University of British Columbia. Faculty of Law

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University of British Columbia. Faculty of Law

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The University of British Columbia's Faculty of Law opened in September 1945. Before this, individuals wishing to become lawyers in British Columbia articled for three years and attended lectures given by the legal profession at the Vancouver Law School (VLS) operated by the Law Society of BC. The VLS opened in 1914 then closed in 1915 due to World War I. The School reopened in 1919 and worked until 1943 when World War II forced its closure. Discussions among the legal profession regarding the Faculty of Law at UBC continued throughout this entire period. These discussions intensified as the war concluded. The University Act already allowed for a Faculty of Law at UBC. In 1944 the Legal Professions Act was amended to enable the Law Society to merge the VLS with a new faculty at UBC. As a result, a joint Law Society/U.B.C. committee was struck in July 1945 to submit recommendations and plans to establish a Faculty of Law. The University's Board of Governors and Senate approved the committee's recommendations late in August. In September, the Law Society's benchers approved the guidance and amended the society's rules in October.

Lectures began on 24 September 1945 to an enrollment of 86 students. The faculty's staff consisted of George F. Curtis, Professor and Dean, formerly a Professor of Law at Dalhousie University; Frederick Read, Professor, previously of the Manitoba Law School and Alfred Watts, a Vancouver lawyer and, in 1947, the Secretary of the Law Society of BC, appointed on a part-time basis as Honorary Liaison Secretary to the Faculty. The faculty was housed in converted army huts on campus and would remain in these huts for the next seven years. The instruction was based on the Canadian Bar Association's standard curriculum. In addition to Dean Curtis and Professor Read, members of the judiciary and bar served as lecturers in the new faculty. Classes were conducted both on campus and at the Courthouse in downtown Vancouver. Students also had to use the library at the Courthouse until a Law Library was established on campus. In that first year, some 5,000 books were donated by the public and the new library's legal profession. D.M. Priestley was the first Law Librarian and also lectured in the fifties. The faculty was officially opened on 17 January 1946 by the Honourable Gordon Sloan, Chief Justice of the Court of Appeal. The first class graduated in 1948.

Student enrollment and staff hiring increased after the war. The demand for lawyers and legal education was significant. In the 1948-49 year, registration was 473, an unsurpassed figure until the late sixties. By the early 1950s, the faculty had outgrown its accommodations. In 1951 Dean Curtis began plans for a permanent Faculty of Law Building. Prime Minister Louis St. Laurent opened the new building on 4 September 1952. Student enrollment levelled off and declined during the fifties. In the 1954-55 year, it hit a low of 197. In 1955-56 Malcolm M. MacIntyre, a professor at the faculty since 1948, served as Acting Dean while Curtis was a visiting professor at the Harvard Law School. The decade he ended with the establishment of The UBC Law Review in 1959. The Law Review's predecessor, UBC Legal Notes, was begun by a students' committee in 1949.

By 1960-61 enrollment had increased to 240. The faculty now included the Dean, two Professors, one Associate Professor, three Assistant Professors and sixteen Lecturers. These numbers stayed relatively constant until the mid-sixties when the baby-boom generation increased enrollment and staffing to unprecedented levels. Overcrowding in the Faculty building forced the use of army huts once again for classes and study space. Watts left the faculty's service in 1968 to accept a judicial appointment. In 1968-69, the new position of Administrator was created and filled by P.W. Ayres. Curriculum, evaluations, bureaucratic procedures and faculty facilities all came in for scrutiny. As a result, there was an increase in student organizations' activity, including publications, petitions and meetings. Liaison committees were struck to bring administrators, faculty and students together for discussions.

Curtis retired as Dean in 1971. During his twenty-six-year administration, the faculty had grown significantly in enrollment, staffing, facilities, and national and international stature. In 1970-71 there were 614 students in attendance. In addition to the Dean, there were ten Professors, five Associate Professors, sixteen Assistant Professors and seven Lecturers. The library was administered by Law Librarian Thomas J. Shorthouse and two Assistant Law Librarians. The new Dean was Albert J. McClean. He first joined the faculty as a Lecturer in 1960 and had been a full Professor since 1968. The faculty continued to grow throughout the seventies, again raising the need for a larger building. In 1975 the existing building was remodelled, and a new addition was constructed. This new structure was completed in 1976 and named the George F. Curtis Building. 1975 also saw the establishment of the Clinic Term Programme. By the following year, when McClean resigned, enrollment was up to 704.

Kenneth M. Lysyk became Dean in 1976 after having served as Saskatchewan's Deputy Attorney General. Lysyk started teaching at UBC's Faculty of Law in 1960 as a Lecturer and left as a Full Professor for a position at the University of Toronto in 1970. Under his administration, there was a thorough overhaul of the faculty's curriculum. In 1980 the East Asian Legal Studies Programme was introduced, which included Japanese Legal Studies.

Peter T. Burns, a Full Professor at the faculty since 1971, followed Lysyk as Dean in 1982. In 1985 Chinese Legal Studies was added to the East Asian programme through a joint U.B.C./Peking University exchange of legal scholars and graduate students. That same year also saw the establishment of a Cooperative Project in Law and Computers with IBM Canada. Patrick Gibson now filled the position of Administrator. In 2015, after a significant donation by Peter A. Allard, the faculty was renamed the Peter A. Allard School of Law.


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