July 7, 2023
Everywhere she looks, Andrea Lee sees construction law in action.
“The house you’re living in, the office you work in, and the infrastructure you use to move between them: each has a construction project behind it,” says Lee, a partner at Toronto construction law boutique Glaholt Bowles LLP. “Construction and construction law impact every aspect of our lives.”
And thanks to the unique nature of the industry, that same pervasiveness persists whether we happen to be living through a period of economic boom or bust, Lee adds, pointing to the central role of construction projects in stimulus packages developed by governments around the world to spur their economies, such as the recovery from the Global Financial Crisis in 2008.
“In law school, it was said that everyone should know a family lawyer and a criminal lawyer, but in the current environment, you’re going to need to add a construction lawyer to that list,” she says.
Now lawyers and other non-legal professionals who want to hone their skills in this incredibly dynamic and increasingly complex area of the law have a new option, thanks to OsgoodePD’s brand new Professional LLM in Construction Law – the first of its kind in Canada.
The launch of the program is a natural progression for Osgoode, in keeping with its pioneering history in the realm of construction law. For more than a decade, the popular OsgoodePD Certificate in Construction Law has offered professionals in the industry intensive, practical education on the core legal issues impacting construction projects over five information-packed days.
Lee, a co-founding program director of the new Professional LLM in Construction Law alongside Professor and Chartered Arbitrator Janet Walker, has witnessed the growing demand for legal expertise in her niche up close, in both her private practice and her role as an OsgoodePD instructor teaching some of the school’s existing offerings. She says the new devoted program will help relieve some of that pressure.
“There is certainly an appetite for more construction law courses, so it’s great that Osgoode is taking things to the next level,” Lee says.
In addition to core required courses that will tackle the basics of construction law theory and dispute resolution, LLM students will have a chance to go deeper on topics in this rapidly evolving legal landscape. Issues covered by elective courses include the emergence of adjudication as an alternative to arbitration or litigation for the resolution of construction disputes, as well as the latest developments concerning timeless construction law issues, such as insurance and surety.
With the first intake of LLM students scheduled for Fall 2024, preparations are already well underway at OsgoodePD, and Lee says the program’s unique status has helped with the recruitment of the diverse faculty of lawyers and industry professionals who will teach classes. With the launch of the program, Osgoode will become one of select few global institutions – and the only one in Canada – to offer a Construction Law LLM.
“This is our chance to showcase construction law from a Canadian perspective, but students will also be hearing from industry experts around the world,” Lee says. “It’s going to be a fantastic opportunity for students.”
While lawyers who deal regularly with construction law issues or advise industry professionals are obvious candidates for the new LLM program, Lee says it is also likely to appeal to lawyers looking to gain insight into construction law to complement their existing practice, or even transition into the area on a full-time basis.
“As construction law has really grown in importance, I see more and more lawyers who are interested in learning more about the area,” she says.
But it’s not just lawyers who stand to gain from the program, according to Lee, who expects applications to come from a wide range of industry professionals without a legal background, including engineers, project managers, executives at construction and design companies, as well as public servants in procurement, risk management and dispute resolution roles for government agencies. “This program will give them an additional level of knowledge, and help them improve their understanding of the contracts that they enter and administer, the negotiation skills they use on behalf of their employers, the way they manage risk during projects and how they resolve disputes,” she says. “They will be learning from case studies and getting some valuable real-world lessons that they can apply to their present or future work.”
Want to learn more about the Professional LLM in Construction Law? Sign up for an Information Session!