About CALT

Membership in the Canadian Association of Law Teachers is open to all law teachers who currently are or have been engaged in the teaching of law in a Canadian university, whether full or part-time. Associate membership in the Canadian Association of Law Teachers is open to all who are currently engaged in law teaching in countries other than Canada. The Association is not representative of the law schools or their administration as such, but is representative of the law teachers and is primarily concerned with their problems and interests.


The Canadian Association of Law Professors exists:

(a) generally to promote the interests of Canadian law teachers;

(b) to contribute to the development and promotion of law teaching, to the improvement of legal education, and to the dissemination of knowledge and best practices in legal education;

(c) to contribute to the development and dissemination of research in law and legal education;

(d) to coordinate meetings and exchanges among law teachers from different faculties, regions or areas of research and teaching;

(e) to promote law reform and the improvement of the Canadian legal system; and

(f) such other objects as, in the opinion of the executive or members, may be in the best interests of the association.

CALT's full constitution may be viewed here.


The Association began with a meeting of law teachers called together by the late Professor Frank Scott of McGill University's Faculty of Law, following a meeting of the Canadian Bar Association in Ottawa in 1947. The meeting was very informal and no officers were elected, nor were any constitutional resolutions adopted. A second meeting took place during a Bar Meeting in Montreal in 1948 and a third, equally informal, at a Bar Meeting in Banff in 1949. In 1950, when the Congress of Learned Societies met at Queen's University, Kingston, a more formal meeting was held and an organization was proposed, which became official in 1951 at McGill University. Thereafter, the Association has met annually, usually with the Congress of Learned Societies, (now known as the Congress of the Social Sciences and Humanities).

The Association’s first president was F.R. Scott of McGill University.  As later described by Gerald Le Dain in 1983, “[t]he Association helped to strengthen the sense of professional identity and purpose among law teachers. It afforded an annual opportunity for contact and exchange on matters of mutual interest - so important as a means of overcoming the sense of isolation of the individual scholar in this vast country.”[1]  In its past activities, CALT has also “helped to consolidate the teaching of law within the university system and to standardize teaching and materials”.[2]  In a note shared with then-CALT president Nathalie DesRosiers in the late 1990s, UBC Dean Emeritus George Curtis recounted his memories of CALT’s founding:

A visit by Frank Scott to my office in the spring of 1949 turned out to have a permanent result. Scott and I always got along well together exchanging ideas. He was, on this particular morning, filling in his time before political meetings which brought him, as a leader in the CCF party, to Vancouver.

Our discussion ranged the compass. As he was going out the door, he stopped and both of us together exclaimed: "We must do this more often. Why not form a law teachers society to get together at least once a year."

We so agreed - Scott to stir up interest in the East, I to do the same in the West. My idea was to alternate our meetings yearly between meetings of the academic societies and the annual meeting of the Canadian Bar Association. An abortive attempt by us to meet at Banff where the Canadian bar held its meeting shortly afterwards, made it clear that co-incidence with the academic meetings was the preferable schedule. Partly this was for the very mundane reason that it was easier to get travel grants to journey to academic meetings than to attend bar meetings.

The practice of universities making travel grants was a post-war innovation. During my eleven years service at Dalhousie, I received not one red cent from the university to go to meetings: if I went, I paid out of my own pocket. My fellow law deans and I were determined to change this. We saw the association of law teachers as a help in persuading university administrations that a new day in legal education was overdue.

In the natural sciences, there were often travel funds available to faculty members as part of their research grants. The travel grants to law teachers were grudgingly given, but at least they came, and were helpful, even though the grants at first only covered a part of the expenses.

Enough progress along this prosaic line was made to justify a representative meeting of law teachers at McGill in 1951. The lounge of the law school, then housed in a former mansion of one of commercial barons of Montreal, was large enough to hold all two dozen of us. The discussions were lively. They led to the decision to form a permanent body and to meet annually.

One of those who attended was Professor F .H. Lawson, of Oxford, who happened to be visiting McGill at the time. During the afternoon, there had been an agitated discussion of the merits of the "case method" of teaching. As the discussion died down, Lawson's presence at the end of the semi-circle sitting around the large fireplace was noticed. His views on the subject were invited. His reply was succinct: "Oh, I really don't think I can contribute much of value about methods of teaching. You see, Oxford is a reading university."

The Association of law teachers flourished like a green bay tree. It now has a membership in the hundreds, receives substantial operating grants from the Social Science Research Council, has a weighty agenda at its annual meetings, and has taken its place in the pantheon of the Canadian academic world.

[1]           Gerald Le Dain, “F.R. Scott and Legal Education,” in Sandra Djwa and R. St. J. Macdonald, On F.R. Scott: Essays on His Contributions to Law, Literature, and Politics (Kingston: McGill-Queen’s Press, 1983) at 112.

[2]           Sandra Djwa, The Politics of the Imagination: A Life of F.R. Scott (Toronto: McClelland & Stewart, 1988) at 264.

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