History of the Faculty of Law

The University of Alberta Faculty of Law has a storied history of more than 110 years, building toward its position today as a top Canadian law school. In addition to being the first professional Faculty at the U of A, it was also the first law program in Western Canada.

Class of 1924 Green and Gold

When the Faculty was established in 1912, it offered lectures on behalf of the Law Society of Alberta as well as courses for a part-time LLB program. It was not until 1921 that the Faculty began offering a three-year, full-time LLB.

Until the early 1940s, the Faculty remained relatively small with only two full-time faculty members and classes of an average size of 20 students or less. Things changed rapidly when World War II ended and many returning veterans had ambitions of contributing to the post-war economy through a legal career.

Law Centre 1970In the early days, the Faculty had its first home for law students in the library located on the second floor of the south wing of the old Arts Building. It was not until fall 1972 that the Faculty of Law moved into its own dedicated space — the Law Centre, an instantly recognizable landmark on the east side of the university’s North Campus.

Since that first full-time class graduated in 1924, more than 9,600 students have completed their law degree at the U of A’s Faculty of Law.

Today, over 500 students are now taught by almost 40 full-time faculty members and dozens of sessional instructors, drawn from the practising bar. Under the tutelage of nationally and internationally renowned scholars and leaders in legal research, Faculty of Law students regularly attain prestigious honours, including Supreme Court clerkships, competitive moot triumphs and national scholarships.

Land Acknowledgment

The University of Alberta Faculty of Law is located in Amiskwacîwâskahikan on Treaty 6 territory, a traditional gathering place for diverse Indigenous Peoples, including the Cree, Blackfoot, Métis, Nakota Sioux, Iroquois, Dene, Ojibway / Saulteaux / Anishinaabe, Inuit and many others who shape our community.

The Law Centre has been the home of the Faculty of Law for more than 50 years and is located on River Lot 7. Laurent Garneau was the Métis son of a French fur trader who, as a youth, sided with Louis Riel and the provisional government of 1870 in the Red River area. He came to Edmonton in 1874, settling on River Lot 7 on the river’s south side. The U of A developed on the adjacent River Lot 5 in 1910 and in the 1960s expanded to part of River Lot 7, on which the Law Centre now stands.



The University of Alberta Faculty of Law is founded with the Law Society of Alberta. Students take courses part-time at the Edmonton Courthouse while clerking.


Introduction of a full-time, three-year law degree program. Inaugural U of A President Henry M. Tory was instrumental in implementing this university-based model of legal education, inspired by the Harvard Law School.

John A. Weir is the first full-time teacher.

The Law Club, which would become the Law Students Association, is established.


Weir becomes first Dean of Law


Wilbur F. Bowker becomes Dean and begins a massive expansion and consolidation of the Faculty over two decades, including moving from the Arts Building to Rutherford Library.


First publication of the Alberta Law Review, a student-run quarterly and one of the top legal journals in Canada (previously the Alberta Law Quarterly, which began in 1934).


Master of Laws offered.


The Law Centre officially opens after two years of construction, a home the Faculty can call its own. In addition to the John A. Weir Memorial Library, it includes offices for staff and faculty, four large amphitheater classrooms, seminar rooms, the Eldon D. Foote Moot Courtroom, a conference lounge and lunchroom, and the Alberta Law Reform Institute (formerly the Institute of Law Research and Reform).


The Health Law Institute is launched by Justice Ellen Picard, the first of its kind in Canada.


Creation of the Centre for Constitutional Studies, a hub for constitutional research and public education in Canada.


The Indigenous Law Program is established to redress under-representation of Indigenous lawyers in Canada by recruiting qualified candidates and providing support to those enrolled in the program.


Doctor of Philosophy program is created and the first doctoral student is admitted to the program.


Internationally Trained Lawyer Pathway program launches, preparing lawyers educated outside the country to become accredited to practise law in Canada.


The Wahkohtowin Law and Governance Lodge is founded for the development, use and understanding of Indigenous laws, in response to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada’s Calls to Action #50.


The David R. Percy Student Lounge is officially opened after extensive renovations to what was formerly known as the Gavel. Renovations were made possible thanks to the generous support of an anonymous Faculty of Law alumni. The space honours former dean and long-time professor David R Percy, KC, who has been a beloved member of the Faculty for more than 50 years.

Faculty celebrates 100th graduating class, from the Class of 1924 to the Class of 2023.

Groundbreaking Alumni

Lillian Ruby Clements, ’15 LLB, first woman admitted to the Alberta bar, in 1915, first woman to receive an LLB from the University of Alberta.

Gertrude Elizabeth Bury, ’24 LLB, first woman to practise law in Alberta for any length of time, first woman in the British Commonwealth to address the jury in a murder trial (1929).

Louis Turcotte, ’24 LLB, started law school at 17, served as a district court judge of Southern Alberta for 24 years, elected first chancellor of University of Lethbridge.

Sigvald Nielson, ’24 LLB, first president of the Law Club, later a professor at the U of A Faculty of Law and Stanford University.

Ronald Martland, '28 LLB, first alumnus appointed to Supreme Court of Canada (1958-1992).

Clarence Campbell, '24 BA (Law), president of the National Hockey League from 1946-1967, the longest serving at the time.

Marjorie Bowker, '39 LLB, first alumna to be appointed a judge (Family and Juvenile Courts of Alberta, 1966), helped establish first court-centred Marriage Conciliation Service in Canada.

William George Morrow, ’39 LLB, one of the first Canadians to champion the cause of the North's Indigenous Peoples, later a judge of the Territorial Court of NWT.

Peter Lougheed, '52 LLB, first alumnus to serve as premier of Alberta (1971-1985), led Alberta's first Progressive Conservative government and the party’s first majority government.

Violet King Henry, '53 LLB, first Black female lawyer in Canada, as well as first black person to graduate law in Alberta and be admitted to the Alberta bar.

Ellen Picard, '67 LLB, first female full-time member of the Faculty of Law and first female faculty member to be appointed a judge.

Beverley McLachlin, '68 LLB, first alumna to become chief justice of Canada (2000-2017), and both first Albertan and first female to hold the position.

Catherine Fraser, '70 LLB, first woman to be appointed chief justice of Alberta and chief justice of Northwest Territories, later the first chief justice of Nunavut Court of Appeal.

Jean McBean, QC, ’72 LLB, part of Edmonton’s first all-female law firm, McBean Becker Cochard and Gordon, protected women's rights to property in divorce settlements, established the first Legal Aid Alberta Family Law offices in Edmonton and Calgary.

Beverley Browne, ‘75 LLB, first Chief Justice of Nunavut upon its establishment as a territory in 1999, responsible for building Nunavut’s justice system.

Wilton Littlechild & Rodney Soonias, ‘76 LLB, first Indigenous graduates of the Faculty of Law

Mary Moreau, '79 LLB, first female chief justice of the Court of Queen's Bench of Alberta.

Leonard S. Mandamin, ‘82 LLB, first First Nation graduate to be appointed a judge at any level.

Daryl Katz, '85 LLB, owner of Edmonton Oilers hockey team.

Steve Blackman, '97 LLB, Hollywood writer and producer behind Netflix hit The Umbrella Academy, as well as Bones and Fargo.

Deans of the Faculty of Law

  • 1926-1942 John A. Weir
  • 1942-1945 Malcolm M. MacIntyre
  • 1944-1947 George H. Steer (Acting)
  • 1948-1967 Wilbur Fee Bowker
  • 1968-1970 Gérard La Forest
  • 1970-1975 Gerald H.L. Fridman
  • 1976-1986 Frank Jones
  • 1986-1997 Timothy Christian
  • 1991-1992 Anne McLellan (Acting)
  • 1997-2002 Lewis Klar
  • 2002-2009 David Percy
  • 2009-2014 Philip Bryden
  • 2014-2019 Paul D. Paton
  • 2019-2020 David Percy (Interim)
  • 2020-Present Barbara Billingsley

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