Excerpts from the latest news from the University of Toronto Faculty of Law.

From the Fall/Winter 2017 issue of Nexus

@UTLaw legal startup adds employment law tool to its AI-powered product portfolio

By Chris Sorensen

Prof. Benjamin AlarieWhen it came time to develop his legal startup’s sophomore product, Benjamin Alarie, JD 2002,  did exactly what successful entrepreneurs are supposed to do: He listened to his customers.

The University of Toronto law professor co-founded Blue J Legal in 2015, using machine learning algorithms to predict the likely outcomes of future tax law cases. He focused on tax law because it was his area of research expertise and represented a potentially huge market.

Then something unexpected happened.

“We would be talking to lawyers at big law firms about employee classification from a tax law perspective, and someone would ask if we could come and show the labour and employment law group,” recalls Alarie, who is the company's CEO.

So, in late November, Blue J Legal officially launched its Employment Foresight tool. As with its original Tax Foresight product, Blue J's machine learning algorithms scan thousands of judicial decisions and detect patterns, both obvious and hidden, in the rulings.

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Justice Gloria Epstein takes the lead: After 23 years, the McMurtry Gardens of Justice are completed

By Andrew Stobo Sniderman, JD 2014

(L) Alumnus Paul Schabas, Mayor John Tory, Seymour Epstein, Justice Gloria Epstein, with the Hon. Roy McMurtry, centre.When Justice Gloria Epstein, LLB 1977, used to look out her office window between the Toronto courthouse known as 361 University Ave.  and Osgoode Hall in downtown Toronto, she had a perfectly clear view of, well, not much. She decided to change that.

What was once a rundown walkway has become an inspiring art garden. Any passerby can now hear the soothing gurgle of a fountain and marvel at six magnificent sculptures. It only took 23 years, Epstein’s iron persistence, and many, many helping hands.

The first sculpture arrived in 2007. Four years later, long dormant fountains came back to life, and five more statues followed over time. The garden was deemed complete with the arrival of two final sculptures in October 2017. The McMurtry Gardens of Justice are dedicated to the life and work of the Honourable Roy McMurtry, a former Chief Justice of Ontario.

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Rotman@Law Certificate

New for 2017-18, Rotman@Law is an exciting collaboration between the Faculty of Law and the Rotman School of Management that gives law students access to three pre-MBA online courses in accounting, finance and statistics.

Featuring some of Rotman’s top instructors, these courses are designed to provide law students without a business background with an easy-to-grasp introduction to basic concepts and skills. They are also useful refreshers for others.  Students must complete all three courses to receive a Rotman@Law certificate of completion. These  courses are not for credit and do not count towards the JD degree requirements. The online courses are housed on the edX platform, managed by Rotman.

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Pressed for time? Check out: 149 Paintings You Really Need to See in North America (So You Can Ignore the Others) by alumnus Stephen Grant

By Lucianna Ciccocioppo

149 Paintings You Really Need to See in North America (So You Can Ignore the Others)What’s a busy partner at one of Toronto’s top family law firms doing writing an art book?

“Enjoying my life, sharing my experiences, reflecting on all of the great art I've seen,” says alumnus Stephen Grant, LLB 1973, of Grant Crawford Watson LLP.

Grant is co-author of 149 Paintings You Really Need to See in North America (So You Can Ignore the Others). He wrote it with his friend, fellow advocate Julian Porter, he of the book, 149 Paintings You Really Need to See in Europe (So You Can Ignore the Others). Grant likes to point out the Mona Lisa is not in Porter’s first book, “because Julian thinks it’s mud.”

In this 480-page book, Grant goes beyond the usual famed oeuvres, hoping to challenge your reactions. Vincent Van Gogh’s “Starry Night?”

“It's gorgeous. It's lovely. I was there [the Museum of Modern Art] the other day and I kept thinking how I could have put Starry Night in there. But I didn't.” There's Jean-Michel Basquiat, the Haitian-American prodigy who overdosed at 27, American painter and printmaker Joan Mitchell, Canadian Emily Carr and many European artists.

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Five alumnae named among Canada's Top 100 most powerful women by Women's Executive Network

Five University of Toronto Faculty of Law alumnae have been named in the 2017 "Canada's Most Powerful Women: Top 100" list prepared by the Women's Executive Network (WXN). The list pays tribute to the outstanding women across Canada who have advocated for diversity in the workforce, and who serve as an inspiration for the next generation of leaders.

The five alumnae are:

  • Joanna Rotenberg – JD/MBA 2001
  • Andrea Stairs – JD/MBA 2000
  • Melinda Park – LLB 1991
  • Lisa C Philipps – LLB 1986
  • Carol E Derk – LLB 1984

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Recent JD graduate Ashley Major receives new award given to students researching gender-based violence

By Geoffrey Vendeville

Ashley MajorTwenty-eight years ago, 14 women were killed at the École Polytechnique in Montreal by a shooter who claimed feminists had ruined his life. 

Kristina Nikolova had just turned one and Ashley Major wasn't yet born, but the tragedy has had a profound effect on them.

In December 2017, Major, who graduated from law school at the University of Toronto in June, and Nikolova, who acquired a PhD in social work last summer, received $1,500 awards for scholarly achievement for research in the area of gender-based violence. The awards, which were established on Dec. 6 of 2016 on the anniversary of the Montreal Massacre, are reserved for one undergraduate and one graduate student “who have made distinctive contributions in the area of gender-based violence research and prevention.”

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Times Higher Education ranks Faculty of Law among global Top 10 law schools in world university rankings

In its first world university rankings for subject areas such as law, the Times Higher Education released its report for 2018, and the University of Toronto Faculty of Law was the only Canadian law school in the Top 10. U of T divisions also faring very well in the global 100 list included education, business and economics, and social sciences, which were ranked in the Top 30.

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Justice Sheilah L. Martin is the fourth U of T law alum nominated to the current Supreme Court of Canada

Justice Sheilah L. MartinUniversity of Toronto Faculty of Law alumna, Justice Sheilah L. Martin, SJD 1991, an academic, practitioner, judge and equal rights advocate—she was one of the first women to be called to the Alberta bar in non-sexist language—has been nominated to be the newest justice on the Supreme Court of Canada. This brings the current number of U of T law alumni on the highest court to four, with Justices Rosalie Silberman Abella, LLB 1970, Russell Brown, LLM 2003, SJD 2006, and Michael Moldaver, LLB 1971, currently at the SCC.

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