Having received both a Canadian and American JD (Juris Doctor) through the Dual JD Program, prospective law students and lawyers often ask me about my experience with the program. This post will provide an overview of some of the opportunities available to students in the program as well as my personal experiences as a graduate.
Immersion Into Two Legal Cultures and Campuses
The Dual JD Program at Windsor Law and Detroit Mercy Law is the only of its kind in North America. It is the only Dual JD program where students concurrently study at both a Canadian and American law school. This enables students to graduate with two JD degrees in just three years. As the campuses are only a short drive away from each other, the program allows students to truly be immersed in both Canadian and US law at the same time.
Students cross the international border between Canada and the US multiple times weekly to attend classes at both campuses. In fact, we would often leave a lecture at the Detroit Mercy Law campus and head right to a lecture at the Windsor Law campus. Other times, such as for business and cross border sales courses, students stay at one campus but learn both the Canadian and US law. During these lectures, students hear from the same professor, who first teaches the course from the US law perspective and then switches his/her hat to teach the course from the Canadian law perspective. In this way, students are able to gain a comparative understanding of the two legal systems.
Because of the close proximity between Windsor and Detroit, Canadian students are able to immerse themselves in the Detroit culture, and vice versa. Some of my favourite extra-curricular experiences during law school were attending Detroit Tigers and Red Wings games, heading to Greektown for a bite to eat, or catching a last-minute concert.
The Opportunity to Improve your Time Management Skills
As students in the Dual program graduate with two JDs in just three years, it is no surprise that the Dual JD program is quite rigorous. However, the time management skills I learned throughout my time in the program have been irreplaceable during my articles. Juggling lectures, assignments, and moots at both law schools was wonderful practice for juggling the many assignments, from different practice areas, that articling students complete.
The Unique Experiences Available to Dual JD Students
Dual JD students are able to gain hands-on experience in both Windsor and Detroit. Students in the Dual JD Program continue to attend classes at Detroit Mercy Law in the summer between 1L and 2L. This allows students to obtain enough credits to graduate in the three-year period. However, the Dual JD Program directors understand that students often try to obtain hands-on law experience during the same summer. To accommodate this desire, the summer courses are taught at night—allowing students to work or volunteer during the day. This structure helps to create well-rounded graduates.
In my 1L summer, I was lucky enough to obtain an “externship” (an internship for school credit) position with the Detroit State Defenders office. This was my first experience working in the law field, and it was a wonderful starting point for my career. I shadowed defense attorneys, had direct interaction with our clients, completed research assignments for my supervising attorneys, and consulted with attorneys during jury selections. The highlight of my time at this position was representing our clients at pretrial examinations and sentencings. Not many students had on-the-record experience before entering 2L!
Another unique aspect of the Dual JD Program is the ability to work at legal aid clinics in both Windsor and Detroit. Furthermore, some students are able to participate in the “Transnational Law Clinic” hosted by both Detroit Mercy Law and Windsor Law. This is an International Intellectual Property Clinic that is certified by both the U.S. Patent & Trademark Office and the Canadian Intellectual Property Office.
If you are interested in the Dual JD Program or are currently enrolled and have any questions about the program or life after the program, do not hesitate to reach out to me.
Jory Garibaldi was an Articling Student at Harrison Pensa and is now a personal injury lawyer at the firm.