Call for submissions - McGill Graduate Law Students Association's Annual Conference


Published: 10Jan2019

The Graduate Law Students Association (GLSA) of McGill University’s Faculty of Law is pleased to announce the 12th annual McGill Graduate Law Conference, to be held on 8-9 May 2019, in Montreal, Canada.

We welcome submissions in English and French from current masters and doctoral students, recent graduates and early-career academics specializing in law and related disciplines. The conference is intended to build community among graduate students from different institutions, to provide participants with a stimulating environment to discuss their work, and an opportunity to learn and develop skills necessary to communicate and animate their research.

Conference Theme: Law: Reactive or Proactive?

Legal, philosophical and political thought has long been animated by the question of whether law is, and should be, essentially “backward-looking” or “forward-looking”.

Tensions in law’s relationship with the past and the future play a central role in Lon Fuller’s allegory about King Rex who, at one point, “decided that life had taught him one clear lesson, namely, that it is easier to decide things with the aid of hindsight than it is to attempt to foresee and control the future” (Morality of Law, 35).

What does proactive and reactive law mean, from the point of view of academics, regulators, society? Are law’s forward and backward aspects in opposition? Or does law require a combination and balancing of these elements? Is proactivity or reactivity distributed differently among these different legal actors? Do different areas of law and legal research see the role of reactivity or proactivity differently? By way of example (by no means exhaustive), reactivity and proactivity arise differently in the context of:

  • the creation, role, and future of international arbitral tribunals and courts;
  • the scope, shortfalls, and future of the law of armed conflict/international humanitarian law; and
  • law’s preparedness for the arrival of so-called ‘disruptive technologies’ (e.g. blockchain-based smart contracts and distributed ledger technology; AI and predictive tools).

Does the reactivity/proactivity dichotomy necessarily limit our focus to a positivistic conception of law, with its tools of prediction and control. What is lost and gained by a focus on law’s activity? What does the focus on activity in response to risk tell us about the societies in which law operates?

What are the implications for the role of scholars of law (in all disciplines)? Does a focus on proactivity re-emphasize the role of the academy, with its emphasis on critical thinking, in enhancing public and political discussion on the needs of society to facilitate a proactive approach to lawmaking for the benefit of the society.

We invite new perspectives – both theoretical and practical – in relation to these old but persistent questions.

These examples provided are not intended to be exhaustive. Applicants are welcome to submit a proposal that interprets this year’s theme differently.

In the hope of facilitating an interdisciplinary and multi-perspectival environment, we also welcome submissions from researchers in disciplines other than law, and encourage forms of expression other than papers (e.g. short films, artwork, etc.).

To increase inclusivity and broaden research networks, we will work to accommodate presentations in the form of short video recordings for those selected participants who are unable to travel to Montreal.

Dean Maxwell and Isle Cohen Doctoral Seminar Series in International Law

The conference will be held in collaboration with the Dean Maxwell and Isle Cohen Doctoral Seminar Series in International Law, which is held in honour of the late Maxwell Cohen and his wife Isle. As Dean of McGill University’s Faculty of Law (from 1964 to 1969), Maxwell Cohen was pivotal in establishing McGill as an institution at the forefront of legal education in Canada. He remains renowned for his international law scholarship.

In 2019, this seminar will take the form of a half-day panel discussion on international law topics inspired by the conference theme. The seminar will be led by up to eight doctoral students: up to four authors of papers, and four discussants. The papers will be circulated to the discussants and the attendees of the seminar in advance. Each discussant will commence the discussion of each paper, to which the author will have an opportunity to respond, before opening up to the rest of the panel for a general discussion.

Please indicate in your submission whether you would like to be considered for this seminar, either as a paper presenter or a discussant.

You may make a submission to be a discussant whether or not you also submit to present a paper during the rest of the conference.

Submission Details

To apply, please send an email to [at] with subject line “2019 GradLawConference – [Your Name]” by 15 February 2019 which includes:

  1. if you wish to present a paper:
    • the title of the work;
    • a 300-word (maximum) abstract;
    • up to 5 keywords;
    • your name, full institutional affiliation, and contact information.
  1. if you wish to apply only to be a discussant during the Dean Maxwell and Isle Cohen Doctoral Seminar:
    • your name, full institutional affiliation, and contact information;
    • the areas and/or questions of research which you would feel comfortable discussing.

Selected participants will be notified by 1 March 2019.

Travel & Accommodation

All participants are responsible for organizing their own transportation and accommodation. We are making efforts to obtain funding to offer a partial reimbursement for transportation costs for some conference participants. Due to very limited funds, we are unable to accommodate all requests for travel support of accepted participants, but funding applications will be assessed based on compelling financial need and the potential to increase the coverage of the conference.

Enquiries and Information

For all enquiries, please contact the organizing committee at: [at]

All relevant information about the conference can be found on the conference website, which will be updated regularly: