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Introducing the new Program Director of Osgoode’s Health Law LLM: Adrienne Shnier

April 30, 2024


It’s hard to imagine a job more tailormade for Dr. Adrienne Shnier than Program Director of OsgoodePD’s Professional LLM in Health Law.

As both a health lawyer and renowned health policy expert – her PhD research focused on pharmaceutical policy and regulation – Shnier’s career to date sounds like an encapsulation of the entire Osgoode program. And she can hardly wait to get into the weeds of her new position, which starts in the summer 2024 term.

“I actually love all the back-end academic work: making sure that our instructors have an opportunity to teach classes they believe in and grow in their roles, developing new courses where there’s a gap in the curriculum, working with faculty on committees to keep the program strong and also in admissions to ensure our incoming classes are comprised of the highest quality candidates who will grow both personally and professionally, while contributing to the ethos of the school,” Shnier says. “I’m so excited to start.”  

She will be combining her duties as Program Director with her role as Managing Partner at Shnier Mackenzie Law, where she operates a thriving health law, business law, and policy consulting practice serving clinical practices and growing businesses in the healthcare industry, among others.   

But Shnier is no stranger to multitasking, having straddled the line between professor and student throughout her time as a JD candidate at Osgoode Hall Law School, while simultaneously teaching as an adjunct member of York University’s Faculty of Health.

“At Osgoode, I was always running over to the next building to teach, and then back for my law school classes,” she says.

Growing up, the legal profession wasn’t really on Shnier’s radar. 

“I didn’t know many lawyers, but I had a lot of medical professionals around me,” she says. “I thought I was going to be a doctor – the medical kind.”

However, after enrolling in a pre-med life sciences program, Shnier struggled to adapt to the student body’s unfriendly atmosphere and the professors’ emphasis on rote-learning, prompting a transfer to the Health and Society program at York University that marked the start of her long association with the institution. 

“I loved it,” Shnier says. “I was learning about the social and cultural frameworks that affect how our healthcare is provided to us, which was a really nice complement to all the knowledge I already had about the system from the people in my life who practise in it.”

The program also gave Shnier her first brush with the legal system, during an independent research course looking at alleged data fraud in the pharmaceutical industry. Shnier’s project turned into a form of document review, making heavy use of internal drug company documents uncovered in the midst of U.S. civil and criminal litigation. 

“There were probably millions of pages on this database that I spent hundreds of hours sifting through, dissecting how this fraud could happen,” she says.  

Staying on to complete a Master’s in Health Policy and Equity, followed by her PhD in that same program, Shnier remained focused on the shadier side of pharmaceuticals, investigating conflicts of interest and the use and regulation of medical ghostwriting in academic medical journals. 

“Something clicked for me, where I realized that all of those industry documents that I was relying on had been released as a result of the work of lawyers,” she says. “That’s when I started thinking about applying to law school.”

Shnier ultimately deferred her law school application, instead seizing the opportunity to work with her health policy mentors on her PhD before their impending retirement. 

While writing up her dissertation, Shnier again showcased her industriousness when she founded Apply Yourself: The Advancement Spot Inc., a company in which she coaches students to their peak performance and success, often beginning with their applications to law school, medical school and other graduate and professional programs with a 90% success rate. 

“I was supposed to be writing my dissertation in Starbucks, but I would get into these conversations with people trying to get into graduate and professional programs and realized I could help them,” she says. “Word spread, and I’d have people lining up at my table, waiting for me to red-line their printed out applications. The business has really grown and we now serve clients all over Canada and internationally.” 

Just two weeks after graduating with her PhD, Shnier enrolled at Osgoode, where she served as Editor-in-Chief of the Osgoode Health Law Association. Soon after completing articles at a Toronto civil litigation boutique specializing in personal injury, medical malpractice, and commercial litigation, she founded her own firm.  

“Our mission is to help our small, medium and large business clients not only with their corporate structuring, but also their day-to-day functioning,” Shnier says. “The real thrust of our work on the business side is minimizing risk and avoiding harm so that our clients can go on living thriving, fulfilling lives.”

In 2022, Shnier made her return to Osgoode, teaching Health Law LLM students taking the Pharmaceutical Regulation course – a class she will continue to lead after assuming her role as Program Director.

According to Shnier, the program’s overall focus on interactive and interdisciplinary learning through a unique mix of academic, applied, and theoretical perspectives, is the perfect complement to her own teaching style, which she describes as “dynamic and practical.” Students taking her class can expect to hear plenty of real-world scenarios taken from her own practice and those of her frequent guest speakers. 

“One of the things that I’ve learned from being in such a hands-on field as health, is that the framework and theories mean nothing if you can’t apply them to practice,” Shnier says. “I want students to be able to bring what they’re learning in the classroom back into their professional settings, in order not only to better themselves, but also to have a broader and more meaningful impact on the people they serve.”

Want to learn more about the Professional LLM in Health Law? Sign up for an Information Session!