History of Robson Hall

Faculty of Law, University of Manitoba - Class of 1914

Faculty of Law, University of Manitoba – Class of 1914

 
The Beginning (1877 - 1944)

In 1877, the Law Society of Manitoba introduced a system of articling and examination protocols designed to encourage local residents to pursue a career in the legal profession. To practise law in Manitoba, one needed only to apprentice with a certified practising lawyer for three to five years and to complete a series of exams set out by the Law Society. Prior to this, lawyers practising in Manitoba had received their training elsewhere, most commonly in Toronto, at Ontario’s Osgoode Hall Law School or overseas in Europe.

In 1884, the University of Manitoba established a three-year reading course for students wishing to obtain an LL.B degree. This course did not include classroom or tutorial instruction. In response to student petitions, the Law Society occasionally offered lectures to assist students with preparation for their Law Society exams. The completion of these reading courses reduced the required articling period by two-years. Exams were administered and graded by a member of the Law Society, often a judge or established barrister. Isaac Pitblado, who went on to play a prominent role in Manitoba’s legal history, was the fourth graduate of this course, receiving his LL.B. degree in 1889.

In 1911, a group of reading students sent Isaac Campbell K.C., the Secretary of the Law Society, a petition challenging the results of a series of “unfair” exams. The need to provide better legal education for students in Manitoba became increasingly evident. For the next two years the Law Society provided a short series of lectures. Then in 1913, former King’s Bench judge H.A. Robson organized a considerably improved program of lectures for that year and began, with the approval of the benchers, to lay plans for the establishment of a permanent law school.

Robson’s plan was to model the new Law School after Osgoode Hall. With the help of E.K. Williams an Osgoode graduate, they were able to compile a first-hand account of how the Toronto school operated. Some of the notes Williams had taken while a student there were used as a basis for courses taught in the new Manitoba school.

The new law school was jointly sponsored by the Law Society of Manitoba and the University of Manitoba. Both parties were involved in the planning. In the summer of 1914 they entered an agreement, endorsed by legislation, which led to the formal creation of the Manitoba Law School and the acknowledgement of its joint governance. Expenses were to be shared equally by the two parent bodies, and its operations overseen by a Board of Trustees consisting of one appointee from each body and a chairman elected by those appointees. Robson was appointed chairman.

On October 5th, 1914, the formal opening of the Manitoba Law School was held inside the gymnasium of the Vaughan Street YMCA in Winnipeg. Sir James Aikins delivered the official opening address. The YMCA was home to the Manitoba Law School from 1914 to 1916 and the initial staff consisted of only one full-time appointment. R.P. Hills was appointed “Recorder”, with seven practising lawyers to assist him as part-time lecturers.

The school offered a three-year lecture course leading to both an LL.B. degree and the right to the practice of law. There were 60 students enrolled in first year and 48 in second year, with a tuition of $30 per annum. Classes were held Monday to Friday, from 9:00 – 9:45 am (9:00 – 10:35 in first year) and from 4:30 – 5:15 pm. Students were expected to fulfill their articling duties between lectures.

In 1916, after two years in the YMCA and a few months in a University of Manitoba building in the city’s downtown, the Manitoba Law School moved to the newly constructed Law Courts building. Built on the corner of Broadway and Kennedy, the new building served as the city’s primary courthouse as well as housing the Law Society of Manitoba and its library. The Law School functioned out of the kitchen and dining room areas, which were never used as such, and students were only permitted to use the library when not in use by members of the Law Society. This arrangement remained in place until 1938.

Following the First World War 1914 – 1918, the Law School was put under serious financial constraints, despite higher tuition and lower lecture fees. In 1918, Dr. Hills requested a salary increase, which the school was unable to grant. This led to Dr. Hills resignation as Recorder. R.J. Russell (who was not a lawyer) was named his replacement, with the administration of academic matters given to a Board of Supervisors, consisting of lawyers, D.H. Laird, J.B. Hugg and A.T. Hawley.

A deadly influenza outbreak, thought to be brought back from Europe by returning troops, took the lives of hundreds of people in Winnipeg. A government degree ordered every school and university in the province to close. In order to accommodate students, the Manitoba Law School came up with a “mail-in” course program, based on material delivered to the students at home. Notes and exams were then marked by professors at a quarantined location in the city.

In May of 1921, a young and energetic lawyer by the name of J.T. Thorson was appointed Principal, a title which did not last long, it was shortly renamed to Dean and Thorson became the first official Dean of the Law School. His appointment marked the beginning of a period of considerable improvement in legal education. Starting in 1921, students were only required to serve one year in law offices, following three years of full-time law school studies. This allowed students to devote their full energy to studying.

At this time, the Manitoba Law School also became the first in Canada to adopt a new model law curriculum set out by the Canadian Bar Association. The following year, in 1922, Manitoba became the first law school in Canada to raise the entrance qualification to Second Year Arts or its equivalent. 1922, also saw the establishment of a separate Law School library, and the employment of two full-time law professors in addition to the Dean: H.W.H. Knott (an intelligent, learned and articulate man, whose brief tenure at the Law School left those who came in contact with him rich in anecdotes), and Frederick Read, a quiet man, who took up the study of law after many years as a law clerk, and was eventually to establish a national reputation for meticulous scholarship. The new curriculum, received North American acclaim.

In 1923, the Chairman of the Canadian Bar Association’s committee on Legal Education commented on the high level that had been reached in Manitoba at that time:

“In the Province of Manitoba the standard both of preliminary education and of professional education has been developed to a degree which is highly creditable from every point of view. When all the provinces have adopted the Manitoba standard a fine foundation for Canadian legal education will have been laid.”

  1. Rhodes Smith was appointed as a full-time professor in 1925, he replaced H.W.H. Knott. Smith was a young man with a distinguished record of scholarly achievement and military service behind him and an extraordinary career of public service ahead of him. He became Attorney-General of Manitoba, Chairman of the Restrictive Trade Practices Commission, and Chief Justice of Manitoba.

Late in 1926, university authorities were disturbed by reports that university students (with a high percentage of law students undoubtedly among them) had discovered a bizarre new spectator sport, watching public hangings in the provincial gaol-yard on Vaughan Street from upper-storey windows of the Old Law Courts building. After a thorough investigation of the matter, the University prevailed upon the provincial government to paint the windows in question. However, we are told, nothing was done to prevent the windows being opened.

It was also in 1926 that Dean Thorson entered politics and was elected to the House of Commons. For a short time he remained on the teaching staff as a part-time lecturer. Subsequently, his career took him to the federal cabinet and the Presidency of the Exchequer Court of Canada. His resignation as Dean was regretfully accepted, in September that year by the Trustees. When passed a warm resolution of appreciation of his efforts to raise the standard of legal education in Manitoba was made. That this praise was well deserved is attested to by the fact that the Carnegie Foundation’s “Annual Review of Legal Education” for the years 1926 and 1927 rated the Manitoba Law School the best in Canada, the other Canadian common law schools being Alberta, Saskatchewan, Toronto, Osgoode Hall, and Dalhousie.

The Law School was without a dean for the next two and a half years. Robson was appointed Acting Dean during this time, taking charge of the day-to-day operations of the school with the help of Edwin Loftus, K.C. The major change that occurred during Robson’s deanship was the decision in 1927 to lengthen the Law School course to four years and re-institute concurrent articling in the third and fourth years. The previous program had been too theoretical in nature, it was felt, so all students were required to serve under articles during the latter half of the course, and non-graduates were required to serve an additional year after completion of the course.

E.H. Coleman was the School’s next Dean. He was an urbane and erudite man, with a mania for reading. (He was known to take a book with him when walking to appointments down the street.)  In July 1929, he was appointed Dean (with freedom to practice in the afternoons), a position that he filled ably for the next four years. In 1931, the benchers ordered that all students should serve under articles for the entire four year period (5 years in the case of non-graduates) except for the time they were actually required to be in the classroom. This brought an end to the School’s experiment with full-time study.

Like most institutions across Canada, the Manitoba Law School was hit hard by the Great Depression. A dramatic decrease in students was also seen during this time. In 1930, the school graduated just one individual, J. Charland “Charlie” Purd’homme. In 1932, the trustees of the school were forced to reduce the salaries of regular staff members by 10% and that of part-time lecturers in half. As a result, numerous faculty members left the law school in pursuit of positions in other institutions. This resulted in the need to increase tuition fees.

Yearly tuition fees:

1914 to 1917 $30.00
1918 to 1921 $50.00
1922 to 1924 $75.00
1925 to 1934 $100.00
1935 to 1939 $125.00
1940 $135.00
1941 $150.00

When Dean Coleman left the Law School in September of 1933 to take up the position of Under Secretary of State for Canada, and launch what was to be an exemplary career of service for his country. Frederick Read filled the position as Acting Dean during the next academic session, until May 1, 1934, when he was  given the title “Professor of Law” and Thomas W. Laidlaw was appointed Dean.

“Tommy” Laidlaw was a very popular Dean. Although he made no pretense at deep scholarship, he seemed to possess a talent for everything that he set his hand to, and he was universally liked and respected by those who knew him. His term as Dean-from the depth of the depression to the end of the World War II-included some of the most difficult times in the School’s history, and his good-natured and self-sacrificing administration in the face of trying circumstances commanded the admiration of his colleagues and students.

In spite of a tough economy the School was able to increase its regular teaching staff to four by the appointment in November, 1932, of Harvey N. Streight. Streight’s long and devoted association with the School had actually begun a few years earlier, when he became heavily involved in the program as a part-time lecturer.

The “Old” Court House at 411 Broadway.
Image courtesy of the Provincial Archives of Manitoba.

By 1937, the economic impact of the Great Depression began to subside and the Law School was once again able to expand and improve. Substantial additions were made to the library in 1937 and 1938, and the School’s 1937 Gold Medalist, Harold St. G. Stubbs, was engaged during those years, on a part-time basis, to supervise the Library. In October of 1938, the Law School left the Law Courts premises it had occupied since 1916, and moved to the more spacious “Old” Law Courts building located approximately at the corner of Broadway and York Avenue and remained there until 1950. In 1956, the Old Court House was gutted by a fire and demolished a few years later.

The Manitoba Law School was affected by World War II, perhaps more seriously than most other areas of the legal profession. When Canada entered into the war in 1939, several members of the teaching staff left to work for the war effort. Harvey Streight was tasked with POW supervision in Canada, and Frederick Read worked in the office of the Custodian of Enemy Alien Property in Ottawa. Notably, two of the law school’s Deans were also involved with the war effort. Tommy Laidlaw served with the University’s Naval Training Division and J.T. Thorson, serving as Minister of National War Services until 1942. Peter Tallin, the man who would become Dean in 1945, also served during the conflict.

Graduating class of 1944/45
Image courtesy of the Robson Hall Faculty of Law

At about the same time, the Board of Trustees, under the stimulus of Dr. Sidney Smith, a former Professor of Dalhousie, and the new University of Manitoba President, launched a thorough survey of the School’s objectives, teaching methods, curriculum, personnel and salaries, in the light of practises in other Canadian law schools. After lengthy consideration, the Board adopted a new curriculum in May 1939 (featuring, for the first time, a thesis requirement for students in the LL.B. program. In June of that year it announced a major re-organization of the teaching staff. Dean Laidlaw was given a substantial salary increase, so as to enable him to devote full time to the job, without engaging in law practice. A new staff member, Professor Gordon S. Cowan (who was probably the first person to use the case method effectively in Manitoba) was brought to Winnipeg from the Dalhousie Law Faculty, and he and Professor Read were asked to devote their full energies to teaching. C.R. Smith and H.N. Streight were given the status of part-time lecturers and allowed to carry on the practice of law. A new part-time librarian, T.R.A. Ashley, was engaged about the same time.

Alas, the renaissance was short-lived, for the demands of war soon began to sap the school’s strength. The Manitoba Law School was affected by World War II, perhaps more seriously than most other areas of the legal profession. When Canada entered into the war in 1939, several members of the teaching staff left to work for the war effort. Harvey Streight was tasked with POW supervision in Canada, and Frederick Read worked in the office of the Custodian of Enemy Alien Property in Ottawa. Notably, two of the law school’s Deans were also involved with the war effort. Tommy Laidlaw served with the University’s Naval Training Division and J.T. Thorson, was Minister of National War Services until 1942. Peter Tallin, the man who would become Dean in 1945, also served during the conflict. During the Second World War he commanded the University of Manitoba Contingent, C.O.T.C.

A high percentage of students also enlisted in the armed forces. The way was made easier for students to do so by a 1939 Law Society regulation permitting up to three years’ active military service to be set off against the time to be served under articles. This allowed veterans the ability to enter the legal profession soon after their return from active duty. Reduced enrollments meant diminished income, and tuition increases were not sufficient to make up the difference. In August 1941 it became necessary to revert to the staffing arrangements that prevailed prior to the recent re-organization. Professor Cowan had returned that spring to Halifax (where he engaged in private practice with great success until 1966, when he was elevated to the Bench to serve as a pusine judge and then as Chief Justice of the Nova Scotia Supreme Court Trial Division. Dean Laidlaw returned to part-time practice, and C.R. Smith was again engaged as a regular lecturer with practising privileges.

As enrollments continued to decline, further economies were effected: the length of the school term was shortened, lectures were ended or curtailed in some courses, and the School’s calendar was reduced to a mimeographed bulletin. By the 1942-1943 sessions, only a handful of students remained, and the graduating class of 1944 comprised only two students. Dean Laidlaw resumed full-time practice but continued to serve as Dean on a part-time basis until the end of the War.

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Special Thanks:
Cam Harvey
(Manitoba & Other Legal Trivia)
Dale and Lee Gibson
(Substantial Justice)
Click here for a full list of Credits and Sources.

 
Years of Growth and Transition (1945 - 1978)

In 1945, following World War II, the Manitoba Law School suffered the loss of its founder, Chief Justice Robson. Members of the Board of Trustees turned to fellow trustee E.K. Williams for interim leadership, and in April of 1947 formally elected him as Chairman. At about the same time, Thomas Laidlaw asked to be relieved of his duties, and G.P.R. Tallin was named as his successor in June of 1945.

In Tallin the Trustees chose a man with an awesome range of interests and accomplishments: Rhodes Scholar, championship athlete, prize-winning typist, distinguished lawyer, voracious reader, part-time teacher (not just of law-but of such diverse subjects as mathematics and public speaking as well), and dedicated soldier (having served in both World Wars). Stories about Dean Tallin are as numerous as his former students, but it is not always easy to distinguish fact from legend. Those who did not know him in the early post-war years find it difficult, for example, to know what to make of the oft-repeated claim that to demonstrate the virtues of physical fitness he would prostrate himself at the front of the classroom, and challenge students to stand on his mid-section.

In in the fall of 1945, R.J. Russell, the School’s Recorder since 1918, announced that he would have to resign from the position due to ill health. Col. Harvey Streight, who had just returned from military service and been re-appointed to the lectureship he held in the 1930s, was named Recorder commencing December 1, 1945.

Williams, Tallin and Streight, with the assistance of C. Rhodes Smith (who later became the Attorney-General in 1946) took on the task of guiding the School through major change. Professor Read did not return to Manitoba after his wartime service in Ottawa; he went instead to the University of British Columbia. Enrollment soared from just 18 students in 1944-45 to 63 in 1945-46, the highest figure in more than two decades. The numbers continued to grow, reaching 111 in 1946-47 and a record breaking 164 in 1947-48. Soon, there was not enough space or staff in the Law School nor were there not enough law firms in Winnipeg to provide articling experience for all the students enrolled, making it necessary to provide special “practice classes” in place of conventional articling. D.A. Golden, a Gold Medalist, Rhodes Scholar and Hong Kong veteran, was added to the permanent faculty in September, 1947, and placed in charge of these special classes.

Because veteran students were so anxious to make up for lost time, it was decided to allow them to take the third year of their Law School course during the summer following completion of their second year course. This acceleration meant that from 1946 to 1952 the School was open for business year-round with two full third-year courses being offered each year, and added appreciably to the challenge that inflated enrollments presented to Dean Tallin and his colleagues.

A storm broke in Ontario in 1949 that was to rage in that province for several years, and was eventually to have effects on legal education throughout Canada. Dean Cecil A. Wright of Osgoode Hall Law School became involved in an acrimonious debate with the benchers of the Upper Canada Law Society over whether the concurrent law school-law office method of educating law students was satisfactory. He contended that students should have an opportunity for extended full-time study of law in a university atmosphere before entering law offices, and he and his staff resigned from Osgoode Hall and moved to the University of Toronto in support of this belief. An unhappy impasse then prevailed for several years as the Ontario lawyers engaged in a thorough re-examination of the needs of legal education.

Little heed was paid to this controversy in Manitoba however. Complaints were occasionally voiced by students, but these usually concerned minor matters such as the wages paid to articled students (at one point the students tried to invoke the provisions of the Minimum Wages Act against their principals, but were frustrated by an amendment to the legislation).

In fact, when viewed against the background of the heated debates about legal education in Ontario, the Manitoba scene seemed remarkably tranquil during the later post-war years. This is not to say that they were uneventful years. In 1948, fourth-year students were allowed to submit, in lieu of a thesis, summaries of articles in current law journals. Some of these summaries were published by the Canadian Bar Review, and “Current Legal Periodicals-by the Manitoba Law School” was a regular feature of that publication for several years.

A course of graduate study, leading to the degree of LL.M., was instituted by the School in 1949. This course, which had been requested by members of the profession for years, was, in keeping with the nature of the school, it was part-time and involved two years of evening courses and examinations, plus a thesis. Essentially it was a voluntary continuing legal education program and the thesis requirement was nowhere near what would be now considered an equivalent to a university graduate level thesis.

In 1950, the Law School moved back into the Law Courts located at the corner of Broadway and Kennedy, due partly to safety concerns with the Old Law Courts, but also from a desire for more space. Although housed in quarters on the third floor, it only took a couple of months before faculty and students began complaining that the space was still inadequate.

The Law Society’s measure allowing veterans the ability to enter the legal profession was terminated following the 1950 academic year. The program was so popular that the Law Society feared the risk of too many graduates with reduced articling experience.

Probably the most significant development during this period of the School’s history, although it might not have seemed so at the time, was the decision by the Board of Trustees in 1953 to forego the annual financial contributions from the Law Society and the University. As a result of this decision the Manitoba Law School was committed to a policy of self-support at a time when other Canadian law schools were beginning to look for increased external assistance to pay for growing staffs and expanding libraries.

As a result, the school found itself in an unfavourable position, and the Board of Trustees decided to do something about it in 1957. The first step was to make the Deanship a full-time position again for the first time since 1941. Then the pass-mark for examinations was raised to 60%. Next, the School hired a new permanent lecturer for the 1958-59 term-a slight young Englishman named Clifford Edwards, whose extraordinary teaching talents made a very important contribution to the School’s improvement program. The following year (1959-60) two more full-time teaching appointments were made. This brought the full-time teaching staff to 5-the highest it had ever been.

The School suffered a sad loss in 1960 with the sudden death of Colonel Streight while undergoing surgery. His duties as Recorder were very ably taken over by Professor Edwards. A.J. Christie retired as Librarian the same year, and was replaced by M.J. Carey. It was also in 1960 that the Law Society established an annual series of lectures on continuing legal education for members of the profession, and named it in honour of Isaac Pitblado, Q.C. In 1962, the Manitoba Law School Journal (later renamed the Manitoba Law Journal) was established.

Outside Manitoba, the basic pattern of legal education was undergoing radical alterations. The long impasse in Ontario between the Law Society benchers and the University of Toronto “rebels” had finally been broken by an imaginative new scheme of legal education requiring students to spend three years of full-time study in an approved university law course, followed by a year’s service under articles and a further 20 months’ study in a “bar admission course” operated by the Law Society. This pattern, with variations, was soon in force in most of the other common-law provinces.

Stimulated by these developments, the pace of change began in Manitoba as well. A Law Society committee under the Chairmanship of C.K. Tallin, Q.C., recommended in 1962 that concurrent articling be abolished in first year, an alteration that was implemented by the Trustees for the 1963-64 academic years. Before that year was complete, however, even more substantial changes were under consideration.

At the end of the 1963-64 term, G.P.R. Tallin retired as Dean and Professor Edwards was appointed his replacement. Among his first tasks was the preparation of a memorandum regarding the possibility of offering a three year full-time program of instruction. The brief that he and his colleagues presented, urging the adoption of such a scheme, was studied by the Trustees, the benchers, and the University, and formally approved in time for implementation in the fall of that year. Thus, when the members of the Manitoba legal profession and their spouses gathered in the Georgian Room of the Hudson’s Bay store on the evening of October 17, 1964, to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Manitoba Law School, it was with the knowledge that, for good or for evil (and here opinions differed sharply) a new era had begun for legal education in Manitoba that would be markedly different from the one that had just closed.

Adoption of the three year full-time curriculum gave rise to a number of other changes. The LL.M. course was terminated in order to free the teaching staff to concentrate on improving the undergraduate program. Several new full-time faculty members were hired, and several experienced professors were brought from England as visiting professors to relieve the pressure until the School acquired an adequately large and experienced permanent faculty. To house the new staff members, temporary offices began to appear in such unlikely locations as stair landings, and the need for a law school building became manifest.

In 1965, the Law Society created a Bar Admission course, under the direction of A.M. Israels, Q.C., as a supplement to the period of intensive service under articles required to be served by students after graduation, concurrent with a required year of articling.

It soon became obvious that financial support of an entirely different order of magnitude than in the past would be necessary to operate the School’s expanded program, and to realize its ambitious plans. Since this support would be difficult to obtain without university status, it was decided that the School should become a faculty of the University of Manitoba. Accordingly, the Board of Trustees approved, on August 22, 1966, an agreement terminating the 52-year-old co-operative arrangement between the Law Society and the University, and the Manitoba Law School ceased to exist.

Attendance at the Law School increased substantially from 1965 onwards.
Estimated enrollment, as found in the U of M, Archives and Special Collections:

1965 1966 1967 1968 1969 1970 1971 1972 1973 1974 1975
177 197 165 203 226 253 273 281 293 303 308

The rise in attendance in the latter half of the 1960s precipitated the Law School’s move to the Fort Garry Campus of the University of Manitoba. It also led the Law School to be the first Law Faculty in Canada to adopt the Law School Admission Test as one of the basic selection criteria. In 1968, the Faculty also pioneered an avenue of entry for the mature student. This allowed students 26 years old or over, who had proven themselves academically or otherwise to enroll without having completed any pre-law University courses. The first mature student was a former police officer.

The Ceremonial opening of the Faculty of Law’s new home, which had been given the name “Robson Hall” to honour H.A. Robson, took place on Monday, September 15th of 1969. Among those in attendance that day were Dean Cliff Edwards, Lord Gardiner and the High Chancellor of Great Britain, Arthur Goldberg a former Justice of the United States Supreme Court, and John Turner the future Prime Minister who was then acting as Justice Minister. Lord Gardiner and Goldberg were both given honorary degrees alongside Emmett Hall, a Justice of the Supreme Court of Canada and Pete Tallin, the former Dean.

The trustees of Robson Hall named the new faculty library, located on the top floor, in recognition of E.K. Williams and his tireless work for the Manitoba Law School. The appointment of the first trained Law Librarian was Professor S.S. Hu. Today, the E.K. Williams Law Library offers the most comprehensive legal collection in Manitoba. To stimulate legal research within the faculty, the Legal Research Institute of the University of Manitoba was created in 1967, and it has since embarked on a number of important projects.

In 1970, the faculty introduced a Legal Aid Service to help expose law students to real legal situations. Initiated by a student, Justice Robert Carr,’71, and initially supervised by law practioner, Al McGregor, Q.C.,’67, it was a first, at the time there was no provincial Legal Aid program. The University Law Centre as it is known today continues to be staffed by student volunteers, and supervised by practitioners. For the last thirty years it has been under the direction of Professor David Deutscher.

When the new building opened, there was a full-time staff of 15, which increased to 24 by the end of the seventies. Excellence was evident in both the faculty and the students. The Gold Medalist of the first graduating class under the new legal education system, M B. Nepon, was also the winner of the Viscount Bennett Scholarship awarded by the Canadian Bar Association. He did graduate work at Yale University and returned later to become a professor at Robson Hall. In 1971, there were three graduates that gained awards to do graduate work at Harvard University, with one of those graduates later appointed one of the youngest judges on record in the Court of Queen’s Bench (Family Division) in Manitoba, Mr. Justice Robert Carr.

With the increase in full-time staff and the decrease in the number of required courses for the recognition of an LL.B. degree to six, the faculty began expanding the number of elective courses in its curriculum. By 1970, the entire third year was elective, which resulted in some of the more theoretical courses, like Jurisprudence, to suffer in attendance.

Through these years of development, the school strove to maintain a balance between academic and practical education. For this reason, the school developed one of the most comprehensive moot court programmes in Western Canada. The school won the Malcolm McIntyre trophy in the moot court competition of all western law schools, on four occasions throughout the seventies and eighties. To date Robson Hall is justifiably proud of its 15 wins in the forty year history of the Western Canada Trial Moot Competition.

The Faculty of Law continued its close relationship with law professionals. Practitioners would offer their time and expertise in any way they could, while faculty members offered continuing legal education lectures to the Bar.

In 1974, a course entitled the Lawyering Process was introduced, exposing law students, for the first time, to real clients and cases. Enrollment was limited to ten students and the class was supervised by Professor London. In 1975, London was hired to be the first Director of Legal Education for the Law Society, tasked with reviewing, revising and developing several courses and programmes.

 

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Special Thanks:
Cam Harvey
(Manitoba & Other Legal Trivia)
Dale and Lee Gibson
(Substantial Justice)
Click here for a full list of Credits and Sources.

 
Our School Today (1979 - Present Day)

In the mid-seventies, another means of admission was introduced, allowing candidates to be interviewed and selected based not only on their Law School Admissions Test, but also on their demonstrated abilities and accomplishments in other areas. The Faculty then went on to introduce half-time student entry, allowing up to five students to be admitted each year, who did not have the time or money to attend full-time.

In 1977, a summer student research and publication program called PLEA (Public Legal Education Activities), was funded by the Federal Department of Justice. The Directors of PLEA (which continued until 1990) included, Don Macpherson, Rick Woyiwada, Phil Knight, Brian Pannell, Kristian Janovcik, Ningning Alcuitas, and Todd Rambow. During its existence, PLEA published at least 58 papers. Copies can be found in the University of Manitoba Dafoe Archives.

Manitoba Law Journal

In 1979, Dean Edwards retired and Jack R. London was appointed Dean of Law. That same year, at the request of the Admissions and Education Committee of the Law Society of Manitoba and the University of Manitoba, Mr. Justice R. Matas put out a publication titled the “Report of the Special Committee on Legal Education”. The report, often referred to as the “Matas Report” focused heavily on the Bar Admission course and other forms of vocational training. A detailed analysis of the Faculty of Law program was made, offering useful observations and recommendations for the Faculty. Following the report, the Faculty began the process of facilitating the next developmental stage. This included a reformed grading process, reduced admissions for the 1981-82 academic year and increased tuitions to put the Faculty in a better financial position.

The Curriculum Committee of the Faculty (chaired by Professor Osborne) designed a new curriculum package that was adopted in the winter of 1983-84 and implemented in 1985-89. The change ensured that all students must balance their programs between doctrinal, perspective and clinical courses in each year of study. These courses would progress from year to year in difficulty, giving students a better sense of continuing growth and achievement. Jack London retired in 1984, with Trevor Anderson named as his successor.

In 1987, the Queen’s Bench Clerkship for Law Graduates was created, which provides select students the opportunity to clerk for the Justices of the Manitoba Court of Queen’s Bench in exchange for credit hours. The schedule is arranged between the student and the Supervising Justice(s) responsible for the Program at the Court and experiences vary depending on the work of the Justices at that time. Students are chosen on criteria such as academic ability, research strength and interest in the program.

In 1989, the Faculty began a major fundraising campaign for its Law Endowment Fund as part of the University’s 42 million dollar Drive for Excellence. This endowment fund supports opportunities for students to solidify their classroom learning through community engagement and international learning and service opportunities. That same year, Dean Anderson retired and Roland Penner was appointed Dean.

The Canadian Legal History Project was created in 1991.
1989 according to: http://web.archive.org/web/20041228145650/http://www.umanitoba.ca/faculties/law/CLHP/
The project was first directed by Wes Pue, succeeded by Professor DeLloyd Guth with the general purpose of developing an holistic perspective on legal history in five targeted areas. These areas were Archives, Research Guides, Conferences, Seminars, Graduate Training and Writings for Publications.

Roland Penner retired as Dean in 1994 and Art Braid was appointed the new Dean of Law. That same year, the Business Law Clinic was created, with funding provided by the federal Western Diversification Fund. After the WDF funding ceased, the Director Reeh Taylor continued on at the Clinic on a volunteer basis until 2006, when the L. Kerry Vickar Business Law Clinic came into existence.

1998 welcomed the Faculties 4000thgraduate. One year later, Arthur Braid retired as Dean and Harvey Sector was appointed in his place. The Asper Chair in International Business and Trade Law was also created that year, honouring Israel Asper, who provided the funding. Professor Bryan Schwartz was the first holder of the Chair. The Asper Chair sponsors a variety of research, offers an internship program and creates opportunities for students to advance their education, while gaining skills necessary to pursue careers in law or business with an international focus. Students involved also have the opportunity to participate in international commercial dispute resolution competitions.

The L. Kerry Vickar Business Law Clinic, created in 2006 succeeded the earlier Business Law Clinic. It was funded by its namesake for five years, renewable, and directed by John Pozios. The purpose of this Clinic is to provide real-world experience to law students relating to the start-up and governance needs of entrepreneurs and not-for-profit entities.

2006 also saw the creation of The Marcel A. Desautels Centre for Private Enterprise and the Law, honouring Marcel Deautels, who provided the funding. John Pozios was named the first Director. The Centre is unique for a Canadian law school due to its focus on private enterprise rather than public corporations. The Centre provides academic training, promotes research, provides service to the business community, supports specialized graduate education and serves as a resource to members of the legal profession.

Throughout Harvey Secter’s Deanship, Robson Hall was substantially physically renewed, upgraded, and enlarged through generous contributions he sought out from law firms and the Law Foundation. Chris Axworthy was appointed Dean, following Harvey’s retirement in 2008. Dean Axworthy resigned a short time later in 2010 and Lorna Turnbull was appointed Acting Dean in his place before being named Dean the following year.

In 2011, the LL.B (Bachelor of Laws) degree was changed to a J.D. (Juris Doctor) degree. The change was a result of consultations with Faculty, Students, Alumni and the broader community and is in line with trends across Canada. A student vote held in 2010, resulted in a nearly unanimous response in support of the change. 73% of alumni from various decades also responded (to a survey) in favour.

Centennial Celebrations

In 2014, the Faculty of Law celebrated its Centennial year with a special Ethics and Professionalism Symposium of guest speakers held on October 17that the Inn at the Forks, and a Centennial Gala Dinner and Dance held October 18that the Metropolitan Entertainment Centre. The Danny Kramer Dance Band, Canada’s Royal Winnipeg Ballet, and the University Singers performed. The Honourable Justice Marshall Rothstein of the Supreme Court of Canada gave a special address. A portrait of Manitoba’s Law School founders, Hugh Amos Robson and Esten Kenneth Williams, was unveiled at the Law Courts Building on October 19th. A commemorative Robson Hall movie was released on DVD, and class reunions were held throughout the University’s fall Homecoming season. Later, the Faculty released the coffee table book, A Century at Robson Hall.

Looking Forward

Since turning 100, the Faculty has continued to change and grow. In 2016, Dean Jonathan Black-Branch was appointed, originally hailing from New Brunswick, but bringing with him 24 years of practice and teaching in the United Kingdom and Europe. With him were hired a number of new faculty members who have added to the burgeoning amount of research, innovations in teaching, and expansion of areas of law taught at the faculty.

Most recently, the J.D. Curriculum has been updated to reflect the trends across Canadian law schools to allow for less credit hours and more experiential learning opportunities. The addition of many externships will now expand students’ hands-on work during law school to better prepare them for the practice of law, as well as participation in the field of legal research.

Special Thanks:
Cam Harvey
(Manitoba & Other Legal Trivia)
Dale and Lee Gibson
(Substantial Justice)
Click here for a full list of Credits and Sources.

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