Arthurs Report and the legacy of Ed Veitch | Faculty News | Spring 2020 | NEXUS Magazine | The Faculty of Law | UNB

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Reflecting on the Arthurs Report and the legacy of Ed Veitch

Dr. Nicole O’Byrne presented Remembering the Arthurs Report – A Conversation with Ed Veitch at the Canadian Law and Society Association’s (CLSA) fall 2019 conference Law and Learning in an Era of Partnerships. Dr. O’Byrne, who served as President of CLSA from 2018 to 2020, led the keynote panel that saw a group of legal scholars—including Professor Harry Arthurs himself—discuss the legacy of the influential 1983 Arthurs Report on Law and Learning. Since the event, Dr. O’Byrne has begun transforming her conversation with former dean (1979-1983) Ed Veitch into a paper exploring the historical significance of the report, Veitch’s contributions, and the law school’s role as an early adopter of the report’s findings.

In 1979, the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council sought answers to why only two Canadian law professors had received funding through the federal granting agency. They wondered how this was possible. Canada had many law schools and a lot of law professors—why were they not applying for funding? Were they not doing research? This was the impetus for the study.

Professor Harry Arthurs, dean of Osgoode (1972-77) and President of York University (1985-1992) led the study, assembling a sizeable and savvy external advisory committee that had a dean or a senior member of faculty from every law school in the country. They completed surveys and spoke to judges, lawyers, and legal academics, all to discover what would promote a culture of research and interdisciplinarity. They asked the questions, are we a law school or a lawyer school? Is the law an intellectual discipline worthy of study in its own right? Ultimately, the group agreed that there must be a way for law schools to balance the needs of the practicing bar but also to stimulate and promote intellectual discovery.

“There is a temptation to teach law in a very formal mathematical way,” said Veitch while chatting with Dr. O’Byrne, “and there still is that tension—a contract is a contract. People like Harry Arthurs understood that law is much more than that. We are dealing with people and their problems—that can never fit into a nice flowchart. We saw law as a social science, and that was not a common point of view at a time when law schools were still seen as practitioner mills.”

“When I met with Ed at Pine Grove, I saw this plaque on the wall that seemed to perfectly sum him up,” said Dr. O’Byrne. “It was titled, Ode to the son of a Veitch,” and it read, “Out of Windsor calmy serene, In ‘79 he made our scene, To humanize this school of law, Red bearded Dean without a flaw.”

After her review of the Arthurs report and interviews with several retired UNB faculty, Dr. O’Byrne makes the argument that UNB was an early adopter of the Arthurs Report on Law and Learning, whose spirit she sums up in two words, humane professionalism.

“The report affirms that the law school is not simply a place to train future practitioners, but also a hall of academia, where ideas, intellectualism, research, and interdisciplinary studies are promoted and celebrated. Often law schools seem to feel like there’s a choice to be made, that you have to go one way or the other. UNB has always managed to straddle both of those worlds.”

Dr. O’Byrne attributes much of UNB Law’s success in offering both vocational training and scholarly pursuits to the former dean. Veitch was on the advisory committee of the report. He shared the values of the Arthurs report and brought them to UNB Law.

“Veitch has commented that his participation in the creation of this report was one of the high points of his deanship and that the report set a pedagogical trajectory at UNB that still resonates 40 years later. It would have been interesting to be at the faculty when Ed was hired as dean. It was a big shake-up for the faculty. He was hired from outside of UNB—a very cosmopolitan guy who had worked all over the world but was also a prolific scholar.”

Under Veitch’s leadership, UNB Law established a Centre for Property Studies, developed partnerships for international exchanges, hired several new professors with strong academic and research credentials, and built an expertise in environmental law. He oversaw the design and construction of the expansion to the law building to create additional classroom space and an extension that is now the Gérard V. La Forest Law Library. His desire to change the pedagogical approach to law school is perhaps reflected best in his recruitment of a number of full-time professors, most of whom remained at UNB for their entire teaching careers.

For Arthurs, Veitch, and the other contributors, the problem was that law faculties understood their primary purpose was to produce lawyers. Thus, they sought practitioner support, transmitted practitioner values, and didn't worry about promoting research culture.

“The research output and even the research ability of the average law professor in the 60s and 70s was quite minimal,” said Dr. O’Byrne. “They saw this as a problem. How do you move the law forward? You have to be engaged with the social sciences and humanities and then work it into legal studies.”

Veitch hired people with PhD’s and Master's degrees in the arts—but also with law credentials. People like Myron Gochnauer with a PhD in philosophy, Margaret McCallum with a PhD in history, David Bell with a Master's in history. He understood the importance of legal history as part of that whole story. He wanted to bring more interdisciplinary research into the study of law.

“You teach students to look at problems from a broad perspective that includes history and the theory—then they can think their way through problems. Ed believed in the importance of doctrinal subjects but understood that it is necessary to have people teaching law and society and other theoretical perspectives courses.”

Dr. O’Byrne remembers coming to UNB Law for her job interview in 2009 and having the opportunity to watch Prof. Veitch in action.

“I had just watched Prof. Gochnauer teach Evidence. Then, these two students behind me said, ‘oh you should stay for the next class, Veitch is teaching Remedies.’ I stayed and it was remarkable. Ed Veitch, at the height of his game, teaching a class that incorporated the doctrinal law but also contemporary socio-economic issues and context. He was so engaging he had the whole class participating in these conversations. He even called on me!”

In Dr. O’Byrne’s opinion, UNB Law continues to follow the recommendations of the Arthur’s report nearly 40 years after its release—as seen in many recent hires. 

“In the last few years, especially, we have hired people with pretty varied backgrounds. People like Maria Panezi with a PhD in international trade law and post-doctoral fellowship at the Centre for International Governance Innovation. Jason MacLean, who holds a PhD in Sociology, recently completed his second PhD in Law. When I asked him his thoughts on environmental law he said, ‘I teach environmental law but really I teach environmental law and policy.’” 

These scholars are only two examples of the broad and innovative research being done at UNB Law. Dr. O’Byrne also highlights Hilary Young, who recently received a sizable SSHRC grant to research injunctions concerning speech, and Vokhid Urinov, who has a PhD in tax law—generally thought of as an area where you're teaching people to go out and be practitioners. Dr. Urinov views tax as an intellectual subject. He teaches law students the doctrinal part of tax law but also the policy implications and the history and the purpose.

Over the past four decades, UNB Law has followed many of the recommendations contained in the Arthurs report regarding interdisciplinarity and broadening the scope of legal studies. However, Dr. O’Byrne sees one important area where UNB Law has room to grow. The report also recommended that law schools offer experiential programs that give the students an opportunity to see how legal theory plays out in practice.

“We are the only English-speaking law school in the country without a legal clinic. This is one of the recommendations of the report we have not been able to implement. The good news is that our forthcoming strategic plan continues the legacy of Arthurs/Veitch’s vision. A legal clinic is now the priority of our strategic plan, and we all agree on how important it is to give our students the opportunity to see research and scholarship in action.”

Veitch believed that law schools should be pluralistic and that students should receive a well-rounded education. This has been the UNB Law advantage for close to 40 years. For Dr. O’Byrne, the law school owes much of its success to Ed Veitch’s adoption of the findings of the Arthurs report.

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