Most outstanding Queen’s University undergraduate arts student, Rhodes Scholar, gold-medal graduate at the U of T Faculty of Law, law and economics professor, Osler Chair in Business Law, associate dean.

On January 1, 2015, the law school welcomed the new James M. Tory Professor of Law and dean, Ed Iacobucci, LLB 1996. Full of affection, admiration and ideas for this law school, he spoke to Lucianna Ciccocioppo, Nexus executive editor, after one week in his new role.

Dean Edward IacobucciPhotography by Raina+Wilson

From the Fall/Winter 2014 issue of Nexus.

LC: Why did you apply for the job?

EI: I love this place. I had been a perfectly fine student before I came to law school, but I never had a passion for my studies until coming here. The Faculty irrevocably changed my life because of a combination of the incredible depth of thinking, which was exciting, but also the incredible breadth. It’s no surprise that with a human institution such as law there are so many perspectives that can and should be brought to bear on its study. I found that an incredibly energizing and broadening experience, and I knew then that this was the intellectual life, the academic life, that I wanted to pursue—and pursue here.

I’m extremely proud of this place. I have immensely enjoyed my almost 17 years as a faculty member, and I feel incredibly privileged to have the job. I hope that in some way I can contribute to the Faculty’s progress. I believe that the law school is a very important institution to Canada, and to the world. I’ve had opportunities to visit different law schools over my career in one capacity or another, and I've always enjoyed those visits, but they showed me that the breadth and depth of thinking at this place among faculty and students is difficult to beat, and that this is my home

LC: What was your immediate reaction when they offered you the job? Do you remember that moment?

EI: I remember it very clearly. It was four o’clock on Sunday, October 19th, and I know that because it was the day I ran my first marathon. The provost called to inform me that I would be recommended for the position by the search committee, subject to approval by university governance. I felt a combination of great excitement and “OK, it’s on!” It’s actually a feeling I feel to this day. The motivation is I care about this law school. This also means the stakes to me are high. I want to ensure I do a good job.

LC: How will your U of T law experiences—as a student, an alumnus, faculty, and an associate dean—shape your role as dean?

EI: Immeasurably, and in different ways. Firstly, this warmth and deep sense of respect I have for the law school started on Day 1 of being a law student here. I have an association with the Faculty of Law that goes back a long time—I have memories of watching the Santa Claus parade from a roof, playing with my father’s calculator in his office, and going to skating parties. But it was when coming here as a student that I really and viscerally felt this was a special place. I understand the importance of the law school having seen it from different angles. While nobody can claim to completely understand the way the Faculty works, I do think I have an understanding of what the culture is here, what motivates people, what people are passionate about here, which will very much inform my role. There are many people who feel this is a special place, and it’s important to engage with those people as my time as dean unfolds.

LC: What are some of your goals over the next six months?

EI: First and foremost, get in touch and engage with, listen to and consult with a wide variety of stakeholders. The Faculty of Law is a kind of crossroads: people come here from all over the world: from the academy, from practice, from the judiciary, from the policy-making world, from other parts of the university or the academy, and not just the legal academy. They come here, and we go there, and we serve as an intersection. We’re an important intersection intellectually because there are so many different ways of studying and analyzing law in these halls.

I believe we should be thinking about our role as a crossroads to take even better advantage of our place within our city, and our proximity to the profession, to important parts of the judiciary, to policymakers, and indeed, our immersion with our great university.

I also think that one of the challenges is going to be ensuring that we maintain our excellence, and maintain our accessibility to students from all walks of life, because the two go hand in hand. It’s essential for us to make sure that we continue to have a robust financial aid program.

I think these are the kinds of questions that we should be asking ourselves, and I’ll be looking forward to hearing people’s reactions to those questions.

LC: The legal profession has changed significantly since the modern law school was founded. How will the Faculty of the Law evolve with the profession?

EI: The modern law school was founded on the principle that a legal education should be an academic education and not an education that amounts to something more like an apprenticeship. And I think that’s part of our DNA as a faculty. I think it’s also true that, in these changing times, the academic approach to law has perhaps become more important than ever. I say this because successful lawyers in whatever area of practice have always been creative and imaginative and critical thinkers, and the pressures on lawyers to be those creative, imaginative, critical thinkers have only grown.

We not only teach doctrine at the University of Toronto but also critical thinking, and we do that very well. Our interdisciplinary, academic approach to law fosters a kind of agility of intellect and analytic ability that is as important, or more important, than ever.

That said, there are ways that we can think about delivering what I would describe as our fundamentally academic mission in even better ways. There are ongoing conversations within the law school and with other stakeholders, including the profession, that will continue. A collective conversation about ways in which we can evolve is entirely appropriate and one that we will embrace at the law school. The fundamental idea that we are here to teach creative thinkers does not straightjacket us into any narrow mode of delivery. For example, there are opportunities to think about expanding our significant complement of experiential opportunities. But we will also be thinking about other things that we can do within the classroom to make our students even better prepared, both for a change in the legal profession and for a changing world as well.

It’s been the mission of this place, and it should continue to be the mission of this place, to educate students to have the ability to change the world in whatever they choose to do. This lies at the heart of who we are.

LC: Will you teach?

EI: Yes. I think it’s important to be engaged with students in an intellectual way and not just through governance. We have a tradition of deans continuing to teach. I've asked to teach the legal methods intensive course in August. I think it will be a great chance to engage with first-year students as they arrive at the law school and a great chance for me to be involved in teaching. That’s the plan.

LC: What books are on your bedside table?

EI: The Fiercest Debate, which is the book about the origins of our modern law school. Really. I’m also reading Bring Up the Bodies. I like historical fiction, and it’s about Thomas Cromwell, who was minister to Henry VIII. It’s the follow-up to Wolf Hall.

LC: What’s your vice?

EI: I have a seemingly endless capacity for watching sporting events on television. No sport is too obscure or insignificant. The solution: we don’t have cable.