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History of the Faculty of Law

Establishing the law school: 1913-1976

The establishment of the Faculty of Law at the University of Calgary was a community initiative. Members of both the U of C and the Calgary legal community, in conjunction with the City of Calgary, worked for ten years to bring the school into existence. The Faculty of Law continues to benefit from the strong support it receives from the Calgary community.

Photo courtesy University of Calgary Archives

The first Faculty of Law in Calgary opened in 1913. The law school was part of Calgary College, a private post-secondary institution with no degree-granting status. It consisted of a class of 12 students, a dean and two lecturers. With the outbreak of World War I in 1914, the school was disbanded and the students continued their legal education at the University of Alberta.

For the next 62 years, the only law school in the province was at the University of Alberta. From the time the University of Calgary was established in 1966, a wide range of interested groups had expressed strong support for the idea of a law school at the new university.

In 1971 an ad hoc committee with representation from both the Bench and the Bar strongly recommended the creation of the Faculty of Law. Shortly thereafter, in 1973, a government-appointed committee made the same recommendation to the Minister of Advanced Education.

At the same time, both the Calgary Bar and the City of Calgary took the lead to make significant financial contributions to the development of a law school library.

In September 1974, the Ministry of Advanced Education gave its final approval to the proposal for the establishment of the law school.

The first dean of the new law school, John McLaren (U of C Honorary Degree recipient, 1997), took up his appointment in July 1975. In September of that year, Professor Gail Starr was appointed the Faculty's first law librarian.

The Faculty officially opened in 1976 with a first-year class of 60 students and nine faculty members.

Growth of the law school: 1976-2003

In 1988, the Faculty instituted a graduate program with a focus on natural resources, energy and environmental law. Up to five students from around the world would come to the University of Calgary each year to pursue their thesis-based LLM degrees in our area of specialization.

sod turning
Photo courtesy University of Calgary Archives

When the law school was established it was located on the top floor of the Biological Sciences building. The sod-turning ceremony for a new Professional Faculties Building took place in October 1991. The Faculty of Law moved and was comfortably installed in Block B of the Professional Faculties Building by the time of the official opening in May 1994. The building was renamed on September 18, 1998.

The Faculty of Law appointed a full-time Chair of Natural Resources Law in 2002, after enjoying the contributions of visiting chairs from Canada and elsewhere. The change illustrated our commitment to becoming the national law school for natural resources, energy and environmental law education and our intent to solidify our international reputation in this area.

Strategic planning and new initiatives: 2003-2010

In 2003 the Faculty of Law approved an ambitious five-year strategic plan for its growth and development. The 2003 to 2008 Fostering Excellence: Seizing the Initiative strategic plan and fundraising campaign resulted in the following successes:

  • The design of a new LLB curriculum, including an increase in natural resources, energy and environmental law courses from 11 to 22;
  • An increase in LLB admissions from 75 to 100 students per year;
  • Securing significant new student scholarships and awards;
  • Increasing the thesis-based LLM admissions from five to 20 students per year;
  • Designing and implementing a course-based LLM program;
  • Creating a PhD program and admitting initial candidates on a "special case" basis;
  • Developing international collaborations to facilitate conferences and summer exchange programs;
  • Creating new chairs in the natural resources, energy and environmental law area, including the James S. and Barbara A. Palmer Chair in Public Policy and the N. Murray Edwards Chair in Business Law;
  • Research collaboration with ISEEE;
  • Enhancing service levels, tools and physical plant in the law library, including the hiring of a natural resources, energy and environmental law libraries and a 15% increase in books and resources; and,
  • Expanding, refurbishing and installing state-of-the-art technology in Murray Fraser Hall to accommodate the increased student body and provide a physical plant in keeping with a top Canadian law school.


In May 2010, Faculty Council approved a new strategic plan for the law school - UCalgary Law 2010-2015: Inspiring Energy.Skills.Excellence. The new strategic plan has three components:

  1. LLB/JD program excellence;
  2. Global recognition for resources, energy and environmental law; and,
  3. Excellence in lawyering, with a focus on advocacy, dispute resolution and ethics.

In September 2010, the undergraduate degree designation changed from Bachelor of Laws (LLB) to Juris Doctor (JD).