawyer and Matthew Shadley, a criminal lawyer, both mentors in the program have concluded that this program is not only a great opportunity afforded to the students but the Mentors have been fortunate enough to come to know a fascinating group of individuals.
Students Value Mentorship
Bianca Morello, a student participant in the mentorship program, reported an exciting and gratifying experience with her mentor Mark Paci. Not only did Morello gain from Me Paci’s stories and wisdom, but also “visited the Palais de Justice criminal courts, the Quebec Court of Appeal and the Montreal Municipal Court.” These are experiences that are valuable to any student at Concordia, not only students in the Law and Society Minor offered in the Faculty of Arts and Science. For Marissa Ramnanan, the program allowed her to “experience the reality of the Montreal court system,” making for “a crucial addition to [her] education in the Law and Society program.” Ramnanan, who was also mentored by Me Paci, recognizes that, thanks to the mentorship program, they are “getting a rich, rare education of law that most university students don’t have access to outside of Law school.”
Ramnanan points to what used to be a lack of opportunities at Concordia for experiential learning in the law sector. With the Jurist-in-Residence program attracting undergraduate and graduate students alike, those interested in law have the chance to explore different sectors, speak to professionals, and expand their network. The mentorship experience “provided invaluable advice and made a huge effort to help build my connections with other legal professionals in Montreal,” says Colin Long, a JMSB student participant in the program.
Get Involved and Participate
“I would recommend the program to any student interested in a future career in law or just willing to learn more about the Canadian legal system” says Emily Zunti, a student who was mentored by Antonietta Calitri. Me Paci hopes that “the time spent with me and members of my firm has given [students] a better insight into a profession which is one of the cornerstones of our free and democratic society.”