Giving back

Fraser Milner Casgrain LLP recently donated $400,000 to the Queen’s University Faculty of Law, rounding out the $1.3-million budget for the school’s classroom renewal project.

The project has aimed to see the renovation of Macdonald Hall — named after Canada’s first prime minister. With the help of FMC — many of the firm’s partners and associates are Queen’s law graduates — the school has newly renovated classrooms, seminar rooms, and improved accessibility, ventilation, acoustics, and educational equipment, to name a few.

“The classrooms were built in 1966 and were untouched since then,” says Bill Flanagan, Queen’s dean of law. “They were badly in need of an overhaul: ventilation, new lighting, acoustics, state of the art technology.”

FMC CEO Chris Pinnington, along with Queen’s law graduates currently practising at the firm, jointly presented a cheque to Flanagan last November.

“The law firm relies on law schools to train the lawyers that it hires, and we hire a number of students from law schools across Canada every year,” says Tom Houston, managing partner at FMC’s Ottawa office. “Legal education is very important to our firm and we’ve chosen to make a contribution to the state of legal education; and in this case, we’ve chosen Queen’s to make this gift.”

This donation is one of the largest single donations in the law school’s 54-year history. Houston, a Queen’s law ’78 grad, along with a few other alumni, including Toronto partners Ron Matheson and Peter Murphy, who spearheaded the initiative.

“Several of us who have gone to Queen’s saw an opportunity to make a gift back to the school and also leave a legacy,” says Houston. “We recognized that a gift of this size would be difficult for the firm to make . . . so we solicited the alumni at the firm to see if they would contribute to the overall gift.”

He adds: “A number were prepared to do so and, in fact, contributed a good portion of this overall gift personally.”

In honour of FMC’s historic contribution, Macdonald Hall’s largest classroom, Room 001, has been renamed the Fraser Milner Casgrain LLP Classroom.

“We wanted to [name the classroom] to recognize the generosity of FMC,” says Flanagan.

The FMC classroom reopened with a ribbon-cutting ceremony on Jan. 12. Several partners, articling students, and Queen’s law alumni attended the event.

“The fact that we happened to choose Queen’s for this gift doesn’t mean that the other schools are not deserving as well,” Houston says. “Over time, we hope to be able to provide support to all the law schools that we draw from.”

The great success of the classroom remodeling is evident by the  Queen’s law students’ new appreciation for their new facilities.

“[The classrooms] used to be known, less than fondly, as the dungeons,” Flanagan says. “I’m pleased to say that’s a word that has left the lexicon of Queen’s law.”

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