Former McCarthys lawyer becomes executive director of TWU law school

Work on getting Trinity Western University’s controversial law school up and running continues with the appointment of Vancouver labour and employment lawyer Earl Phillips as executive director.

The school announced the appointment last week as it gears up to launch the country’s newest law faculty in September 2016.

Phillips had previously spent 28 years at McCarthy Tétrault LLP, where he served as regional managing partner from 2001-04. He also served as national practice group leader in labour and employment from 2002-07. He retired from full-time practice at the firm in December 2013 just as the approval process for the law school was in full swing.

“I’ve been involved with the idea of a law school at Trinity Western for some time,” says Phillips, who notes he was part of the advisory council that helped with the final push to get the law school approved last year.

While he left McCarthys last year, he says he has continued to do legal work and has remained interested in Trinity Western in the meantime.

“I’ve continued to be very interested and committed to the idea,” he says, acknowledging the debate around the law school in light of its community covenant.

“We need to get it up and running in two years,” he says, noting the goal is to have a founding dean in place by next year.

Phillips notes he particularly appreciates the law school’s focus around practical training, assisting underserved clients such as small businesses and the charitable and non-profit sectors, and building on “the Christian ideals of service.”

“The plan is to provide a lot more in terms of practical training so that our graduates are ready to step into practice,” he says.

The school, of course, remains controversial given the various legal challenges related to its community covenant agreement that includes a statement about abstaining from “sexual intimacy that violates the sacredness of marriage between a man and a woman.”

The challenges include one filed in British Columbia against the B.C. government’s approval of the law school. A crowdfunding campaign launched last year by lawyers at Ruby Shiller Chan Hasan in Toronto has so far raised about $17,000 of the $30,000 sought. Trinity Western, in turn, has challenged the Law Society of Upper Canada’s decision in April against accrediting its law school. It’s seeking judicial review at the Divisional Court with hearings scheduled for this December.

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