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Dean's Message

A Time of Transformation

Dean's Message

As a relatively new Dean, I hesitate to introduce my message with the buzzword, “transformational,” but there is no denying that this is a time of risk-taking and transformation for the legal profession, for Western Law, and for our alumni.

The alumni featured in this year’s magazine demonstrate the value of taking risks, whether it’s Stephen de Boer embracing the opportunities of international diplomacy, Ritu Bhasin leaving Bay Street to become an author and consultant on diversity and inclusion, or Chris Bredt taking on the personal challenge of climbing Mount Kilimanjaro to raise funds for literacy programs in Africa and the Caribbean.

In addition, our cover story features several recent graduates who have taken on blockchain technology to transform the practice of law and business. Together with Professor Jennifer Farrell’s innovative research on blockchain’s potential to curb tax avoidance, they are inspiring the current generation of law students to envision how technology can be harnessed to resolve emerging challenges.

This is a transformational period for Western Law, too. One of a Dean’s most rewarding tasks is the appointment of new faculty, and I was thrilled to hire a number of new scholars this year. Following four recent retirements, these junior faculty ensure a strong foundation for the school’s academic future.

Another priority this year was to enhance Western Law’s research profile on the national and international stage. We had a banner year in terms of external grant funding: five faculty members were involved in successful SSHRC Insight Grants, and others obtained grants from CIHR and CIGI. We also established a new Dean’s Research Fellowship program, which both supports faculty and engages law students in leading edge research.

Western Law continued our long tradition of hosting distinguished speakers and conferences in 2017-18. These included Chief Justice Richard Wagner, who made one of his first public appearances here in January; Harvard Professor Oliver Hart, co-recipient of the 2016 Nobel Prize in Economics; and renowned lawyers Dean Strang and Jerry Buting from the Netflix documentary series, Making a Murderer. Our Public Law Research Group co-hosted a conference with Boston College Law School on Rewriting the Canadian Constitution, and our 9th biennial Labour Law Conference tackled the growing issue of precarious work.

One of the more understated transformations in the legal world is our greater willingness to talk about the mental health challenges facing lawyers and law students, and I am pleased Western Law is helping to lead this conversation. Professor Tom Telfer facilitated the first Mindfulness Ambassador Council program at a Canadian law school, and this past summer, we hired a dedicated Student Wellness Counsellor to provide individual counselling and develop wellness programming for the entire student body. These are important steps in promoting the mental health of future legal professionals.

Looking ahead, 2019 will mark the 50th anniversary of Community Legal Services, which has given so many of our students the opportunity to serve the public and learn practical skills. Please mark your calendars for the CLS reunion on May 10, complemented by the Association for Canadian Clinical Legal Education annual conference.

I have enjoyed meeting many of our alumni this past year, and am grateful for the myriad ways you continue to give back to Western Law. I hope to see many more of you at our events this year, including our Alumni Dennings and Homecoming celebrations. At our biennial Alumni Awards evening on November 20, we will honour Christopher Bredt, LLB’78, Michael Copeland, LLB’93, MBA’99 and Dale Ponder, LLB’80, three distinguished graduates who have led transformational careers of their own, and who continue Western Law’s long tradition of leadership in the profession and in the community.

This article appeared in the Western Law 2018 Alumni Magazine.
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