Dec. 5, 2023
New course lets law students explore interplay of law and politics
Law and politics have always been closely intertwined. Lawyers are critical to ensuring the political process supports good government, and lawyers regularly participate in public service as volunteers, paid professionals, and even elected officials.
A new course in the Faculty of Law — The Dynamics of Law Making: Lawyers, Politics and Government — allows students to explore the ethical and legal issues that arise in a lawyer’s performance of public service, no matter their role.
For course instructor Alison Redford, KC, Alberta’s 14th premier, who herself is a lawyer, it was her very first cabinet meeting that highlighted the interplay of law and politics.
“When I first went into government in 2008 as the minister of justice, I remember sitting in a cabinet meeting, and we were talking about pipelines,” recalls Redford.
“The consensus around that table was that pipelines were a private-sector issue and not something the government should be involved in. I chimed in to remind people that there were public, legal, and policy issues, the duty to consult First Nations and that it really was a political issue that we couldn’t leave up to the private sector to figure out.”
Course builds understanding of regulatory process
The convergence of issues, where they get talked about and by whom, and how the decisions are made, is something Redford and co-instructor Matthew Macdonald, a lawyer who served as a senior adviser to Redford during her time as premier, hope to convey to students.
“Whether or not students pursue a career in government, it’s important for them to understand the regulatory process and how policy is made so they can accurately and confidently advise their clients on the best course of action,” explains Macdonald.
For third-year student Imoreshi Dania, the course is an opportunity to gain a deeper understanding of what a career in politics would be like as a lawyer.
“The course material, coupled with the insights provided by guest speakers in key political roles, has broadened my perspective on how lawyers interact with other members of the public service and how I could add value to political organizations as a legal professional.”
Students explore non-traditional legal careers
With a steady stream of guest speakers from all levels of government and student presentations, the course allows students to think about non-traditional roles lawyers can have.
“It’s about showing options and perspectives that go outside the box,” explains Redford. “The job of lawyers in politics or government is to make sure that whoever the decision-maker is is making an informed decision.”
“It’s about exploring the and engaging the grey areas and what is in the broader realm of possibility when making decisions or providing advice.”