The Faculty of Law at U of T is built on a strong historical foundation of leadership, innovation, and a bold willingness to take risks. Established in 1887, it is one of the oldest professional Faculties at the University of Toronto. However, it wasn’t until 1949 that the blueprint for the modern law school was drafted.
The Foundation of the Modern Law School
In the 1940s, the only way of becoming a lawyer in Ontario was through the Law Society of Upper Canada, the governing body of the legal profession in the province, which operated a school at Osgoode Hall. There, the law program consisted of three (and later four) years of on-the-job training complemented by a few law courses. In contrast, the law program at U of T offered a four-year Honours Bachelor of Arts in Law degree created under the leadership of Dean W.P.M. Kennedy, a staunch supporter of rigorous academic education for lawyers.
Dean Kennedy developed a strong academic law program at U of T's Faculty of Law
In 1949, when Kennedy retired, the legendary Cecil (“Caesar”) Wright assumed the deanship of U of T's law school. He first had to resign his post as Dean of Osgoode Hall, rejecting the Law Society's apprenticeship model in favour of U of T's vision of a full-time legal education, hinging on the professional bachelor of laws degree and centred in a university. As the new dean of U of T's law school, Wright built upon the solid intellectual and institutional foundations laid by Kennedy, creating a new kind of law school that would transform legal education in Canada.
Dean Wright built the modern law school on strong foundations
Joined by colleagues Bora Laskin and John Willis, Wright immediately revamped U of T’s law programs, establishing an intellectually challenging program for his students.
Read more about Bora Laskin and his role.
From left to right: Professors John Willis, Bora Laskin
and Cecil "Caesar" Wright
Despite the law school's solid academic program, the Law Society of Upper Canada refused to recognize U of T as a degree-granting institution. In the early 1950s, law students and their supporters petitioned the Law Society, and in 1953, a group of 50 student protesters marched on Osgoode Hall demanding recognition for U of T Law School. Finally, in 1958, after years of negotiation and discord, the Law Society began to give credit to U of T law graduates seeking admission to the Ontario bar. At this historic moment, Dean Wright was moved to tears, finally having won the long battle.
Dean Wright and his predecessor, Kennedy, charted the course of the law school, establishing its core values and traditions of scholarly excellence, societal relevance, institutional leadership and risk-taking. Over the years, the Faculty has continued to be led by deans of exceptional vision and commitment who have upheld these guiding principles, and who together have created one of the leading law schools in the world.
Deans of the Faculty of Law
- W.P.M. Kennedy (1944-1949)
- Cecil Wright (1949-1965)
- Ronald St. John Macdonald (1965-1972)
- Martin Friedland '58 (1972-1979)
- Frank Iacobucci (1979-1983)
- J. Robert S. Prichard '75 (1984-1990)
- Robert Sharpe '70 (1990-1995)
- Ronald J. Daniels '86 (1995-2005)
- Mayo Moran '99 (SJD) (2006-)
| Martin Friedland, dean of the law school for seven years from 1972 to 1979, was committed to a vision of the Faculty with a much greater emphasis on legal scholarship. As dean he forged links with other university departments and spearheaded the creation of a number of programs, fostering an environment steeped in interdisciplinary scholarship. In 2004, Prof. Friedland was named a Companion of the Order of Canada.|
|Frank Iacobucci was dean from 1979 to 1983. He went on to become Vice President and Provost of the University of Toronto, and then Deputy Minister of Justice and Deputy Attorney General for Canada. He was appointed Chief Justice of the Federal Court for Canada in 1988, and Judge of the Supreme Court of Canada on January 7, 1991. He retired from this position in 2004, and later that year returned to the University of Toronto as Interim President of the University of Toronto, and to the Faculty of Law as Professor of Law.|
|From 1984 to 1990, Robert Prichard was dean of the law school. He then became president of the University of Toronto, a position he held until 2000, and subsequently served as President and CEO of Torstar Corporation until 2009. Prichard broke new ground for both the law school and the university by raising ambitions to the highest international standards.|
|Robert Sharpe followed Prichard as dean, serving from 1990 to 1995. He was subsequently appointed to the Ontario Court of Justice (General Division), and then, in 1999, to the Ontario Court of Appeal. During Sharpe’s term, the Bora Laskin Law Library opened and two important new programs were launched — the International Human Rights Program and the Work in Japan Program. Both were designed to enhance opportunities for students to learn and to contribute to global legal issues.|
|Ron Daniels served from 1995 to 2005. Daniels emphasized the ambition of the Faculty to become one of the top five law schools in the world, and worked hard to enhance the international programs and teaching offerings at the school. Under Dean Daniels, the student-faculty ratio improved to 10 to 1 — one of the best in North America. In 2005, he was appointed provost of the University of Pennsylvania. He is currently President of Johns Hopkins University.|
|Mayo Moran was appointed Dean of the law school beginning in January 2006. Prof. Moran served as associate dean of the Faculty of Law from January 2000 to June 2002. During her time as associate dean, Moran undertook major curricular changes and innovations, including the introduction of first-year electives such as transnational law, introduction to civil law and feminism and the law. She also developed diversity initiatives, implemented the introduction of a laptop policy and worked on the expansion of clinical programs and their integration into the academic program. As Dean, Prof. Moran has developed an ambitious building project to renovate and expand the law school's buildings, which broke ground in June 2013.|
50th Anniversary Video
In 2002, on the occasion of the 50th anniversary of the first graduating class of the modern law school (1952), the Faculty commissioned a video exploring the law school's first 50 years through interviews with alumni and teachers.
Class of 1951
While the class of 1952 is generally regarded as the first class to graduate from the modern Faculty of Law, the members of the small graduating class of 1951 have a remarkable story. Read their story.
The Law School Buildings
The law school has moved its location several times since its foundation, but for many year now it has been housed in two historic buildings on the St. George Campus of the University of Toronto: Flavelle House and Falconer Hall.