Nov. 25, 2020

Law prof creates course to adapt to post-pandemic reality

eLitigation course introduces students to practice in era of physical distancing
The scales of justice
Scales of Justice Tingey Injury Law Firm on Unsplash

The global pandemic has changed our legal world in ways no one could have imagined. Courthouses went from a beehive of litigation activities to a silent graveyard. Our civil litigation system, which historically relied on an in-person process to undertake almost every task from document filing to trials, suddenly moved to an online world built on technology.

The legal profession adopted technologies to address administration and litigation needs at an unprecedented pace, and it appears that the change is here to stay. For law schools entrusted with educating and training future lawyers, the most noticeable response to this change was a quick transition from in-person to online (or hybrid) methods of instruction.

However, it should go beyond that to include a reform of the existing curriculum to prepare law students for the legal profession in a post-COVID-19 world. For UCalgary Law’s Gideon Christian, a civil litigation professor with a background in legal technology, his response was to develop a new course designed to train future litigators with skills and competence to commence and conduct litigation electronically, and with minimal in-person contact.

“The eLitigation course seeks to introduce students to the practice of litigation in the era of physical distancing,” says Christian. “The intent is to develop the knowledge and practical skills necessary to initiate and conduct litigation using electronic technology, and to foster specialized competence in the commencement and conduct of civil proceedings virtually.”

Professor Gideon Christian

Professor Gideon Christian is teaching a new eLitigation course in the Faculty of Law.

Course covers digital filing, discovery and virtual hearings

The scope of the course will cover electronic filing and service of litigation documents (eFiling/eService), and by the end of the course, students will have some expertise with the use of the Federal Court eFiling system and many other provincial court eFiling services.

Students in the course will also get hands-on learning from industry professional in electronic discovery (eDiscovery) and best practices in document discovery in a digital environment, pre-trial questioning and examination of parties and witnesses using virtual technology, and the conduct of virtual hearings and trials.

“Canadian law school curricula were outdated even before the pandemic,” says Christian. “Technology is changing and will continue to change the practice of law especially in the area of litigation. The growth of information technology and its forced incursion into litigation practice by the pandemic has necessitated a changed approach to how we teach civil litigation at UCalgary.”