Aisha Topsakal, Margaret van Nooten, Robert S. Vineberg, Hillel Rosen, Tanya de Mello, Daniel Jutras
Committed to community engagement (from left to right): Aisha Topsakal, Assistant Dean (Student Life and Learning), Faculty of Law; Margaret van Nooten, Project Genesis; Robert S. Vineberg, BA’64, BCL’67, and Hillel Rosen, Davies partners; McGill law graduate Tanya de Mello, BCL’11, LLB’11; and Daniel Jutras, Dean, Faculty of Law.

Training courtroom crusaders

To say that some of the best learning opportunities in the Faculty of Law are also the most enjoyable would be moot. One of the most important ways that the Faculty provides a real-world legal experience is through moot court competitions: mock-legal exercises in which students take a hypothetical legal question, and build a legal case which they argue against their peers.

Thanks to the law firm Robinson Sheppard Shapiro, McGill’s capacity to offer its students this important opportunity has become even greater. The Firm made a generous gift to Campaign McGill to support students organizing or traveling to mooting competitions.

Aisha Topsakal, BCL’02, LLB’02, Assistant Dean (Student Life and Learning) for the Faculty of Law, says such exercises are hugely important for students. “Moot competitions are an enormous part of our undergraduate and graduate curriculum every year. But sending students to national and international mooting competitions can be expensive, which is why this gift is such an enormous boost for the Faculty,” she explains.

Topsakal stresses that mooting competitions are an excellent way for aspiring lawyers to cut their teeth in legal fundamentals, learn teamwork and network. But they aren’t the only way in which the Faculty supplements its in-class pedagogy.

The McCarthy Tétrault Fund for Innovative Legal Education is designed to provide internships that add value to students’ legal in-class education, without necessarily reiterating it. Internships can help participants learn the business skills many will require in private practice, but the program is designed to be flexible, “constantly evolving” to meet the needs of the changing legal profession, according to McCarthy Tétrault partner Kim Thomassin.

McGill’s existing innovations in legal education also received a major boost from Stephen Halperin, BCL’75, LLB’78, and his wife Andrea Halperin, BSW’75, MSW’80, whose own academic backgrounds and careers inspired them to support the Faculty’s dual-degree program in Law and Social Work, with a particular goal of encouraging participatory justice and family mediation.

“The resources that we get from these gifts allow us to be constantly innovating,” says Topsakal. “Students, when they are considering schools, are really looking for exciting opportunities in clinical legal education. It’s not an option to just stay with what we had 10 years ago. We wouldn’t be able to do as much as we are doing without the funding we have received through Campaign McGill.”