Looking Back: A Time of Transformation and Change

As Dean Paton's term concludes, his renewal strategies leave the Faculty of Law flourishing

Staff Writer - 28 May 2019

Paul D. Paton gave almost every aspect of UAlberta Law a vigorous overhaul during his term as dean that concludes this June. In tribute to his impact over five years, we salute five of Dean Paton's signature areas of focus.

1. Faculty Renewal

The Plan

"One of my highest priorities has been faculty renewal and recruitment, the no.1 priority for students during the 2014-15 market modifier tuition debate."

- Dean Paul Paton, 2018

The Transformation

After securing financial resources that increased the faculty's budget by nearly 50 per cent, Dean Paton recruited 11 stellar tenure-track professors. Together they represent more than a third of the entire faculty complement and are already recognized domestically and internationally for excellence.

The Impact

Expertise Deepens

The Faculty's reputation as a cutting-edge resource on Aboriginal and Indigenous law was augmented by the addition of scholars Darcy Lindberg, Joshua Nichols and Hadley Friedland. Welcoming constitutional and animal law scholar Jessica Eisen permits closer links with the Faculty of Agricultural Life and Environmental Sciences and international reach. International law specialist Tamar Meshel bolsters an already robust international law complement and business expertise, while Cameron Jefferies widens the Faculty's expertise in environmental law. Anna Lund strengthens the business and commercial law cohort. Legal philosophy scholar Hillary Nye bolsters UAlberta Law's traditional commitment to foundational study of jurisprudence. Jennifer Raso's research on data-driven technologies and administrative law highlights groundbreaking work occurring globally in that realm. Peter Szigeti's focus on legal theory, property, environmental and international law widens the thinking at the Faculty in each of those fields. Malcolm Lavoie adds depth in the areas of property law, Aboriginal law and the intersection of private law and constitutional law.

"(Eleven) new faculty members ... has manifested in a lot more classes being offered for students who are interested in a broad slew of topics, from comparative constitutional law to new jurisprudence sections."

- Daniel Downie, '19 JD

2. Student Experience

The Plan

"We need to make sure we're poised to address and anticipate challenges, while preparing students for excellence."

- Dean Paul Paton, March 2014

The Transformation

Under Dean Paton's direction, Student Services expanded, experiential learning opportunities blossomed, the competitive moot program and student appointments to Supreme Court clerkships rebounded, and material support arrived for mental health and wellness, and technology and physical updating in the Law Centre.

The Impact

Student Financial Support

The Dean's financial strategies and fundraising replaced lost bursary funding and enhanced incoming student scholarships, preserving total support at over $1M/year. He added a Student Recruiter and Financial Aid advisor to the Student Services team.

Career Services

A director of Career Services position was created and a dedicated career services centre established in the Law Centre. The Career Services team was quadrupled in size and online search tools deployed for the first time. Students have significantly enhanced access to comprehensive resume and interview preparation, and additional information about opportunities in small firms and non-traditional practices. The success rate of students seeking articling placements has risen to more than 97 per cent in 2018.

Four Supreme Court Clerkships

In each of the past four years, a UAlberta Law graduate has been selected to clerk at the Supreme Court of Canada. Brandyn Rodgerson, '17 JD, and bronze medal winner Dylan Gibbs, '18 JD, are both clerking during the 2019-2020 term. Gina Murray, '19 JD, will clerk in 2020-21. They follow Ashton Menuz, '17 JD, who clerked with the Hon. Russell Brown in 2018-2019. Professor Malcolm Lavoie was appointed to mentor clerkship applicants, and students secured increasing numbers of clerkships at the Court of Appeal, Court of Queen's Bench, Provincial Court, Tax Court, and Federal Court.

"Our students have very much appreciated your efforts to include them and to intentionally create space for them, and students of all faiths, to engage in meaningful conversations about faith and the practice/study of law."

- Derek Ross, Executive Director, Christian Legal Fellowship of Canada

"We're laying the foundation for a healthier legal profession."

- Dean Paul Paton, 2017

Mental Health and Wellness

Studies suggest that 20 to 30 per cent of lawyers suffer from depression and related mental health conditions some time during their career; the more successful, the more prone they are to such struggles. Dean Paton made it a priority to break stigmas surrounding mental health issues and better equip law students with resources,information and strategies for success.

In collaboration with the Alberta Lawyers' Assistance Society (Assist), a pilot program launched in 2015-16 provides free on-site counselling and referral services for law students.

"He has not only promoted wellness but has actively implemented wellness into core components at the law school."

- Loraine Champion, Executive Director, Assist (Alberta Lawyers' Assistance Society)

Support For Diversity and Inclusion

Dean Paton's comprehensive commitment included:

• UAlberta Law sponsoring and hosting, in conjunction with OUTLaw, the keynote event of the university's Pride Week in 2018. A request for two non-gendered student washrooms in the Law Centre was implemented. In partnership with OUTlaw, the Faculty of Law established the OUTlaw & Friends Inclusivity Award, a first of its kind in Canada, to recognize law students who have demonstrated a commitment to the advancement of sexual and gender minorities.

• Successfully securing amendment of university policies that created disadvantages for students with physical disabilities.

• Enlisting two first-year students to help organize, host and moderate a new Dean's Women In Law Speaker Series, a set of intimate roundtable mentoring discussions with prominent women in the legal profession.

• Organizing and hosting with student groups from different faith traditions, dialogues about religious lawyering. The dean lent his full support to the student Christian Legal Fellowship of Canada chapter as it hosted that organization's 2017 national student conference

3. Experiential Learning

The Plan

"I will be looking at the model where … students would go out into their field placement, come back into the hub, discuss, process, analyze under supervision either ethical issues they were facing in those environments or other practice issues."

- Dean Paul Paton, 2014

The Transformation

Dean Paton commissioned a comprehensive study on how best to integrate experiential learning into UAlberta Law's curricular approach, and moved rapidly to implement innovative opportunities.

The Impact

JAG Externship

For the first time in Canada, law students can work in the Office of the Judge Advocate General of the Canadian Armed Forces through the for-credit course with Judge Advocate General (JAG) of the Canadian Armed Forces. Each school term, four students gain experience in the military justice system by participating in criminal procedure, evidence issues, administrative law, case law and by helping write legal opinions.

Mooting Surges, Results Soar

Students trying out for competitive moot teams have tripled in number, from 35 in 2014-15 to over 100 in 2018-19, with the Faculty now represented in more than 17 moot competitions contested annually. Results have been stellar: In 2019, UAlberta Law won the prestigious Gale Cup for the second year in a row, qualified to represent Canada at the Commonwealth Moot Competition and placed first. In 2018, students posted five team wins (including four national and one provincial) and earned a quarter-final finish at the Oxford International Intellectual Property Moot. The Faculty also hosted the Canadian finals of the Jessup International Law Moot competition and the McIntyre Cup Western Canada Trial Advocacy competition.

"The oral advocacy skills that we learned, and the confidence and ability to think on our feet, is something no other law school class can teach you. You really have to practice it."

- Leah Strand, '19 JD, First Place Team, 2019 Gale Cup

"We have a lot more internships, or clerkships, or externships, or other kinds of courses in which you're not just studying the law, you're doing something, you're participating, we (now) have almost a dozen different opportunities to do something different than the standard seminar class or lecture."

- Professor Roderick Wood

4. Indigenous Initiatives

The Plan

"Our goal is to ensure that our graduates enter the legal profession with an understanding of the application of the law to indigenous peoples and with the capacity to interact thoughtfully with indigenous communities and cultures as lawyers."

- Dean Paul Paton, 2014

The Transformation

The 2015 "Final Report of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada" included 94 Calls to Action. Two of them in particular challenged Canadian law schools and the legal profession. Under Dean Paton's leadership, UAlberta Law introduced new professors, courses and experiential learning opportunities, integrating greater understanding of Aboriginal law and Indigenous law, legal theory and traditions into the curriculum, establishing the Faculty as a home for learning, research and leading voices of the next generation.

"When I was a student there was still a real gap. The steps being taken now are unprecedented."

- Corie Flett, '10 LLB, Partner, Cooper & Company, Bencher Law Society of Alberta

The Impact

More Ways to Learn

New course offerings included the following:

• The reconstituted and mandatory Foundations of Law Course requires every first-year student to participate in the three-hour KAIROS blanket exercise, walking through hundreds of years of Canadian and Indigenous history to understand the impact of law, legislation and policy from an Indigenous perspective.

• The Wahkohtowin Project, launched in 2017, is a for-credit, on-theland experiential learning course that requires students to explore the concept of "inter-relatedness and interdependence" (a central tenet to Cree law, governance, philosophy and spirituality) through traditional activities.

• In a first-of-its-kind course on Gladue Sentencing Principles, students receive cultural sensitivity training to understand the social, historical and contemporary context of the principles for sentencing Indigenous offenders and assist Gladue Report writers.

New Wahkohtowin Law and Governance Lodge

In February 2019, the Faculty launched the Wahkohtowin Law and Governance Lodge, in partnership with the Faculty of Native Studies, to engage with Indigenous communities in collaborative efforts to support further development and understanding of Indigenous law and governance. (See p. 42) Dean Paton played an instrumental role in securing the $567,000 grant to support the project's first phase.

Additional Indigenous Law Scholars

• Hadley Friedland brings expertise in Indigenous legal traditions, Aboriginal law, legal theory, criminal justice, family law, child welfare, restorative justice and therapeutic jurisprudence. Darcy Lindberg is an authority on constitutional and legal theory of Plains Cree Peoples in relation to the land, water and animals, and the transsystemic relationships with Canadian constitutional law. Joshua Nichols is an expert in Canadian constitutionalism, Aboriginal rights and Indigenous law, Indigenous economic development and governance, international Indigenous rights and resource development.

"The Wahkohtowin course … touches your head and touches your heart."

- Bernadette McMechan, '19 JD

5. Faculty Profile

The Plan

"People have to see the value in investing in the university and in the faculty, and I look forward to making the case for a renewed and robust commitment in resources and in student support that will allow the faculty to do more and to do it better."

- Dean Paul Paton, 2014

The Transformation

Dean Paton created External Advisory Board chapters in Edmonton, Calgary, Vancouver and Toronto that engage distinguished alumni from across a broad range of practice environments and years of call to provide advice and advocacy on behalf of the Faculty.

He also increased engagement with student participation in the Canadian Bar Association through regular on-campus events and promotion of CBA opportunities. The Dean initiated welcome events for admitted students in Vancouver, Calgary and Toronto to bring incoming students together with alumni and firms.

Orientation Day speakers have included former Chief Justice Beverley McLachlin, former Prime Minister Kim Campbell, and Supreme Court Justice Russell Brown.

Recognizing that technological innovation needs more attention in modern law school studies, the dean partnered with the student-led Law and Business Association to establish the Legal Innovation Conference, which since 2018 has attracted leading minds in law and information technology to UAlberta Law to discuss the implications of technological change on law practitioners. By the dean leveraging his networks, students had the chance to engage with distinguished senior practitioners, Supreme Court justices, two federal Ministers of Justice and Attorneys General, as well as well as distinguished presenters including former US Ambassador to Canada Gordon Giffin, and former White House Ethics Counsel Richard Painter. The Centre for Constitutional Studies launched a very successful Downtown Charter Series during his term.

The Impact

Fundraising Success

Despite an economic downturn, since 2014 the Faculty has raised more than $7.2 million against a $5.8 million target. In 2018-2019 alone, fundraising surpassed $1.3 million.

Faculty Ranking

In 2018, the Faculty moved up 54 places in the Times Higher Education world rankings of law schools in only two years, occupying a space in the top 100 worldwide (at #83) for the first time.

"The fundraising is a reflection of the strong relations we have with our alumni and our strong relations with the legal profession."

- Assistant Professor Malcolm Lavoie

"I was recruited to UAlberta Law from California in 2014 and empowered by the former president and provost to make change and move the faculty foward. For me, ensuring the best possible experience for students that will prepare them to be ethical, responsible leaders and professionals has been paramount."

- Dean Paul Paton, 2019