Providing clarity to the law
Research is fundamental to the practice of law. Knowing the obscure statute or the relevant precedent is as important to the profession as being able to draft a contract or prepare a brief for the court.
Research is just as fundamental to the McGill Faculty of Law, although the topics addressed tend to the overarching, rather than the specific. Even in that context, the Faculty’s research has been changing in recent years, according to Professor Frédéric Mégret, Associate Dean (Research).
“There’s less and less doctrinal research – less thinking about the law within the law, or on legal positivist terms— and more theoretical work that interrogates broader and deeper issues,” he says.
This includes human rights issues, the legal ramifications of globalization, the international criminal courts and transsystemic inquiries (e.g. how the common law and civil law regimes interact).
The research intensity of the Faculty has increased to match its breadth, thanks in large part to important flow of donations over the course of Campaign McGill. For instance, the Peter MacKell Chair in Federalism, established through a $3-million bequest from the late Peter MacKell, BA’48, BCL’51, will allow a world-class legal scholar to explore fundamental questions related to federalism and contribute to the theory and practice of this governing philosophy, not just in a Canadian context but also universally and as a mode of governance within non-profit organizations, unions and corporations.
Research into contemporary legal issues has also received a needed boost through the Katharine A. Pearson Chair in Civil Society and Public Policy, made possible by a generous $3-million gift from the J.W. McConnell Family Foundation.
In addition, the new Jean Gabriel Castel Fund in Private International Law supports teaching and research in the area of private international law, while the L. Yves Fortier Chair in International Arbitration and International Commercial Law, created through a gift from Rio Tinto Alcan, will conduct research to help shape the future of both the practice and understanding of international law.
Mégret says this new critical mass of research support will increase the Faculty’s already-considerable research momentum. “Having a certain number of chairs and scholars provides a sense of a faculty that is serious about strategic directions for their research,” he explains. “I think that it consolidates the sense that research in the institution has a sense of purpose and direction.”