McGill University Faculty of Law

The Faculty of Law is one of the professional graduate schools of McGill University in Montreal, Quebec, Canada. It is the oldest law school in Canada. 180 candidates are admitted for any given academic year. For the year 2021 class, the acceptance rate was 10%.[4][5][6]

McGill University Faculty of Law
Faculté de droit de l'université McGill (French)
Entrance to Chancellor Day Hall
TypeFaculty (law school)
Established1848; 176 years ago (1848)[1]
Parent institution
McGill University
DeanRobert Leckey
Academic staff
109[2]
Students875[3]
Location,
Quebec
,
Canada
CampusUrban
Languages
  • English
  • French
Websitemcgill.ca/law Edit this at Wikidata
Old Chancellor Day Hall in the foreground (and New Chancellor Day Hall in the background) is one of the buildings which house the Faculty of Law of McGill University.

Notable alumni include Prime Ministers John Abbott and Sir Wilfrid Laurier, thirteen Justices of the Supreme Court (Including the most recent appointments, Mahmud Jamal and Nicholas Kasirer), as well as Members of Parliament. Marc Miller, a member of the current Cabinet of Canada, is a graduate from the Faculty.

The Faculty is home to the first faculty union at McGill, the Association of McGill Law Professors. Starting on April 24, 2024, all full-time faculty began an unlimited strike due to McGill University's failure to bargain in good faith.[7]

Academics

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Bachelor of Civil Law and Juris Doctor program

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The McGill Faculty of Law offers a unique combined Bachelor of Civil Law (BCL) and Juris Doctor (JD) program. The BCL/JD program emphasizes a transsystemic and polyjural approach that integrates common law and civil law, sometimes within a single class.[8] More recently, the Faculty has incorporated Indigenous law into its curriculum in response to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission's recommendations for Canadian law schools.[9]

In 2016, the Faculty reviewed its curriculum and added Integration Week: an introductory week of group work and lectures for first-year students.[10] They also added two Focus Weeks—one in fall and one in winter—that allow students to take intensive one-week courses. In winter 2023, the first student seminar on Abolitionist practices and Transformative Justice was launched.

The duration of BCL/JD program is somewhat flexible: the program can be completed in 3, 3.5, or 4 years. Students who opt for a minor, major, or honours program generally require 4 years to complete their degree. Majors are offered in International Human Rights and Development and in Commercial Negotiation and Dispute Resolution.[11]

The Faculty of Law, in collaboration with the Desautels Faculty of Management and the Faculty of Art's School of Social Work, offers joint programs that combine the BCL/JD program with either a Master of Business Administration (MBA) or a Master of Social Work (MSW).[10] A joint program takes 4 to 5 years to complete.

The Faculty of Law's Admissions Office has an acceptance rate of 10.1%.[12]

Master of Laws (LLM)

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The Faculty offers four LLM programs for students: one general LLM program, and three specialized LLM programs in Air and Space Law, Environment, and Bioethics. Except for the LLM Bioethics program, all programs have thesis and non-thesis options.[13] The non-thesis Master's of Law option prioritizes course work and can be completed in twelve months. The thesis option prioritizes research; it can be completed in sixteen to twenty-four months. Student in the LLM Bioethics program write a thesis.[14]

Doctor of Civil Law (DCL)

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The Faculty offers three DCL programs in General Law, Comparative Law, and Air and Space Law.[15] Students generally complete the DCL program in 3 to 4 years.

Graduate Certificates

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The Faculty offers graduate certificates in Comparative Law and in Air and Space Law. Graduate certificates are awarded upon completing a set number of credits. Certificates are based on coursework, and no thesis is required.

History

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Angus McIntyre House

The Faculty of Law was officially created in 1853, after a petition signed by young men studying law in Montreal was made to McGill in 1848.[1] With the incoming class of 1969, the Faculty added a stand-alone common law degree, suitable to the practice of law in other Canadian provinces, which could be taken individually or jointly with the traditional Civil Law curriculum. The joint degree was then referred to as the National Programme, and taught common law and civil law in separate courses, but combined their study in a year-long introductory "Foundations" course and in some upper-year seminars.[16] In 1951, McGill inaugurated its first post-graduate law program with the creation of its Institute of Air & Space Law.[17] The institute was founded by John Cobb Cooper, who had served as a senior official in Pan American World Airways, and the International Air Transport Association.[18] Canada's only United Nations organ, the International Civil Aviation Organization, is also headquartered in Montreal.[19][circular reference]

With the incoming class of 1999, the Faculty eliminated its civil, common, and national programs, and replaced them with a single program, which includes some mandatory first-year courses and some upper-year courses which integrate both common and civil law. This joint and bilingual degree, which all students must take, is now referred to as the transsystemic program.[20] This program underwent slight revisions during a curriculum renewal unrolled in 2016. Under the newly revised program, criminal and property law are taught differently; incoming students also undergo two "integration weeks" (one in the fall and winter).[21]

The Transsystemic program was created under the direction of former Dean Stephen Toope, whereby every student graduates with degrees in both civil law and common law. This means that, from the first year, courses now explore civil and common law concepts in close comparison. Students analyse and critically evaluate the two traditions, their histories, and their social, political, and cultural contexts.[22] Undergraduate students may participate in international exchange programs, and in the International Courts and Tribunals Program, which in 2006 received a Scotiabank-AUCC Award for Excellence in Internationalization.[23]

Since 1976, the Faculty of Law's Institute of Air and Space Law, has annually published the first and only bilingual journal in the field of air and space law, the Annals of Air and Space Law.[24] Other Faculty of Law bilingual publications include the McGill Law Journal and the McGill Journal of Sustainable Development Law.[25]

 
Nahum Gelber Law Library (side profile)

The Buildings

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Old Chancellor Day Hall and New Chancellor Day Hall are the names of two joined buildings at McGill University's downtown campus that house the Faculty of Law. Old Chancellor Day Hall was designed by noted architect Bruce Price for businessman James Ross. New Chancellor Day Hall was completed in 1967 by architecture firm Bland, Lemoyne, Edwards, and Shine. The Old and New Chancellor Day buildings are connected by an underground passage and by an atrium, which also connects to the Nahum Gelber Law Library. Today, Old Chancellor Day Hall is used for administrative and faculty offices. New Chancellor Day Hall includes all classrooms, a moot court room, student spaces, law student services, and administrative and faculty offices.

Old Chancellor Day Hall

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In 1892, Canadian civil engineer, businessman, and philanthropist James Ross hired architect Bruce Price (whose other masterworks included Windsor Station and Château Frontenac) to design a château-style mansion in Montreal's Golden Square Mile, on Peel Street.[26] Built largely of yellow sandstone from New Brunswick, the James Ross House was one of the most expensive private homes built in Canada during the nineteenth century. The house was a social centre for the Golden Square Mile.[26]

His son John Kenneth Leveson Ross, a noted bon vivant and sportsman, inherited both the house and the Ross fortune.[27] In the 1919, J.K.L. Ross hired architects Trowbridge and Livingstone to undertake $600,000 of renovations that affected every room in the house.[27] The renovation included adding a private bathroom to each bedroom, covering up a skylight, and putting in windows to create a library/reading room in what is now the Common Room.[28] John Ross declared bankruptcy in 1928, and the James Ross House was sold at auction in 1929 for a mere $51,000. The mansion was subsequently purchased by J.W. McConnell in 1948 as a gift to McGill University.[29]

While the university may have initially planned to use it for a student residence, the Faculty of Law officially moved into the mansion in a ceremony attended by many members of the judiciary and the Montreal Bar on 9 February 1950. At the ceremony, McGill's Chancellor, Orville S. Tyndale, declared on behalf of the Board of Governors that the mansion would be named Chancellor Day Hall in honour of McGill's first Chancellor, Charles Dewey Day. The opening ceremony was held in the students' handsomely furnished common room, a gift from Maurice Pollack.[30]

On 9 July 2014, Old Chancellor Day Hall closed for 14 months for renovations to upgrade the building's heating, electrical systems, plumbing, windows, and more. Thirty-four staff and faculty members were relocated to New Chancellor Day Hall and to temporary offices on McGill College Avenue.[31][28]

In December 2017, representatives of the Clan Ross Association of Canada and members of the Faculty of Law unveiled a plaque commemorating James Ross. The plaque is located near the main entrance.[32]

New Chancellor Day Hall

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New Chancellor Day Hall was built in 1967 to address the Faculty of Law's growing program and increased enrolment.[33] A six-storey precast concrete tower designed by architectural firm Bland, Lemoyne, Edwards, and Shine was erected just west of Chancellor Day Hall and connected to it by a corridor, at the cost of $1.825 million.[33] This extension was named New Chancellor Day Hall and blended with the adjacent Stewart Biological Sciences Building. New Chancellor Day Hall included additional classrooms, study spaces, and a moot court. Prior to the construction of the Gelber Law Library, the top floors of New Chancellor Day Hall housed the library.[27][34]

The building was inaugurated on 21 January 1967. During the bilingual ceremony, the Faculty of Law awarded seven honorary degrees, including degrees to Chief Justice Robert Taschereau of Canada, Chief Justice Earl Warren of the United States, and Lord Denning of Great Britain.[34] Following the inauguration of the Gelber Law Library in 1998, the empty floors of New Chancellor Day that had previously been used as the library were used by McGill University to house various small research units attached to different faculties.[35] In 2005, all student services at the Faculty of Law were consolidated on the fourth floor of New Chancellor Day Hall.

From 2008 to 2009, New Chancellor Day Hall underwent major renovations. The project overhauled the third, fifth, and sixth floors. New architectural features included adding a massive skylight above a staircase between the fifth and sixth floors, piercing windows on the sixth floor, and creating partially frosted glass partitions between offices to allow natural light inside interior offices. The third floor is devoted to student spaces – accommodating a multimedia classroom with movable walls and a seminar room. The third floor is also home to multiple student clubs, student-run law journals, and the graduate students' lounge. The fifth and sixth floors feature a conference room, and house some of the Faculty's research units, as well as offices for professors, staff, graduate students, and visiting scholars.[35]

Nahum Gelber Law Library

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The Nahum Gelber Law Library is one of the 13 branches of the McGill University Library and houses over 220,000 volumes of statutes, regulations, law reports, treatises, books, journals and other legal material. Designed by Dan Hanganu, the Nahum Gelber Law Library was inaugurated September 1998.[27] The building was designed to link to New and Old Chancellor Day Halls via a two-level atrium for socializing and studying.[36]

The Gelber Library is home to the Wainwright Collection, which was established in 1958 with the acquisition of several hundred volumes dedicated to the history of French law.[37] The collection is primarily composed of early French jurists on general civil law before the Codification of 1804 and was the personal library of French legal historian François Olivier-Martin.[38] Over the years, the Wainwright fund has allowed the Library to expand the collection beyond the classic vision of civil law, centred on France, to reflect the global influence of civil law across languages and continents. Today, the collection consists of 800 works comprising 1200 volumes and is conserved in controlled atmospheric conditions in the Peter M. Laing Room, located on the second floor of the Gelber Law Library.[39]

Reputation

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University rankings
Global rankings
QS World[40]22
Times World[41]17
Canadian rankings

Graduates of the Faculty consistently account for one quarter of Canada's Supreme Court clerkships,[42][43][44][45] more than any law school in Canada.[46] One of the small number of elite law schools internationally that may submit International Court of Justice (ICJ) clerkship applications, it also consistently places graduates at the ICJ,[47][48] and has a better placement record than any other Canadian law school.

Its flagship law review, the McGill Law Journal, is the most cited law faculty review by Canada's Supreme Court, and was ranked the best overall student-run law journal in the world outside of the United States. It also publishes the Canadian Guide to Uniform Legal Citation, the standard reference work for almost all Canadian law reviews, Canadian law schools, and courts.

The McGill University Faculty of Law has consistently placed as the top ranking law school in Canada and has the highest acceptance requirements. The alumni from McGill University's law school consist of a diverse group of distinguished leaders on a global scale. It has historically placed in the top ~20 law schools globally on multiple ranking systems.[49] It was recently ranked the 22nd best law school worldwide in the 2019 QS World Ranking.[49] It was ranked the 16th best law school in the world in the 2021 Times Higher Education World Rankings, marking consistent showings for McGill in the top 20 worldwide in the ranking.[50] For the 2023 ranking, the Times Higher Education ranked the Faculty the 17th best law school in the world.[51]

Controversies

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In 2018, the Faculty, along with the McGill Office for Students with Disabilities, were sued by a blind law student who alleged that he was systematically denied access to accommodation measures. His lawsuit was covered by local and national media outlets.[52][53][54]

After dissatisfaction with McGill University's handling of the COVID-19 pandemic and a continued pattern of overriding or limited Faculty decision-making, the full-time professors at the Faculty of Law formed the Association of McGill Professors of Law (AMPL) and filed for certification with Quebec's Tribunal administratif du travail on November 7, 2021. [55] McGill disputed the right of the union to be certified but lost before the Tribunal on November 8, 2022.[56] McGill disputed the right of the union to be certified but lost before the Tribunal on November 8, 2022.[57] The parties immediately commenced negotiations over a collective agreement. Because McGill University failed to negotiate in good faith, AMPL members conducted a one day strike on February 13, 2024 to advance negotiations.[58] The University continued to delay negotiations and failed to advance counterproposals forcing AMPL to call an unlimited strike, which began on April 24, 2024.[59]

Soon after the strike began, McGill University's Provost and Executive Vice-President, Christopher Manfredi, in a private email to McGill's President and Vice-Chancellor, Deep Saini and Law Dean, Robert Leckey, on which he inadvertently included a law student and journalist, questioned the ability of McGill law students to read, concluding “I’m a bit worried about the people we’re sending into the legal profession.” [60] Manfredi was concerned that McGill Law Students were strongly siding with AMPL during the strike. While Manfredi apologized to students, neither Saini nor Leckey distanced themselves from Manfredi's original comments.

After failing to negotiate with the union for over five weeks, McGill announced it would hold graduation ceremonies for students normally completing their studies in Winter 2024 even though those students had no grades and their graduation status had not been conferred in accordance with University regulations.[61] The provincial law societies are allowing students to write their bar exams but those students will not be eligible to become lawyers until McGill submits final grades, something it cannot do while its professors are on strike.

Notable people

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Current faculty chair-holders and emeritus professors

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  • Andrea Bjorklund, holder of the L. Yves Fortier Chair in International Arbitration and International Commercial Law.[62]
  • Adelle Blackett, holder of the Canada Research Chair in Transnational Labour Law and Development,[63] former member of the International Labour Organization.
  • Allison Christians, holder of the H. Heward Stikeman Chair in Tax Law.
  • Ignacio Cofone, holder of the Canada Research Chair in Artificial Intelligence Law and Data Governance.[64]
  • François Crépeau, former director of the Centre for Human Rights and Legal Pluralism, holder of the Hans and Tamar Oppenheimer Chair in Public International Law, and former United Nations Special Rapporteur on the Human Rights of Migrants.
  • Helge Dedek, holder of the Arnold Wainwright Chair in Civil Law.
  • Yaëll Emerich, holder of the Canada Research Chair in Transsystemic Property and Sustainable Communities.[65]
  • Evan Fox-Decent, Canada Research Chair in Cosmopolitan Law and Justice[66][67] and President, Association of McGill Professors of Law.[68]
  • Fabien Gélinas, holder of the Sir William C. Macdonald Chair.[69]
  • E. Richard Gold, holder of a James McGill Professorship, Director of the Centre for Intellectual Property,[70] and Strategic Lead, Policy and Training at Conscience.[71]
  • Sébastien Jodoin, holder of the Canada Research Chair in Human Rights, Health and the Environment.[72]
  • Robert Leckey, dean and holder of the Samuel Gale Chair.
  • Marie Manikis, holder of a William Dawson Chair.[73]
  • Frédéric Mégret, holder of the Hans & Tamar Oppenheimer Chair in Public International Law.[74]
  • Aaron Mills, holder of the Canada Research Chair in Indigenous Constitutionalism and Philosophy.[75]
  • Johanne Poirier, holder of the Peter MacKell Chair in Federalism.[76]
  • René Provost, holder of a James McGill Professorship.[77]
  • Stephen Allan Scott, professor emeritus and leading scholar on the Canadian Constitution.
  • Colleen Sheppard, holder of the FR Scott Chair in Public & Constitutional Law.[78]
  • Daniel Weinstock, holder of the Katharine A. Pearson Chair in Civil Society and Public Policy.
  • Peer Zumbansen, Business law professor, co-founder of the German Law Journal

Past faculty members

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Alumni

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Justices of the Supreme Court of Canada

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Political figures

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Other alumni

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Deans of the Faculty

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The study of law at McGill began in 1844 when William Badgley was appointed lecturer in law within the Faculty of Arts. While informal classes began earlier, the Faculty of Law was officially established at McGill in 1853, with William Badgley appointed its first dean. Over the years, the following people have served the Faculty of Law as deans.[98][99][100][101][102]

Student life

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Law Student Association

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The overarching student organization is the Law Student's Association (LSA): an elected group of law students who represent the student body. The LSA was created in 1912 and incorporated in 1992.[103][104] The executives and representatives of the LSA are elected by McGill's law students.

During the school year, the LSA hosts a weekly coffeehouse on Thursday evenings designed to encourage students to network and socialize over food and drink. The coffeehouse tradition was started in 1989 by David Lametti when he was part of the LSA.[105][106] Some coffeehouse events are sponsored by law firms for networking with students, while others are hosted by student associations and clubs.[105]

Christie Bike Ride

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The Dugald Christie Memorial Community Bike Ride, also called the Christie Bike Ride, is an annual charity fundraiser organized by McGill Law students. Funds are distributed to local organizations that increase access to justice, especially for marginalized communities. Past recipients of the funds include Project Genesis, Head and Hands, and the Native Women's Shelter of Montreal.[107]

The Christie Bike Ride was started in 2009 in honour of alumnus Dugald Christie.[107] Christie was a Vancouver-based lawyer that championed access to justice for low-income communities. He was killed while cycling from Vancouver to Ottawa to raise awareness about access to justice.[108]

Journals

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McGill Law Journal

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The McGill Law Journal (MLJ) was founded by Gerald Le Dain and Jacques-Yvan Morin in 1952. The MLJ publishes four volumes a year on general law topics. The MLJ is frequently cited by the Supreme Court of Canada and is the most cited student-run law journal by the Court.[109]

The McGill Law Journal also publishes the Canadian Guide to Uniform Legal Citation. The original Guide was published in 1986 and was intended to standardize Canadian legal citations.[110] Today, the Guide is used by most Canadian legal journals.[110] The McGill Law Journal regularly hosts office hours to assist McGill students using the Canadian Guide to Uniform Legal Citation.[111]

McGill Journal of Sustainable Development Law

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The McGill Journal of Sustainable Development Law (MJSDL) was established in 2004 and focuses on sustainable development and environmental law and policy.[112] It is peer-reviewed and published bi-annually.

McGill Journal of Law and Health

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The McGill Journal of Law and Health (MJLH) was established in 2007. It is a peer-reviewed, open-access journal and is published annually.[113] The MJLH focuses on health law and has been cited four times by the Supreme Court of Canada.[114][115][116][117] Most recently, an article from the journal was cited in the Reference Re Assisted Human Reproduction Act.

McGill Journal of Dispute Resolution

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The McGill Journal of Dispute Resolution (MJDR) is a bilingual peer-reviewed academic journal dedicated to scholarship in the fields of arbitration, mediation, facilitation, negotiation and other forms of alternative dispute resolution.[118][119] The McGill Journal of Dispute Resolution was first published in 2015.[120]

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The Legal Information Clinic at McGill is a non-profit legal information clinic for McGill students and the Montreal community.[119][121] The Legal Information Clinic is a separate entity from McGill but is run by McGill law students. Originally founded in 1973 by then-law student Michael Bergman, the Clinic works on more than 2,000 cases a year.[121][122]

The Clinic also provides a student advocacy service for McGill students accused of disciplinary offences or looking to resolve disputes with McGill University.[121][122]

Quid Novi

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Quid Novi, also known colloquially as the Quid, is the Faculty of Law's student-run newspaper. Since the publication of its first edition in March 1981, Quid Novi has been a forum for both students and faculty to share news and opinions on both legal and non-legal matters.[123][124] Quid Novi is published on a weekly basis during the academic year.

L.E.X. Outreach Program

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The Faculty of Law of McGill University founded the Law-Éducation-Connexion Outreach Program, also called the L.E.X. Outreach Program, in 2006.[125] The program has law student volunteers deliver presentations at local schools and answer student questions. The program targets youth in communities that are traditionally underrepresented in the legal field and schools that have high dropout rates, with the goal of encouraging an interest in post-secondary education and legal studies.[126] In 2009, the program was expanded following a donation from the Beaverbrook Canadian Foundation.[127]

See also

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References

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