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Practice makes perfect

New law professor brings combo of legal practice and academic inquisitiveness to Robson Hall

February 3, 2020 — 

Bringing an exciting, new take on Administrative Law (cue the groans from second-year law students), there’s a new prof in the Hall this term, fresh from travelling the world with the ink still drying on his Doctor of Philosophy in Laws degree from Osgoode Hall. Second- and third- year Robson Hallers will already be familiar with Dr. Gerard Kennedy as their professor of Administrative Law and Legal Profession and Professional Responsibility, but first year students may not yet have had the honour.

“Speaking on behalf of the faculty members at Robson Hall, I am most pleased to have Dr. Kennedy join us,” said Dr. Jonathan Black-Branch, Dean of Law. “He brings with him unique experiences and education to share with our students, and I look forward to seeing the impact his research will have on improving Administrative Law and access to justice for Canadians.”

Kennedy brings a lot to the Robson Hall community table, so it behooves us to learn more about him. He kindly answered some questions recently, and we found in this administrative law academic, a very forward-thinking and practically minded advocate for access to justice.


Dr. Gerard Kennedy

Dr. Gerard Kennedy

Robson Hall:  What courses are you officially designated to teach here at Robson Hall?
Gerard Kennedy: Thus far, I have been designated to teach Administrative Law and Legal Profession and Professional Responsibility. I expect to teach Civil Procedure next year. Both Administrative Law and Civil Procedure are my primary research areas, while LPPR complements both, as well as my practice experience.

RH: What is your area of research focus and why are you so interested in it?
GK: I primarily look at how civil and administrative justice can help facilitate access to justice. Much of lawsuits are procedure – and most individuals encounter the justice system through administrative actors. So I view both areas as of immense practical importance. I came to understand the import of these areas while in practice myself.

RH:  Did you like being a litigator and do you think you’ll seek to work as a litigator in private practice ever again?
GK: There’s nothing like the thrill of arguing in court, and/or receiving a great result for a client, whether from a judicial decision or a well-formed settlement. I definitely want to become a member of the Manitoba bar. I am doubtful I’ll enter into full-time private practice again given how much I relish being a law professor but I could definitely envision practice experience that is complementary to my academic work. Practice experience has been so complementary in the past – I don’t see why that may not be a possibility in the future.

RH:  What is your PhD on and do you anticipate turning it into a book or maybe accessible plain language publications to benefit practitioners and the public?
GK: My Ph.D. looks at the effects of the Supreme Court of Canada’s call for a “culture shift” in how litigation is conducted vis-à-vis more discrete, tailored efforts to change how procedural law is utilized to facilitate access to justice. I’m hoping to have the dissertation published as a series of articles (indeed, three chapters have been published already). I plan on publishing in an array of journals and outlets, some tailored to the general public and some tailored to fellow academics. But I hope all are useful to practitioners.

RH: Would you encourage your students to pursue legal studies at a graduate level beyond practicing?
GK: I would certainly urge that they consider it, for multiple reasons. I have found an academic career tremendously rewarding. But even for practitioners, I believe an LL.M. can be a great way to gain expertise and delve deeply into a legal topic, that can complement one’s practice. On that note, I would also encourage any aspiring academic to consider spending some time in practice. My own experience is that this can inspire more informed academic projects, and also help one’s teaching.

RH:  Where are you originally from, where have you lived, studied and taught, and where would you most like to live?
GK: I grew up in Scarborough, which has since been subsumed into the City of Toronto. After twenty-two years in suburban Toronto, I went to Kingston to earn my J.D. at Queen’s for three years. That time included a summer studying international law in England, and a summer internship in The Hague the following year. After a year clerking in Toronto, I then headed to Boston to earn my LL.M. at Harvard. That was followed by six more years in Toronto, practicing and beginning my Ph.D. and teaching career, though I spent much of one autumn in Kingston, teaching at Queen’s Law School. The sixteen months before starting at Robson were once again spent travelling around the world, with visiting scholar positions both in New York and Luxembourg. So I’ve been quite a few places!

As for where I’d most like to live? Wherever my spouse and daughter are! That may not have been what you meant by the question so I should emphasize that I clearly learn a lot from being abroad, and hope to do so again in the future while on sabbatical. But my time abroad has also confirmed that Canada is “home” and I’m honoured to be a member of the Canadian academy and Canadian legal profession. So that’s where I want to be.

RH:  As you settle in here, do you think you’ll take on coaching any of the moot teams as you have in the past at U of T and Queen’s?
GK: I would love to coach a moot team here. I find mooting to be a great social and educational experience for students, that builds practical advocacy and writing skills.

RH:  What was it about Robson Hall, Faculty of Law that caught your interest and inspired you to come here (surely not Winnipeg’s mild weather!)?
GK: I love the small, collegial atmosphere of the law school, and the connection to the bench and the bar. On a personal level, my spouse’s family is located throughout the Prairies, and we became parents less than a year ago, so we jumped at the chance to be closer to family.

RH:  What can Robson Hall students expect in teaching style and classroom approach from the new Professor?
GK: Expect animation…I’m not one to stand at the lectern and read from a script! I also find discussion with the class to be a highlight, to explore ambiguities/uncertainties in the law, and discover where there are difficulties in the absorption of the material.

RH:  Is it par for the course for law professors to complete the doctorate now?
GK: It is certainly becoming more and more common, both as a training ground to become a better researcher, and as an opportunity to publish more. It is certainly a time investment and the job market remains competitive, however. So I would not encourage starting a doctorate lightly!

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