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Law deans on the move

|Written By Glenn Kauth

The East’s loss is the West’s gain as the dean of University of New Brunswick law school gets set to head up the legal faculty in Edmonton.

On July 1, Philip Bryden, who for five years has led the law school in Fredericton, will take over similar duties at the University of Alberta. He replaces David Percy, who is leaving the top job for personal reasons but who nevertheless will stay at the school as a professor in the fall.

At the same time, the dean of Osgoode Hall Law School Patrick Monahan is getting a promotion. In July, he’ll become York University’s vice president academic and provost.

In response to Monahan’s move, Osgoode professor Jinyan Li to take over the dean’s job on an acting basis while the university searches for a permanent replacement.

Bryden, a Halifax native, is no stranger to Western Canada. He spent 19 years at the University of British Columbia law school before returning east in 2004. A Rhodes scholar, he practised privately in New York City and served as a law clerk to former Supreme Court of Canada justice Bertha Wilson before he entered academia.

His latest move was somewhat unplanned, he notes.

“I hadn’t been planning on moving from the University of New Brunswick. My term was up at [the] end of this academic year, and I had been seeking renewal.” But when the University of Alberta called him about its search for a new dean, he reconsidered his options.

“We thought it would be a great challenge to take what I have learned here at a great Canadian smaller law school and apply it to a great Canadian bigger law school,” he says.

Among his accomplishments in Fredericton, Bryden cites successful campaigns to raise money for capital projects and scholarships.

He found he enjoyed fundraising, something he predicts will be an increasingly big issue in the current economic climate. Schools that rely on endowments, particularly in order to cover operating expenses, will find themselves increasingly strapped for cash as their value drops, he notes. At the same time, the downturn may at some point mean government funding cuts for universities as well as a potentially barren job market for students and graduates.

As a result, Bryden expects financial issues to emerge as a key one for law schools.

But in the meantime, he’s excited to be going to a law school with a graduate program. Noting concerns from some people that master’s programs can sometimes be a drag on a school’s LLB courses, Bryden says his goal is to integrate the two better by, for example, getting more senior students involved in teaching undergraduates as well as sharing their research.

At the same time, he hopes to expand the University of Alberta’s student exchange partnerships with U.S. institutions to create deeper relationships between faculty and facilitate research.

Bryden’s departure paves the way for someone else to take on the Fredericton job temporarily in July while the university looks for a permanent replacement.

Over at Osgoode Hall, meanwhile, Li will fill the dean’s job — one Monahan has held since 2003 — strictly on an acting basis, a York spokesman says. She has been at the school since 1999 following eight years at the University of Western Ontario.

Besides academia, Li’s resume includes stints as a legal consultant to the International Monetary Fund, the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development, the federal auditor general, and the Department of Justice.