The Faculty of Law launches a unique, executive-style master of laws focused on global business.

By Randi Chapnik Myers

Around the World

These days, lawyers, as well as business and government leaders, need new skills to tackle the challenges of our modern global economy. Even if they work in companies operating solely within Canada or in law firms serving mainly domestic clients, no one is immune to the forces of globalization. To keep up with increasingly complex financial regulations, cross-border rules, and a highly mobile workforce Canadian lawyers have to adapt the way they practice law.


The Future of Transactional Legal Practice

This panel discussion at the Faculty of Law's GPLLM launch on Nov. 16, 2010 explored issues affecting the legal profession today. Moderated by Prof. Michael Trebilcock, the panel can be viewed online at:

Here are highlights of what the panelists had to say:

"'International' is here … with a vengeance."
- John Claydon, director, professional development, Lex Mundi, an international association of 165 independent law firms, representing 21,000 lawyers

"Globalization is moving in two different directions at once. In many cases, law is still very local, but problems have to be interpreted through a global lens."
- Carole Silver, professor, Maurer School of Law, Indiana University, whose research includes analyzing the global strategies of large law firms

"Law students need to learn law with a business focus. A legal solution is not very good unless there is a business case to take you there."
- Norman Letalik, partner, Toronto office, and managing director, professional excellence, at Borden Ladner Gervais LL


To help them stay current, the University of Toronto Faculty of Law has developed a Global Professional Master of Laws (GPLLM), a unique graduate degree program for the working business practitioner. Participants in the new program, which kicks off next fall and runs for 12 months during evenings and weekends, will dig into the theory and mechanics of the business law transactions they spend their workdays conducting, on what's fast becoming an increasingly global scale.

"There are many LLM programs out there, but this one is different," says Archana Sridhar, the law school's assistant dean of the graduate program. She and Jane Kidner, JD 1992, assistant dean of professional legal education, recently presented the program at Harvard Law School's Future Ed 2: Making Global Lawyers for the 21st Century, an invitational conference for groundbreaking ideas in legal education.

"We're offering an executive-style part-time program customized for business professionals whose clients are subject to various jurisdictional laws and practices," Sridhar says. These professionals need to be equipped with a solid understanding of the legal issues arising from our increasingly globalized business environment, she explains. And what better way to learn but through exploring comparative examples, case studies and real business deals?

"The idea for the GPLLM came from our alumni in private practice, government and corporate counsel roles," Kidner says. "We consulted with various leading law firms and businesses, and they told us that the skills lawyers need today can't be taught in the JD program because at that point, you haven't been involved in a business deal yet."

The program allows people who are working on those deals every day to analyze them from a global business perspective, so they'll learn to ask the right legal questions when leading cross-border and domestic transactions, Sridhar says.

For instance, a corporate counsel for a Canadian mining company opening operations in Africa or Latin America would need to understand how all the laws, domestic and international, affect all aspects of setting up shop, she explains. And in the banking industry, even if your client is a financial institution based in Toronto, it is still subject to global financial regulations, she says.

While lawyers will likely make up the majority of the class, the program will also appeal to senior level people in business or government whose jobs require legal knowledge, such as policymakers, bank compliance officers and risk managers in multi-national corporations, Sridhar says. To bring non-lawyers up to speed on legal basics, there will be a tailored orientation session before the program starts.

"It's an innovative alternative to an executive MBA," says Kidner. In an intimate class of only 25-30, students take six compulsory evening and weekend courses. They also choose three seminar courses, offered as weekend intensives. All topics are law-focused with a business globalization angle.

"In investment work, you face legal issues on a daily basis so you have to develop the skill set to deal with them," says Alan Kadic, a senior principal at the Canada Pension Plan Investment Board (CPPIB) in Toronto. "Learning in a classroom with lawyers and other professionals would be ideal."

For Carla Swansburg, senior counsel of the litigation team at RBC in Toronto, a course that merges law and business would give her practice a leg up. "As in-house counsel dealing with crossborder clients, you constantly run into issues of corporate social responsibility, ethics, and corporate governance that change in different business cultures." The benefit of input from like-minded businesspeople would be so valuable, she says.

According to Marc Little, a business law associate at Fraser Milner Casgrain LLP in Toronto, the real value of this course lies in its faculty. "Not only is the U of T law faculty second to none, but we have Bay Street right here, so the university can draw on the leaders in transactional business law," he says.

The U of T law lineup so far includes GPLLM program adviser Professor Michael Trebilcock, as well as Professors Ben Alarie, Anita Anand and Ed Iacobucci. To add to that roster, the law school plans to take advantage of international experts in the legal and business worlds from across Canada, the US, Europe and Asia.

Priced at $25,800, the tuition is quite reasonable, says Kidner, who points out that a part-time or executive MBA can cost up to $100,000 in Canada, and that the GPLLM program is targeted towards those who have been on the job for a few years-people such as Swansburg. "Right now I have my hands full but I would love to consider applying to the program somewhere down the road," she says.

"It's a personal decision, but if you want a graduate degree, you make the time," says Dorothy Quann, general counsel and vice-president at Xerox Canada in Toronto. She knows of many companies that support executive opportunities for their employees, either by assisting financially or allowing flexible hours. The company as a whole benefits, Quann says, because the employee gets practical legal experience that fits right into the work world.

"It's an investment in the business," she says.

Find out more about the GPLLM program.