By Jason Winders, Western News
Mitch Frazer '99 Partner at Torys LLP, Geoff Beattie '84 and Dean W. Iain Scott at the launch of the W. Geoff Beattie Chair in Corporate Law, Western Law's first endowed Chair.
Christopher Nicholls knows what he would demand from a law school if he were a student today.
“I would want to have a chance to develop the soundest technical legal skills and knowledge, to develop an informed perspective on the role of the corporate lawyer, nationally and internationally, and I would want to have a chance to see how legal and regulatory knowledge can be improved by important advances in cognate disciplines,” said the Stephen Dattels Chair in Corporate Finance Law. “I would want to know that my law school was on the leading edge of business law education, and committed – and able – to expose its students not only to world-class scholarship but to world-class scholars and professional leaders.”
A leap toward fulfilling that wish list for today’s students, Nicholls said, is the establishment of the W. Geoff Beattie Chair in Corporate Law, announced Wednesday evening.
A $1.5 million gift from W. Geoff Beattie and Torys LLP has been matched by Western to create a $3 million fund to establish the Beattie Chair and the Torys LLP Corporate & Securities Law Forum.
“Western Law is extremely grateful for this generous gift which will allow us to recruit or retain an outstanding faculty member in the area of corporate law,” says W. Iain Scott, Western Law dean. “It also supports the new Torys LLP Corporate & Securities Law Forum, which will better prepare our students for the business law field.”
Western has set its sights on becoming a world-class leader in research with a goal of creating 100 new endowed chairs by 2020. This is the sixth chair created under the program and the first outside of the Richard Ivey School of Business or Schulich School of Medicine & Dentistry.
“I am pleased and privileged to make this gift to Western. By partnering with Torys LLP, and Western Law alumni at Torys, we are able to build a cluster of business law excellence that is unmatched in Canada, and will be essential to attract top business law faculty to Western,” Beattie (LLB '84) said.
Beattie, Woodbridge Company Limited president/CEO and Thomson Reuters deputy chairman, is Western’s Campaign Cabinet chair. His ongoing philanthropic support includes the Beattie Family Speaker Series in Business Law, which brought former U.S. Secretary of Treasury Lawrence Summers to campus last fall.
“Great students and faculty come to where other great students and faculty are, and our hope is that the Beattie Chair and Torys Corporate Law Forum act as catalysts to build a sustained business law capability in Canada,” he continued.
Nicholls said the number of full-time academic lawyers in Canada with interest and expertise in corporate and securities law is fairly small – perhaps just over half a dozen full-time professors writing and teaching securities regulation, for example.
“I do think we could, and should, do more to expose interested students to a richer array of business law topics, including more specialized areas. Today, some of the most well-known senior practitioners in many specialized areas of law never took law school courses in the fields in which they are now experts, often because such courses simply didn't exist when they were in law school,” he said.
But that can’t be the right model for the future.
“To use a hackneyed phrase,” Nicholls said, “we need to help our graduates ‘hit the ground running.’ The new chair, and the new Corporate and Securities Law Forum, will allow us to build our teaching and research capacity in sophisticated areas of business law, traditional and novel.”
Scott agreed. “All the leading law schools address the core competencies. You’re going to get that across the board,” he said. “But what’s unique about this is it will allow us to expand beyond the core to other capabilities that good lawyers have. Everybody expects you to know the law, but what can you deliver beyond that.
“This gift allows us to deliver on that.”
No stranger to Western, Torys, a globally recognized law firm with offices in Toronto, New York and Calgary, has supported students over the years through awards, funding for academic research and a major contribution to the Law Library addition in the late 1980s.
Notably, Torys recruits Western Law students for summers and to article, and hires them back full time, as evidenced by the many Western Law alumni at the firm.
The Torys LLP Corporate & Securities Law Forum will deliver a number of initiatives and programs, including the Torys LLP Award in Business Law, Torys LLP Negotiation Competition, J.S.D. Tory Writing Prize and Torys LLP Business & Law Pre-Eminent Scholars Series.
“Lawyers play a vital role in the global economy, and Canadian corporate and securities lawyers are exceptionally well regarded around the world,” said Les Viner, Torys LLP managing partner. “Western Law is a particularly strong leader in corporate and securities law and we’re proud and delighted to support and enhance this already highly regarded program.”
Western president Amit Chakma called the endowed chairs program the single most important initiative donors can support right now to generate a lasting impact. Chairs strengthen Western’s ability to retain and attract the best possible teachers and researchers, which in turn will attract other top faculty and students, Chakma said.
Chairs ensure Western can continue its mission to develop leaders, inspire learning and ignite discovery, he continued.
MATCHING CHAIR PROGRAM
Western has set its sights on becoming a world-class leader in research with a goal of creating 100 new endowed chairs by 2020. Six chairs have been created under the program:
Ian O. Ihnatowycz Chair in Leadership, Richard Ivey School of Business;
Cecil and Linda Rorabeck Chair in Molecular Neuroscience and Vascular Biology, Schulich School of Medicine & Dentistry, Robarts Research Institute;
J.C. Kennedy Chair in Orthopaedic Surgery, Schulich School of Medicine & Dentistry;
Ray and Margaret Elliott Chair in Surgical Innovation, Schulich School of Medicine & Dentistry;
Medical Research Chair in Pharmacogenomics, Schulich School of Medicine & Dentistry;
W. Geoff Beattie Chair in Corporate Law, Faculty of Law.