Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Students in front of Jackman Law Building

It has been a characteristically busy year at the Faculty of Law, with a wide, and widening, variety of teaching, learning and scholarship activities in 2017. Just before we head into the holiday season to celebrate with family and friends, I would like to share my reflections on another excellent year for our Faculty.

'A space to make the spirits soar'

We are still basking in the warmth of Reunion 2017, held for the first time in the Jackman Law Building. It is a pleasure to catch up with so many alumni at Reunion—one of the Faculty's premier events—and this year, more than 500 of you attended the cocktail reception on October 27th to celebrate among classmates—a remarkable turnout! From the Osler Hoskin & Harcourt LLP Atrium, to the Bora Laskin Law Library, to Torys Hall, the Faculty of Law buzzed with energy and camaraderie from classes ending in 2 and 7. Thank you to all who attended. We will soon start planning for another exciting Reunion in 2018 for classes ending in 3 and 8.

We are grateful to all our alumni, particularly the Hon. Hal Jackman, LLB 1956, who helped make this building a reality—a beautiful home at the nexus of Queen's Park and one of the world's great public universities. The Jackman Law Building has quickly become the new hub of the first-class scholarship, teaching and learning activity for which the Faculty is well known, inspiring a sense of home and collaborative spirit among students, faculty, staff and alumni.

It's an exciting time at this law school. Not only because of our new home, but also because of the significant changes, and corresponding opportunities, arising in the profession and in legal education. We will ensure that we are building—and expanding—on the pillars of our past successes, encouraging, teaching and supporting the law students of today to become the leaders of tomorrow, no matter where they land in their careers.

Celebrating incredible alumni

You are all part of an unparalleled alumni group of leaders across the fields of law, business, government, academia, public service and more. We are very proud of your successes and are always cheering from the sidelines. It would be impossible to list all your great achievements (a nice problem to have!), but the following is a small sampling of your accomplishments in 2017: nine alumni were selected among the Top 25 Most Influential Lawyers annual ranking by Canadian Lawyer; the Hon. Bill Graham, LLB 1964, was named the 2017 Global Citizen Laureate by the UN; alumni Maggie Wente, LLB/MSW 2002, and Bryce Edwards, LLB 2002, received Arbor Awards, U of T's highest award for volunteers; once again, alumnae were named to the Women's Executive Network Top 100 Most Powerful Women in Canada list, and this year it was Joanna Rotenberg, JD/MBA 2001, Andrea Stairs, JD/MBA 2000, Melinda Park, LLB 1991, Lisa C. Philipps, LLB 1986 and Carol Derk, LLB 1984; alumna Reem Bahdi, LLB 1996, was this year's Guthrie Awardee, given by the Law Foundation of Ontario; the Hon. Justice Rosalie Silberman Abella, LLB 1970, was named Global Jurist of the Year by Northwestern Pritzker School of Law's Center for International Human Rights; former law school dean Ron Daniels, LLB 1986, president of Johns Hopkins University, received an Order of Canada; the Hon. Justice Sheilah Martin, SJD 1991, was appointed to the Supreme Court of Canada; and yet another alumnus was appointed dean of a law school: Adam Dodek, LLM 2008, now leads the University of Ottawa common law school. Kudos to all of you!

For the first time, but certainly not the last, we celebrated the Distinguished Alumni Awards in the Jackman Law Building, recognizing the wonderful career and community achievements of Melissa Kennedy, LLB 1987, and Herb Solway, JD 1955, and our Wilson Prichard awardees, Michelle Henry, JD 2002, and Claire Hunter, JD 2003. Read more about this inspirational event, and see why we are so proud of their leadership.

Attracting the best and brightest students

Our remarkable students were hard at work throughout the year, not only hitting the books, but also collaborating in our many clinic programs, and volunteering as student ambassadors at our annual Welcome Day for new admits and for our See Yourself Here event, which encourages high school students from communities underrepresented in the profession to consider university and careers in law. For the first time, we held such an event specifically for Indigenous students—one of many outreach events our Indigenous Initiatives Office led this year—and more than 40 youth from three of the six Mississauga Nations (Mississaugas of the New Credit First Nation, Curve Lake and Hiawatha First Nation) participated, along with Chief Stacey LaForme. We hope to continue to deepen our relationship with the MNCFN over 2018. On your next visit to the Jackman Law Building, please make sure that you take a look at the new artwork by Jay Bell Redbird, a member of the Wikwemikong First Nation, commissioned over the summer to honour the land and territory on which the University of Toronto and this law school operate. The new painting is hanging on the main floor in the Jackman Law Building.

In addition, our students participated in a Canada-first 'research-a-thon' to support a legal challenge to the Safe Third Country Agreement with the U.S. and were featured on CTV News. Mooting season, once again, was a success, with team wins in six national moots and several individual and factum awards, and we were very successful in obtaining Supreme Court of Canada clerkships this year, with nine U of T students selected—a full quarter of the total! I could not be prouder of our students, truly among the very best and brightest, and who are already on their way to becoming great leaders of tomorrow.

We said goodbye to the Class of 2017, as they breathed a collective sigh of relief and joyfully celebrated in the traditional Convocation Hall ceremony together with classmates, family and loved ones. During the ceremony on June 9th, we bestowed an honorary Doctor of Laws degree on Phil Fontaine, former three-term National Chief of the Assembly of First Nations, lead negotiator of the ground-breaking Residential Schools Settlement, and a good friend of and frequent speaker at the law school. Watch his inspiring acceptance speech on video. It was wonderful to return once again, now that the building construction is completed, to the Faculty of Law's back lawn, where so many of you celebrated years ago, for the post-ceremony reception to laud graduates and outstanding student-award winners.

In September, we welcomed about 200 talented, well-rounded and community-oriented first-year law students, with median LSAT percentiles in the mid-nineties and a median GPA of 3.8 on a 4.0 scale. We are pleased to continue to see wide variation in our students' academic backgrounds (from social sciences, to business and economics, classics and history, engineering, science, and visual and performing arts), and diverse representation not only from across this country, but also from around the world. In a survey for 1Ls, 23% indicated that they were born outside the country, 84% are the first in their family to attend law school, 41% speak another language, 33% identified as people of colour and 14% as LGBTQ2S. Have a look at our JD 1L class profile.

Leading in inquiry and thought

In addition to these notable alumni and student events, I am pleased to update you on the important teaching, learning and scholarship that form the foundation of your law school. Accolades for our scholars continue to roll in. For example, Professor Audrey Macklin, LLB 1987, Chair in Human Rights Law, received a 2017 Pierre Elliott Trudeau Fellowship, which is very prominent recognition of her outstanding scholarship (and other work) on immigrant and refugee rights. Our renowned scholar Professor Kent Roach, LLB 1987, Prichard Wilson Chair in Law and Public Policy, received the prestigious 2017 Molson Prize, one of two given to outstanding Canadian leaders in the social sciences or humanities, and in the arts. Past Guggenheim Award-winner Professor Anver Emon, Canada Research Chair in Religion, Pluralism and the Rule of Law, was one of six U of T scholars appointed to the notable Royal Society of Canada's College of New Scholars, Artists and Scientists, whose fellows awarded him the Kitty Newman Memorial Award, as an outstanding emerging scholar in the field of philosophy. Two scholars received the Connaught Global Challenge Award, a top University of Toronto research fund: Associate Dean for Graduate Studies Mariana Mota Prado, an expert on law and development, is a co-investigator on 'Scalable Architecture for Smart Villages,' a project with collaborators in the U.S. and India; and in a world that is less and less private, Professor Lisa Austin, LLM 1998, Chair in Law and Technology, is a co-investigator for the 'Information Technology, Transparency and Transformation Lab.' Around the globe, Professor Jutta Brunnée, Metcalf Chair in Environmental Law, and a highly regarded scholar for her public international expertise, was elected to the esteemed Institut de Droit International, based in Geneva. University Professor Stephen Waddams, LLB 1967, Goodman/Schipper Chair, was invited as a Herbert Smith Freehills Visitor by the University of Cambridge law school. At the International Monetary Fund's global conference this fall, University Professor Michael Trebilcock was the only Canadian academic invited to present.

In these turbulent times, we asked the big questions. Our scholars held conferences and panels on important topics, such as 'Law in the Age of Trump'; 'Artificial Intelligence, Technology and the Future of Law'; 'Art? Or Theft? A Closer Look at Appropriation Art and the Law'; 'Medical Aid in Dying (MAID) for Persons Living with Mental Illness'; 'Enforcement of Securities Law Violations'; and hosted for the first time the Labour Law Research Network's world conference, with more than 400 global scholars in attendance.

We continued several successful series, such as the David Asper Centre for Constitutional Rights Roundtables, culminating in a symposium for Canada's Sesquicentennial. It was keynoted by alumnus and academic John Borrows, LLB 1990, LLM 1991, who argued the non-binding UN's Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples should, in fact, be binding. The Centre for Innovation Law and Policy's sixth annual Patent Law Colloquium featured U of T academic and Structural Genomics Consortium co-founder Aled Edwards, who made a case for 'open science', asking 'Do we need intellectual property law?' And a symposium on the 'Limits and Legitimacy of Referenda' brought together scholars from around the world for discussion and exchange on the role and efficacy of referenda in amending and making constitutions, in resolving territorial disputes, and in questions of national identity. On the investment front, our Program in Ethics in Law and Business held a roundtable with top experts from legal practice and pension fund management to tackle the big issues in fund investments, governance and the role of legal counsel.

Once again, we had great speakers in our public lecture series, with Oxford University's Professor Lucia Zedner presenting on 'Counterterrorism on Campus: A Threat to Academic Freedoms?' as the Wright Lecturer; Columbia Law's Tim Wu, author of The Attention Merchants, gave the Grafstein Lecture, on how the new Internet-based model of selling human attention evolved. And we kicked off the year with the Morris A. Gross Memorial Lecture, given by alumnus and Ontario Chief Justice George Strathy, LLB 1974, who called on justices to embrace the 'Gladue Spirit' in sentencing, as part of reconciliation with Canada's Indigenous Peoples. Keep an eye out for future lectures, and please feel free to attend.

With support from a gift from our distinguished alumnus, the Hon. Hal Jackman, we appointed Senator Howard Wetston to be the Jackman Adjunct Professor. He has visited our law school and provided support for faculty and students who have engaged in his areas of regulatory expertise over the years, such as competition policy, energy policy and securities law. Senator Wetston has also participated with our students as part of an Emerging Issues Workshop on Senate reform in a thought-provoking conversation, looking at the role of the Senate, ways to modernize it, and reforming the selection process.

Update on the student experience

We continue to build our well-received Leadership Skills Program, launched last year to help round out the student experience, which offers a series of innovative workshops to help students gain key skills for professional success. Workshops included: the Creative Problem Solving Lab—Crafting a Career that Matters; Ignite Your Leadership Potential with Emotional Intelligence; Building your Professional Network; and Professional Writing Skills, to name but a few. An important addition is Rotman@Law, an online collaboration with the Rotman School of Management, which culminates in a certificate. It involves three pre-MBA introductory courses in accounting, finance and statistics—a refresher for some, new knowledge for others. Whether students pursue corporate law, or wish to lead a non-profit, these courses provide an excellent introduction to key management concepts.

I am pleased to announce we have also expanded our range of options for international exchanges, having added the University of Geneva, the University of Copenhagen, and Hebrew University to the roster. In another sign of a globalizing world, we have had a recent surge in interest in such exchanges, with more than 60 students participating in an international exchange this academic year. Similarly, we continue to welcome students and faculty from around the world to U of T.  For example, we were pleased to welcome two LLM students from the National University of Singapore who are the first students in a combined NUS LLB/U of T LLM program, and also welcomed the first two Gallant and Betty Ho Fellows, recent graduates of Tsinghua Law School in Beijing who are enrolled in our LLM program with generous support from Dr. Gallant Ho. In addition, we were delighted to host our usual outstanding roster of intensive course instructors from around the world, including Professor Talia Fisher from Tel Aviv University, Professor James Penner, LLB 1988, of the National University of Singapore, Professor Timothy Endicott, LLB 1998, of Oxford, and many more. Our clinic programs of course add significantly to student life. Each year, more than 140 students provide direct legal services to low-income clients through our Downtown Legal Services. Others work with international partners. For example, four students from our award-winning International Human Rights Program (IHRP) and its director, alumnus Samer Muscati, JD 2002, were invited to join Amnesty International's Digital Verification Corps—the only Canadian university to participate—to help sift through video evidence and confirm its veracity in the case of documented human rights abuses around the world. Most recently the IHRP submitted a joint report with the Canadian Association of Refugee Lawyers, Amnesty and the Canadian Civil Liberties Association challenging the immigration detention system.

The mental health of our students is a top and continuing priority, and this fall we expanded our in-house counselling capacity by welcoming a new Master of Social Work practicum student to the law school to assist in counselling students. Yukimi Henry, LLB/MSW 2000, our alumna and Manager of Academic/Personal Counselling and Wellness, leads our mental health efforts, both by offering valuable counselling services herself, and by leading efforts to offer wellness programming.

We continued to connect our alumni with our students in a number of ways. The Dean's Leadership Lunch series connects senior alumni with students over lunch, while the recently launched Lawyers Doing Cool Things with Their Law Degrees program involves a lunch session with students and more recent graduates who are following less conventional paths with their law degrees. These series, and other programs, such as the Alumni Mentorship Program, where volunteers are matched with students throughout the JD program, provide great opportunities to connect our students with accomplished alumni from all areas of the profession.

Student financial aid

As you know, the Faculty of Law's fundraising priority is to support our students in a variety of ways, most especially through an even more expansive financial aid program for students who need it most. We have a wonderful new building to position us well for the future, and we are committed to continuing to fill it with brilliant students, no matter their financial circumstances—students such as Alvin Yau, and recent alumnae Hana Dhanji and Alissa Saieva. Hear their stories on this video. As sources of funding other than tuition decline, and tuition correspondingly increases, our innovative financial aid program, including the only post-graduation debt relief program in Canada for JD graduates earning low incomes, has been crucial, and will only be more so in the future, in ensuring that top students, no matter their backgrounds, continue to choose to enroll at our Faculty.

We deeply appreciate recent commitments from our alumni and friends to support excellence at our Faculty through donations to student financial aid. We recently celebrated a tremendously generous gift from alumni Norman and Gay Loveland, who directed their $1M donation to fund bursaries for Indigenous law students in economic need. We are enormously grateful for their commitment to student financial aid, and their passion to help qualified students pursue their post-secondary dreams.

This sampling of activities in 2017 hopefully conveys a sense of the remarkable place our law school occupies in Canada and the world. While we will continue to be motivated by our passion for excellence in legal education and scholarship, not by rankings, it was nevertheless gratifying to be included in the top 10 of a global law school ranking by the Times Higher Education, a prominent listing based largely on reputation, publication citations and teaching environment. As an alumnus, faculty member and now dean, I am grateful and privileged to be associated with this wonderful community, and I hope all of our alumni feel the same way. On behalf of the Faculty of Law, my very best warm wishes for the holiday season. See you in 2018!

Edward Iacobucci
Dean and James M. Tory Professor of Law