The Bora Laskin Faculty of Law at Lakehead University has received a $125,000 gift from Norton Rose Fulbright Canada LLP that will go toward establishing a financial award for a law student from a “historically disadvantaged background” based on financial need and academic achievement.
The funding will go toward establishing a named award and support students’ participation in the Wilson Moot, including attendance at Norton Rose Fulbright offices for practice sessions and coaching.
“We are so thrilled, it is quite historic, in the sense of the scale of the gift,” says Lisa Philipps, interim dean at Bora Laskin Faculty of Law in Thunder Bay.
For a new law school, it is a sizable donation that will make a big difference in a number of ways, says Philipps.
Norman Steinberg, Norton Rose Fulbright Canada LLP’s global vice chairman, says the law firm’s objectives aligned with the mandate of the school.
“We felt that this was exactly the kind of thing that we want to do, we want to show leadership from the point of view of diversity,” says Steinberg. “When you look at the objectives of the school, it is basically focusing on the underserviced area of not only northern Ontario but northern Canada, with a specific focus on First Nations as well,” he notes.
While the precise terms of how much and to whom the financial award will go to are still being discussed, it will certainly be “that combination of ‘here is a really, really, promising bright person who is going to struggle to cover the costs of law school,’” explains Philipps.
She is especially thrilled about the fact Bora Laskin law students will be able to participate in the Wilson Moot that focuses on equality rights issues and constitutional law issues, especially since a constitutional litigator from the firm’s Toronto office has stepped up to coach the Bora Laskin law team.
“That’s hugely important for us, being such a new law school, that we have an experienced person who can bring those resources to our students and help to teach them about participating in a national competition,” says Philipps.
Steinberg sees the exercise as an important one for the firm as well.
“We are getting more involved not only by creating an award, but we’re getting more involved in getting to know the students and having the students get to know us,” he says.
And the timing could not be better as this year is the first year that the school has a full compliment of 1L, 2L, and 3L, and a total of about 178 students, says Philipps, with the first law class set to graduate in 2016.
It is hoped that the 2016 graduates (who are the first in Canada to not have to article following 3L) will continue on by serving smaller towns in northern Ontario, with one exception.
“We support the law schools in Canada in various ways and generally that means we support the law schools where we have recruited in the past, where we have graduates in our ranks,” says Steinberg.
Being a brand new school with no law grads to recruit makes that an impossible proposition for now, but Steinberg says the law firm does hope to get a few students on board to work in its Ontario offices in order to enhance the firm’s diversity profile, while keeping in mind that the majority of the school’s law graduates would stay in northern Ontario.