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Funding excellence in legal research

|Written By Jeffrey H. Waugh

If you’re interested in doing some top-notch research under the guidance of one of your law school faculty members, you’ll be interested in knowing about the latest contribution from Borden Ladner Gervais LLP.


The BLG fellowship program has been extended into its second phase. It awards grants to top first-year students interested in assisting with a legal research project. Students are selected by their individual schools, with the criteria for the awards being strictly academic-based.

Norm Letalik, the managing director of professional excellence at BLG, says the fellowship is meant to allow law schools to secure the highest performing students for legal research and to encourage such excellence and expertise within the legal culture.

“The BLG fellowship program offers first-year law students an invaluable, hands-on learning experience and an opportunity for law schools to secure top-performing first-year students to perform much needed legal research,”  says Letalik.

Letalik is also a former law professor, which may play a role in his enthusiasm for supporting this initiative.
With the continued contribution totaling $1.2 million, BLG plans to begin this round of the fellowships in 2009 with awards of $12,000 each for 20 students. The remaining funds will be distributed in a similar manner each year through 2014.

The program was first run in 2004. At that time, BLG made a $1-million commitment. The firm awarded 20 scholarships of $10,000 each during the first year, and has since given grants to another 80 people. Recipients from 14 law schools across the country have benefited from the fellowship.

The projects funded during the initial year included the impact of the internet on securities regulation in Canada: protecting investors on-line, and the public health mandate and the privacy of health information.

Faculty members submit their research proposal to the law school dean, who then approves the course of study and selects a student to be involved. The student conducts a more focused role in providing insight for the overall study.

For example, in 2006, one Queen’s University Faculty of Law study focused on the political influence on administrative tribunal decision-making in Canada. First-year student Chantalle Fish was selected to assist with research into the role played by the British Columbia labour relations board.

The grants have been awarded to those studying in areas that have achieved a wide range of attention in the past several years, and the projects chosen this year and over the course of the program are again likely to focus on up and coming issues facing the legal community.

Completing a legal research project of this calibre can be an invaluable experience for a law student, allowing them to gain comprehensive insight into a specific area of law. This can make them an even more attractive candidate for potential law firm recruiters, or it might spark an interest in pursuing an academic legal career. Working so closely alongside a professor also helps to provide networking opportunities and in making numerous professional contacts.

Sean Weir, national managing partner at BLG, says the decision to fund the fellowship program coincides with the firm’s values and work ethics, and in providing excellence in both the expertise and service they provide to clients.


“By supporting both students and law schools through the BLG Fellowship program, we demonstrate this same kind of dedication to excellence."

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