• Essay Topics

    Hello everyone.

    The major grade component for Part II of the course is a short essay of between 10-15 pages.   The challenge in a paper like this is to say something interesting in a short space.  This requires a very precise topic.  I understand that busy LLM students often struggle to isolate a topic.


    Having now spoken with the Osgoode LLM folks about grade submission due dates, I think that May 17 will need to be the due date for the short essay arising from Part II.  That is just over 4 weeks after the final class.

    Selecting a Topic

    When I did my LLM under Professors Hugh Collins and Paul Davies at LSE, I had a similar paper requirement.  I was a practitioner turned student, like many of you. Professor Collins gave me some advice that is relevant.  He said that you need to forget  writing like a lawyer, and (re)learn how to express an argument succinctly and in a style more like creative writing than a factum. The best examples you have of great labour law writing are the works you’ve read by Harry Arthurs.  To me, they read like great literature, and Harry’s ‘voice’ –what he thinks, how he sees the world–are always very clear.

    Thankfully, you are not expected to be Harry.  None of us can be.  But you are expected to submit a paper in which your voice is strong.  I want to know what you think about the issue or problem you have chosen to write about. 


    We cover off  5 specific topics in the seminar:

    (1)     Are Labour Rights Human Rights?

    On Collective Bargaining Law:   (2)  Minority Unionism and Nonunion Represenation; and (3)  Right to Work/Right to Free Ride Legislation

    On Legal and Regulatory Theory: (4)  New Governance and Work Law

    (5)  The Future of Work Law

    Within these topics, there is the potential for a large range of paper topics.   The issues raised by these subjects are hotly contested, so there is lots to bite into.

    Here are some examples of possible essay topics to work with:

    Some Canadian unions and their supporters have, in recent years, adopted the strategy of arguing that ”labour rights are human rights”.  What explains this move, and is it likely to be a successful strategy for Canadian unions in the long run?

    Has the argument that labour rights are human rights influenced Canadian judges and politicians (or judges in another jurisdiction)?  Why or why not?

    Is the argument that labour rights are human rights useful for advocates of stronger employment standards laws?

    Private sector union density in Canada is at about 15% and falling under the Canadian Wagner model of collective representation.   Can law alter this course?  Should it? 

    Should law be used to promote ‘worker voice’?  If so, how can it do this if not through majority, exclusive trade union representation?

    What role are ‘worker centres’ playing in advocating on behalf of workers in the United States and Canada?  Should the law attempt to harness those centres towards improving compliance with work law statutes?  How could law do this?

    Conservative politicians and think-tanks are arguing for the importation of ‘right to work’ laws.  Drawing on academic studies and legal analysis, what would this mean for Canadian labour relations?

    Was Justice Ivan Rand’s compromise wrong?  Debate this question drawing contemporary debates about union security laws in North America.

    What is New Governance in application to work law?  Does it offer any useful insight into the challenges of governing work in today’s economy?

    Read several papers by an author that writes in the ’New Governance” sphere (Cindy Estlund, Orly Lobel, John Braithwaite, etc) relating to work, and explain and critique their analysis and proposals for legal reform.

    Topics on the Future of Work

    You can choose a topic on the future of work law that inspires you from either the papers your read or that others presented.  The key here is to not submit a simple summary of the papers like those required for the assignment.  The essay needs to have more of your ‘voice’.

    Think about how shifts in the economy or work patterns are changing or are likely to change, and how (or whether) legal models will need to shift to accommodate those changes.  

    Arthurs argues for a new definition of “labour law” that sweeps in any legal subject matter that relates to labour markets (i.e. immigration, tax, intellectual property, etc.). This raises some interesting possible topics for papers:

    Do you agree with this approach?  Is there a risk to the discipline of labour law of expanding its subject matter in this way?

    Choose one sub-category of labour market law that has not traditionally been treated as a matter of work law, like Intellectual Property.  Write a short chapter of what a chapter on IP would look like in a future Law of the Labour Market textbook.

    I have just thrown out some ideas.  You can take any of these topics and start working on it.

    If you have your own ideas for topics in contemporary issues in work law, send me an email and I will let you know if I think it is workable.

    Hope this helps, Cheers, David

    Published on March 28, 2013 · Filed under: General;
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