New UBC law dean says strive for work-life balance

Catherine Dauvergne, a professor, published author, and Trudeau fellow, will formally become the new dean of the University of British Columbia’s law school July 1, and with her new appointment she has a few tips for Canadian law students.

Having spent many years in Sydney, Australia, where Dauvergne received her PhD in 2000 from the Australian National University, following which she received her first academic appointment, she certainly has the vantage point to facilitate a remarkable learning experience for the law students.

“I love students at UBC,” says Dauvergne. “I think law students in general are really a passionate, committed, highly energetic group; with each passing year I am more and more impressed at the diversity of interests and the social justice commitments of our students.”

While Dauvergne has had much academic success, she says being chosen dean of one of the most difficult law schools to get into in the country, took more than hard work.

“I really believe in work-life balance and I think that really for all lawyers whether in early career, mid-career, or late-career it’s really important to have some connections and some part of your life that really is outside of the law, and I think that in the legal profession this is a pressing and important issue.”

In fact, one of the first e-mails Dauvergne sent to her new administrative team was to make sure to take ample time off in the summer months, despite the fact her appointment begins in July.

Living and studying abroad is not something available to everyone notes Dauvergne, but “the most wonderful things are quite often the most unexpected, so when you see a wonderful opportunity floating by, don’t hesitate to jump on it even if you don’t know exactly where it leads.”

Another essential bit of advice she has for law students is not to be afraid of rejection.

“I really applied for a lot of things, and as a result, I get rejected from a lot of things, and I think that’s OK. I think it’s really important not to be afraid of rejection and not to take those rejections too personally and to just keep trying as new opportunities present themselves.”

The final bit of advice is, of course, to be passionate about what you do, and walk away from anything that does not feel right.

Her passion when it comes to law, is immigration and refugee law.

“I really think that the questions that are at the core of immigration and refugee law are some of the most important questions about how we understand our society and how we treat people in a really basic and fundamental way.”

She took a course on the subject in the 1990s that first sparked her interest and says due to the sad state of affairs surrounding this area of law, she has felt the need to pour all her energy into it.

The incoming dean has published six books on the very subject and is rushing to finish the seventh, before her appointment begins in July. Unfortunately, Dauvergne will no longer be able to focus on immigration and refugee law when she officially becomes dean as it is a full-time job, but she hopes to come back to it at some point.

To be chosen for the position, “is kind of a humbling honour and a truly tremendous excitement all at the same time,” says Dauvergne.

Dauvergne expects to become dean of the faculty at a very exciting time, and having worked with UBC for a long time, attributes much of the school’s success to long-standing dean Mary Anne Bobinski.

UBC’s law school was recently renamed the Peter A. Allard School of Law, in recognition of UBC law alumnus Peter Allard’s $30-million donation. Dauvergne plans to raise an additional $10 million and hopes to expand UBC’s clinical law programs, allot experiential learning programs to all its students, as well as to hire 10 more faculty members in the next five years.

As for needed improvements, Dauvergne will come up with a new “strategic planning” agenda for the law school as well as go over its admissions process, “just to make sure that we are meeting best practices in law school admissions, which is quite challenging and admission processes around the country are in flux in a number of ways.”

Lastly the incoming dean hopes to find more financial support for the faculty’s researchers.

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