Thursday, June 27, 2019

Dear Alumni, Faculty, Students, Staff and Friends,

Dean Ed IacobucciIt’s that time of year again: I am writing to share the highlights of life at your law school. We’ve had another productive and successful academic year, customarily busy with much research, teaching and learning—this is by no means a comprehensive review!

Last fall, we had a little over 200 students in first year, out of the 2,400 (an 8% year-over-year increase) who applied. This year’s cohort remains as bright and accomplished as ever, with a median GPA of 3.9 (out of a 4.0 scale) and median LSAT percentile scores in the mid-nineties. They bring a dazzling and wide range of undergraduate and graduate degrees, and reflect a diversity from across Canada and around the world. For example, 35% of our first year class are students of colour, and 29% were born outside of Canada. In this student cohort, nine percent identify as LGBTQ2S people, and 60% have parents or guardians who were born outside of Canada. I was also pleased to welcome returning students, graduate, transfer and executive students of the Global Professional LLM for the 2018-19 academic year, with more than 16 countries represented in the graduate program alone. To welcome and teach these brilliant students is a privilege, and my colleagues and I enjoy seeing them learn and grow throughout their law school life as they work energetically in the beautiful Jackman Law Building. 

Back to school in the fall also included the annual Clubs Fair. Forty-five student clubs and organizations participated. It didn’t take very long to fill up quickly with law students keen to add that ‘extra’ to their curricular programming. There were a variety of opportunities for students to consider, in areas such as law journals, clinical legal advocacy, legal practice area clubs, or simply socializing with other law students. There were sign-up booths for sports, alongside artistic pursuits, such as singing in a choir (the Supreme Chords) or performing in theatre (Law Follies).

The Grand Moot was again remarkable, as our student mooters gave a terrific and public display of advocacy, tackling jury representation and the Charter. More recently, our law students brought home top place in the Davies’ Corporate/Securities Moot and the Harold G. Fox Intellectual Property Moot, plus numerous accolades for best oralist, factums and more. 

The fall also saw us add US Supreme Court Justice Elena Kagan to our distinguished alumni group. She received an honorary Doctor of Laws from U of T in a special ceremony at Simcoe Hall that included a discussion with law professor Yasmin Dawood. Justice Kagan delighted law students later with her dry wit and warm humour at the Jackman Law Building in a Q & A session with alumna The Honourable Justice Rosalie Silberman Abella, 1970, who had home court advantage given that the event took place in the Rosalie Silberman Abella Moot Court Room. Watch it here.

In addition to their learning, our students are as engaged as ever, researching and working at Downtown Legal Services, the Indigenous Initiatives Office, the Asper Centre for Constitutional Rights, now in its 10th year, the International Human Rights Program, law school startup Blue J Legal and Pro Bono Students Canada, which received the 2019 Emil Gumpert award from the American College of Trial Lawyers and a US$100,000 grant to assist with two pilot clinics serving Indigenous Peoples.

At the same time, many of our law students are learning from some of the best practitioners in the field, in a co-teaching partnership, such as our unique criminal law externship focused on appellate and Supreme Court cases where students work with top criminal lawyers. As another example, thanks to generous support from alumni Marcia Moffatt, 1996, and Mark Wiseman, 1996, we worked with the Rotman School of Management to expand its highly successful OnBoard course to include dedicated spots for JD students, who learn in a blended law and business classroom covering a wide variety of governance-related topics. Each student was also connected to the board of directors of a local not-for-profit organization, such as the John Howard Society of Ontario, Silent Voice Canada, and Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre, providing support to the board on an issue of relevance to that organization. These are just a couple of examples of some of the exciting co-teaching initiatives going on at the law school.

Moreover, law students are also actively paying it forward at our outreach events, such as at the launch of our inaugural Black Future Lawyers Conference, which was open to any undergraduate student, and drew interested attendees from as far away as Montreal. Our students also volunteer at the annual See Yourself Here day, another popular outreach event, to attract students from under-represented communities to law school. At our Welcome Day event, our student volunteers help put newly admitted JD students at ease and warmly introduce them to the Faculty of Law. And to celebrate the 2019 United Nations Year of Indigenous Languages, the Indigenous Law Students Association created a meaningful art installation representing the Indigenous languages spoken at the Faculty of Law. Two more plaques have been added in Anishinàbemowin (Algonquin Dialect) and Mi'gmaq (Gespe'gewa'gi dialect) since the unveiling earlier this year.

Our professors’ scholarship continues to make a great impact in academia, and outside it—almost every day there’s an op-ed or quote somewhere in local, national, or international media, highlighting the world-class legal research at U of T Law. For example, Gillian Hadfield’s op-ed in the Washington Post discussed the importance of seemingly minor rules of behaviour in human interaction and the challenges robots with artificial intelligence may face as a result ("We’re going to live in a world of bots. They need to be polite," November 21, 2018). The new book by Kent Roach Canadian Justice, Indigenous Injustice: The Gerald Stanley and Colten Boushie Case, has been featured in multiple media outlets since its publication. In “What does the rule of law mean?”, David Dyzenhaus was featured in a 30-minute interview with Michael Enright on CBC Radio's "The Sunday Edition" where Dyzenhaus defined the rule of law, discussed the Huawei case in Canada, and President Trump’s rule in the United States. Adriana Robertson’s work on index fund investments was profiled in editorials in the New York Times and the Financial Times.

I’m happy to report prestigious recognitions continue to come our way: the Asper Centre's executive director Cheryl Milne, and Carol Rogerson, a foremost scholar in family law, received Law Society of Ontario medals—Carol was also awarded one of the 10 in 10 Awards of Excellence in Family Justice; Ayelet Shachar was awarded a 2019 Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz Prize, the top research award in Germany; election law scholar Yasmin Dawood was named a member of the Royal Society of Canada’s College of New Scholars, Artists and Scientists, one of six from U of T; Audrey Macklin, Chair in Human Rights Law, received the Ludwik and Estelle Jus Memorial Human Rights Prize; and University Professor Arthur Ripstein received one of two JJ Berry Smith Doctoral Supervision Awards. Our strengths in teaching and learning have not gone unnoticed. While it is easy to overstate how meaningful rankings are, I’m pleased to report your alma mater continues to do well in international rankings, placing 11th in global law schools in the respected Times Higher Education ranking.

Our alumni pride continues to grow as well. We had a remarkable turnout for Reunion in the Jackman Law Building, with more than 500 people in attendance. The Osler Atrium, Bora Laskin Law Library and Torys Hall buzzed with energy and excitement as alumni reconnected on a Friday night in October and enjoyed the cocktail reception before heading off for their class dinners. This year, a lunch and panel discussion with Ben Alarie, Lisa Austin, Gillian Hadfield and myself was held on the Saturday, on “The Future of Legal Education and the Profession,” discussing the impact of technology on legal education and practice, privacy issues and more. View the panel video here.  Student ambassadors led tours of the Jackman Law Building, pointing out architectural and historical details of the new and old spaces. And though summer has just begun, we are teeing up for Reunion again this fall on October 25th. We look forward to seeing everyone from the years ending in 4 and 9, for another great event.

To cap off the year, we celebrated Convocation 2019. More than 200 graduates walked across the dais at Convocation Hall to become Faculty of Law alumni. Degrees in hand, they are poised for exciting, meaningful and varied careers, and I look forward to hearing their stories in the future. I am so pleased to report that 98% of our graduates secured articles—a remarkable figure that is consistent with what we continue to see year after year. I am also proud that U of T Law had 6 Supreme Court of Canada clerks selected, and 11 students were chosen for Court of Appeal clerkships in various provinces across Canada. Our Convocation was webcasted live; take a moment now to hear the warm, humorous and engaging remarks of our honorary degree recipient, Supreme Court of Canada Justice The Honourable Michael Moldaver. Watch the video here.

These new graduates join you to form part of a stellar alumni group, an unparalleled community of leaders across the fields of law, business, government, academia, public service and more. All of you make us so proud of your successes! It would be impossible to list all your achievements in the last year, but here’s but a small sampling:

U of T’s highest honour given to its extraordinary volunteers, the Arbor Awards, recognized five law alumni: Ari Blicker, 1995, Angelo Gentile, 2006, Atrisha Lewis, 2012, Laura Trachuk, 1986, and Maureen L. Whelton,1995. Read about their remarkable contributions, for which we are so grateful. Orders of Canada went to Barbara Jackman, Class of 1976, a litigator championing the rights of immigrants and refugees, and Brent Belzberg, Class of 1975, business leader and philanthropist. Kudos as well go to a number of alumni appointed to the bench, including Justice David Spiro, 1987, to the Tax Court of Canada, Justice Paul Schabas, 1984, to the Superior Court of Ontario, Justice Nicholas Devlin, 1998, to the Court of Queen’s Bench in Alberta, Justice Amy Francis, 1999, to the Supreme Court of British Columbia, Justice Shaun O’Brien, 1998, appointed to the Superior Court of Justice, former Faculty of Law Associate Dean Lorne Sossin and Adjunct Professor Jonathan Dawe, Class of 1994, to the Superior Court of Justice of Ontario in Toronto, Justice Alice Woolley, 1994, to the Court of Queen’s Bench of Alberta in Calgary, Justice Gillian E. Roberts, 1993, to the Superior Court of Justice in Toronto, Justice Breese Davies, 1998, to the Superior Court of Justice in Toronto and Justice David Crerar, 1997, to the Supreme Court of British Columbia. Hope I haven’t missed anyone!

Our executive graduate program, the Global Professional LLM, is growing successfully and we are welcoming this fall our first cohort in the GPLLM concentrating on the Law of Leadership. I am impressed each year with the talent and diversity of legal and business leaders in each cohort, many of whom move up in their careers after taking this program. We’ve also partnered with U of T’s School of Continuing Studies to put our popular Legal Methods Intensive—mandatory for all our incoming first year students—online as a ‘Boot Camp’ course in legal thinking and reasoning for the general public, or for students starting at other law schools, to introduce lay people and matriculating law students to the basics of legal reasoning. Read more about it here.

There are, of course, challenges along with the good news. The recent government-mandated cuts to tuition fees are a challenging reality at the University of Toronto and all Ontario universities. Nevertheless, we are confident that prudent decisions and alumni support will help us remain both an excellent and accessible institution. Close to 50% of our students qualify for and receive financial aid, and the Faculty’s fundraising priority is to significantly deepen student financial aid available to those in the greatest need. We remain committed to continuing to fill the Faculty of Law with the brightest minds and greatest future leaders, no matter their financial circumstances.

I am proud to say our Campaign for Excellence without Barriers, which we officially launched last fall, is progressing well. A range of alumni leaders in our community have already given generously to the financial aid mission, including: Mark Wiseman, 1996 and Marcia Moffat, 1996, Andrea Burke, 1994, Jon Feldman, 1999, Arnie Cader, 1965, Melissa Kennedy, 1987, Norm, 1972, and Gay Loveland, Don Crawshaw, 1982, and Richard Shaw 1971. We could not be among the top global law schools without alumni support.

There are many ways alumni can give back and support the Faculty of Law, and I hope you’ll consider a volunteer, mentorship, panel or moot coaching opportunity. I also hope you’ll consider supporting the Campaign for Excellence without Barriers. A member of our Advancement Office will follow up with you if you have any questions at all, and you can reach us at or 416-978-1355.

I could happily keep writing with more great news from the Faculty, but I’d encourage you to view, check our social media feeds regularly, and read our monthly online newsletter for the very latest law school news. The myriad activities at the Faculty of Law over the last academic year tell a compelling story of the remarkable place our law school fills in this city, in Canada and around the world. As an alumnus, faculty member and dean, I am so grateful to be a part of this wonderful community. Enjoy the arrival of summer, and until next time!

Edward Iacobucci, LLB 1996
Dean and James M. Tory Professor of Law
Faculty of Law
University of Toronto