Legal Education at McGill Today
Since 1951, the Faculty has been located in the J.K.L. Ross mansion, a gift to the University of the late J.W. McConnell. The main law complex comprises this fine 19th-century mansion, known as Old Chancellor Day Hall, and a six-story building, New Chancellor Day Hall, erected in 1966–67 containing classrooms and formerly home of the Law library (financed in large part through the gifts of graduates and other friends of the Faculty). The state-of-the-art Nahum Gelber Law Library opened in September 1998, funded entirely by donations from law students, graduates, and friends of the Faculty. In 2008, extensive renovations began on New Chancellor Day Hall to provide state-of-the art teaching facilities and office space for active student groups, as well as academic and administrative staff. This renovated space was inaugurated in the spring of 2009.
The combined Chancellor Day Hall complex along with two other fine Peel Street mansions house the students and staff of the undergraduate and graduate programs and the personnel of two institutes and three research centres: the Institute and Centre of Air and Space Law; the Institute of Comparative Law; the Quebec Research Centre of Private and Comparative Law; the Centre for Human Rights and Legal Pluralism; and the Centre for Intellectual Property Policy.
As an integral part of McGill, the Faculty of Law is deeply committed to the two ideals of the University: teaching and scholarship. Throughout its history, McGill has recruited its professors and drawn its students from a wide variety of countries. Today, the Faculty includes professors who obtained their initial legal training in several Canadian provinces, as well as professors from the United States, Austria, the Czech Republic, Australia, and New Zealand. All contribute to the unique scholarly environment of McGill. Similarly, there are over 500 undergraduate students enrolled in McGill Law programs from all 10 Canadian provinces, several states in the United States, and a variety of other countries. McGill law graduates pursue their careers around the world.
In recognition of the international dimension of its staff and students, McGill offers two undergraduate degrees pursued simultaneously in a joint program: the B.C.L. (Bachelor of Civil Law), enabling students to seek admission to one of the legal professions in Quebec or to study the private law systems of continental Europe, and the LL.B. (Bachelor of Laws), enabling students to seek admission to the legal profession in other Canadian provinces, in the United States, the United Kingdom, Australia, and New Zealand.
Studying Canadian law at McGill provides a unique academic experience. It requires mastery of the private and public law systems of Canada's different jurisdictions, as well as the ability to situate analytical understanding of legal rules in a broader intellectual and social context. The Faculty believes that disciplines such as history, social theory, economics, political science, and philosophy offer perspectives that inform the study of law.
McGill's courses reflect these broader themes in the history and philosophy of law. All students enrol in the first-year Foundations course for an initial exposure to these themes. Later, you may select from a number of perspectives courses, in which law is studied in its social setting. For this reason, the fundamental nature of a McGill legal education requires all students to take a significant number of credits offered within each of the two private law disciplines of the Faculty: the civil law and the common law.
McGill insists upon the highest standards of learning and scholarship. Many professors have contributed to a comprehensive treatise on Quebec private law; others have produced leading reference works in corporation law, commercial law, international law, maritime law, air and space law, and constitutional law. Consistently, McGill has placed many students as law clerks at the Supreme Court of Canada, and numerous Faculty professors have served as law clerks at the Supreme Court.
Excellence at McGill is reflected also in a commitment to offering students the opportunity to pursue elements of their legal education in both the English and French languages. The graduation of students expert in both the Civil Law and the Common Law and thoroughly immersed in the historical and philosophical foundations of law and legal ordering shared in the western legal tradition are ideals embraced by all in the Faculty. For a discussion of McGill's role in contemporary Canadian legal education see J.E.C. Brierley, "Quebec Legal Education Since 1945. Cultural Paradoxes and Traditional Ambiguities" (1986) 10 Dal. L.J. 5.