The Faculty of Law at the University of Alberta is the oldest law school in western Canada.
In the years leading up to the Faculty’s creation, the practice of law in Canada was undergoing some dynamic changes.
Phenomenal growth in Canada’s western region during the 1880s resulted in an influx of settlers to the area. Among these early pioneers were many professionals (including lawyers), from other parts of the country, as well as the globe. A general lack of regulation in the profession allowed for many different approaches to the application of law a cause of major concern.
Following the introduction of the first “Ordinance Respecting the Legal Profession” in 1885, which outlined new regulations for lawyers practicing in the area known as the Northwest Territories, consideration was now being given to the consistency of training that young lawyers were receiving during their articles. This decree would eventually lead to the creation of a more structured approach to educating lawyers to understand and apply the law.
By 1898, the Law Society of the Territories had come into existence. This organization formalized Bar admission eligibility by establishing new requirements. In order to gain admission to the Bar, law students were now required to article under a practicing lawyer for a period of five years. The compulsory articling period was shortened to only three years for students who had previously earned a degree in either Arts or Law, or had graduated from the Royal Military College.
The birth of the province of Alberta in 1905 would usher in even more changes in the legal community. The Legal Profession Act, which outlined professional guidelines, was created in 1907.