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Celebrating 50 Years: 1975 - Faculty of Law takes shape

Deans and professors of law from across Canada gather to create stimulating, relevant curriculum for new school
March 15, 2016
Law Dean John McLaren (left) and President Cochrane (right) with an unidentified dignitary at the Law Faculty official opening ceremony. University of Calgary Archives  84.005_24.30_1

Law Dean John McLaren, left, and President Cochrane with an unidentified dignitary at the Law Faculty official opening ceremony. University of Calgary Archives  84.005_24.30_1

Two students consult a textbook outside the entrance the Faculty of Law in 1977. University of Calgary Archives  

2016 marks 50 years of the University of Calgary being part of this vibrant, energetic city and we have a great deal to celebrate. Led by the Eyes High vision, we’ve become the top-ranked young university in Canada and North America. One of our significant milestones was the founding of the Faculty of Law in 1975. As the faculty kicks off its 40th Anniversary year tonight, we dug into the archives for a look back at how it was established. 

After years of lobbying by the Calgary community and members of the Calgary Bar, the Alberta government appointed an ad hoc Committee on Legal Studies in 1973 to investigate establishing a law school in Calgary. The minister of advanced education approved the findings of the committee and the University of Calgary received authorization to establish a Faculty of Law in October 1974. The school was slated to begin operations with a dean and three or four lecturers in 1976 and an initial intake of 60 students. The university began a search for a dean of law almost immediately and, several months later, announced the appointment of Professor John McLaren effective July 1, 1975 when the faculty itself was formally established.

In October 1975, Dean McLaren convened a three-day workshop intended to shape the backbone of the law school’s curriculum. A dozen deans and professors of law from across Canada and Justice Herb Laycraft of the Alberta Supreme Court were involved, while other stakeholders including present and prospective law students and members of the bench and bar were invited to register to participate.

'A new law school raises profound questions'

“A new law school raises profound questions as to the substance and form of legal education which will be developed therein," said the new dean. “How can we ensure that the program will be both intellectually stimulating and socially relevant, and what educational experiences will most effectively promote competence in legal doctrine and skills, as well as in creativity and sensitivity in solving human and institutional law problems?”

Dean McLaren used the workshop as an opportunity to search for law professors for the new faculty and in December seven new academic members of staff were announced. They began the task of developing the first-year curriculum later the same month. A law librarian and two assistants were hired to create a library for the school, which was housed in the Library Tower. Quarters for the faculty were constructed on the top floor of the Bio Sciences Building where the staff moved from their temporary location in the Arts and Administration Building.

This is just one of the many historic stories that Library and Archives staff have produced to build the 50th Anniversary digital collectionThe 50th Anniversary website also contains a rich collection of archive photos, videos, personal stories and fascinating facts about our university’s journey – contribute your own story there and remember to share it with your friends and family using the hashtag #ucalgary50.