150 years of law at mcgill

posted in: montreal 1

I was cleaning out my room for my impending trip to HK (during which I’m subletting my room), when I found a booklet by Ian Pilarczyk called A Noble Roster: One Hundred and Fifty Years of Law at McGill.

it’s… uh… interesting to see what some of the current profs have to say about their student years at McGill. (be forewarned, this will not be very interesting unless you know these people)

Dean Nicholas Kasirer
Among the sources of anxiety for members of my first-year class in the early 1980s was the challenge of working and reading effectively in French and in English. We were all impressed by the way our Property teacher Dean John Brierley and his colleague in Obligations, Professor Paul-André Crépeau, moved effortlessly from French and English and back again and we were generally less confident in our own ability to do the same. I remember one Faculty party in first year at which we shared this concern with another of our favorite professors. “Relax”, he told us, and recounted the following exchange he had allegedly witnessed at the Law Library:

Student: Is the photocopier working?
Attendant: (sleepily) Sure, nickels only…
S: Does it make copies in English?
A: (now stirring) Well, yes…
S: Does it make copies in French?
A: (now awakened) Of course…
S: Great! Can you make me a copy of this Mignault judgment in English, and two copies of chapter three of Marler on Property in French for my friend?

Professor Richard Janda
Another example of student participation was the development of the Quid Novi. There had been a prior student newspaper, a gossip sheet that came out sporadically, which I believe was called the Peel Street Review. When Peter Dauphinee and I began publishing the Quid there were constant debates as to whether its content was too political.

We had some difficulties in initially producing the paper. At the time AES word processing stations were the latest in high-technology, and the Faculty had acquired a few. We lobbied the Dean, John Brierley, for access to a workstation after hours, which eventually he allowed. I was one of the lucky people who always ended up typing the paper the night before it went to the printers. Whenever I would be working on the paper, around midnight or one o’clock–lo and behold!–Professor Blaine Baker would wander into the office. It was rather nice to have the company, although I wondered why he didn’t have better things to do. It also occurred to me that his visits were regular, but as he always attended all student events I assumed this was an extension of his support for student activities. It was only years later that I came to know that he had been given a kind of “police function” by the Dean to ensure that there was no tampering with student records, and he became the transaction cost for the arrangement with the Quid and the Dean’s office. The untold story is therefore that the Quid would not have appeared without Blaine Baker’s policing.

Professor David Lametti
During my third year I served as President of the Law Students’ Association, and it was our administration that started the tradition of Coffee House, which was the brain-child of the Social Coordinator, Norbert Haensel. There had been a Coffee House before that, which took place from time to time in the Common Room. People would come and play guitar and I think coffee was actually served, in addition to beer and wine. But Norbert came up with the idea of having a weekly Coffee House to take place Thursday afternoons. It was a huge success, and eventually the Faculty decided to incorporate it into its routine by not scheduling classes during that time.

Also during my third year, we were still in the early stages of the “law partners” programme, which I think was about two years old. I was asked by the coordinator, John Relton, to participate but I told him I was too busy to participate that year, and he initially respected my decision. Two weeks into the semester he approached me and told me that they didn’t have enough people and that I absolutely had to be a law partner and wouldn’t take no for an answer. It ended up that I was paired up with a woman. It so happens that at the time the programme was structured so that men were paired with men and women with women. The woman I was paired with was Geneviève Saumier, now a professor at McGill. By Christmas time we were a couple. […] Geneviève and I were married in 1994 in Montreal, with a reception in the Common Room as well as at the Faculty Club.

  1. Ian C. Pilarczyk

    hi– came across this reference to the book and although you posted it several years ago I still wanted to drop you a line. Working on getting ‘oral histories’ from alumni–including, of course, current professors–was one of my favorite parts of the project. Hope you enjoyed it and thanks for posting. Cheers, Ian