In less than 15 years in the legal academy, Alice Woolley accomplished more than many do in an entire career. As she moves onto a new stage in her professional life, this post takes a moment to celebrate Alice for all she’s done for the legal ethics community in Canada and internationally.
For those readers who missed the news, on November 21, 2018, the federal Minister of Justice announced that Alice Woolley has been appointed a Justice of the Court of Queen’s Bench of Alberta in Calgary. And so, Professor Alice Woolley became Justice Alice Woolley. With this change in job, our legal ethics colleague isn’t gone, of course, by any stretch. She will, no doubt, continue to have a profound impact on legal scholarship and the law for years to come. It is, however, the end of an era, as they say, and one worth marking.
Although Alice’s place in the legal ethics community could never be captured in formal titles, at the time of her judicial appointment she was not only the President of the Canadian Association for Legal Ethics, but also President of the International Association of Legal Ethics. The fact that Alice was a President-squared gives a glimpse of the high regard in which she was held by both her domestic and international colleagues. Alice’s leadership positions were part of her constant efforts to boost the Canadian legal ethics community, building international connections and relentlessly raising our collective and individual reputations.
Her hard work and skillful leadership led to the successful hosting in 2012 of the fifth biennial International Legal Ethics Conference in Banff, Alberta – the first and only time this conference, which attracts hundreds of legal ethics scholars from around the world, was held in Canada.
As a colleague involved since the inception of the Canadian Association for Legal Ethics said to me: “Alice brought strong leadership to the burgeoning discipline and to a new organization that would attempt – ultimately successfully – to bridge the gap between practice and academia.”
As an academic, Alice’s contributions to legal ethics scholarship have been legion and significant. Her work has not only breadth – spanning such topics as the law societies’ good character requirements, the ethics of hourly billing, civility, philosophical theories of legal ethics, fiduciary duties, independence of the bar, “nasty women and the rule of law” and prosecutorial, defence counsel and judicial ethics – but depth, as she articulated and developed new theoretical underpinnings that have influenced thinking in the academic world and beyond. In addition numerous law journal articles, Alice is the author of the important text, Understanding Lawyers’ Ethics in Canada and the co-editor and co-author of the leading casebook on legal ethics in Canada, Lawyers’ Ethics and Professional Regulation. Alice’s brilliant mind and words are now woven deep into the fabric of Canadian legal ethics scholarship.
Alice’s dedication to legal ethics is built at least in part on a conviction that everyone should be thinking more deeply about legal ethics. Inside the University of Calgary, she led the way, working hard to provide her students with a valuable and interesting learning experience. Her work in “flipping” the legal ethics classroom is of particular note. The fact that she twice received the Howard Tidswell Memorial Award for Teaching Excellence is no accident. Outside the University, so many lawyers have benefitted from Alice’s expertise because of her participation in countless continuing professional development events. The general public also benefited from her wisdom and insight: she was a regular “go-to” expert whenever the media sought comment about legal ethics issues in the news.
Her writings in Slaw – over 40 columns – exemplify Alice’s work as an unparalleled spokeswoman for an incisive, principled and accessible approach to legal ethics. In writing this post, I looked back at Alice’s Slaw posts and tried to pick a favourite. It was too hard – they are all so good, right down to the titles: “Law Schools’ Dirty Little Secret”; “Lawyers Who Write Bogus Demand Letters: The Freemen in Our Midst?; “The Morality of #Metoo” and “How Lawyers Can Learn to Stop Worrying and Love CPD.” Readers can (and should!) check out Alice’s Slaw posts for themselves here.
Alice’s impact beyond the walls of her law school and the world of academia is also reflected in the fact that she was selected by Canadian Lawyer Magazine in 2018 as one of the Top 25 Most Influential lawyers in Canada. One of the individuals who voted for her captures Alice’s impact well: “Alice is second to none when it comes to understanding and articulating legal ethics. She is an extremely clear thinker and communicator and an absolute thought leader in this space.” Another voter’s comments were more succinct: “She knows what’s up.”
Beyond the multiple and well-deserved accolades that Alice has received, she will also, of course, be remembered for her fierce advocacy for a better justice system. Her work with others on the complaint to the Canadian Justice Council regarding the conduct of Robin Camp is a prime example of this.
In all of her engagements with legal ethics issues, Alice brought a unique and extremely valuable tone. As one colleague asked when informed that I was writing this post: “Were you going to describe one of Alice’s most delightful and noticeable characteristics? Whether you call her blunt, frank (my favourite), or whatever and at the same time never lacking in nuance or insight – a rare combination!”
Last but not least, it cannot be left unsaid that Alice has been and continues to be a dedicated mentor to many (something to which I can personally attest). Alice’s approach, to quote another one of my colleagues, is that of “perhaps the best kind of scholar: one who can help people find the best in themselves, encourage those ideas, and help champion them – even when [she and the people she is supporting] don’t always agree with each other!”
I invite you all to join me in raising a (virtual) glass to toast Alice! Thank you for everything you’ve done for the legal ethics community. We miss you so much already but can’t wait to watch as you continue to lead and thrive in your next, judicial, chapter.