Simon Fodden (1944 – 2018)

It is with a heavy heart that I share the news that our beloved Slaw founder, Simon Fodden, passed away on February 10th, 2018. Simon had been fighting cancer for the past four years, and died surrounded by his family at the Kensington Hospice in Toronto.

Simon’s accomplishments were many. From the family’s eulogy, he was beautifully described as “law professor and associate dean of law, author, blogger, founder/publisher of, lifelong learner, eclectic collector of interests and curiosities, aesthete, fashion plate, craft beer lover, foodie, charming conversationalist, music lover, technofile, web designer and all-around early adopter of innovation. Online before online was a place to be.”

Indeed, he was all those things; and for myself and many others, a cherished friend.

Simon’s family would like to extend an invitation to his friends, family, colleagues and followers of his work to come together and remember him at:

“1:00 p.m. on Tuesday, February 13th at the I-Zone Lofts, 326 Carlaw Avenue, in Toronto. A celebration of Simon’s life will follow, from 3:00-5:00 p.m. at Allen’s Restaurant and Pub, 143 Danforth Avenue. All are welcome to join in one or both events.”

I’m sure much more will be written in the days ahead; and I would like to encourage that by extending an invitation to our authors and readers to share their stories, either in the comments below or as separate posts on Slaw. Your kind thoughts and memories are always welcome.


  1. I’m so sorry to hear this news.

    Canadian legal blogging owes its existence, if I may say, to this website and its core team of original bloggers (Simon Chester, Connie Crosby, Steve Matthews, and Simon Fodden). For more than a decade, Simon Fodden ran this site and curated an astonishing amount of top-notch content about the legal profession, law librarianship, legal technology, legal research, and just about every other legal subject you could imagine. Simon was the architect of the legal blogosphere in this country.

    I’m certainly not the only blogger who received his first break here at Slaw from Simon. Always generous with his time, incredibly intelligent and intellectually curious, deeply concerned with justice and the role of the lawyer in ensuring it, Simon was both a great man and a good man. He will be terribly missed.

  2. It is perhaps fitting that I have learned of Simon’s passing while working away at my next Slaw column.

    I’ve now been blogging on Slaw for nearly five years having been asked to join Adam Dodek, Amy Salyzn and Alice Woolley as a Legal Ethics contributor. It is no overstatement to say that being a SLAW reader and writer has been an important part of my life and to my understanding of our profession and practice.

    Simon has created a community of people and ideas that lives on after him. Quite a contribution and quite a legacy.

  3. We’ve lost a friend and a true giant who taught, shared with and inspired generations of the Canadian legal community. I’m sure we will learn many stories of his impact that will surprise and amaze those of us who thought we knew a lot about this great man.

    Here’s one you might have thought about but will surely recognize to be true. In a rare moment where he would allow himsef to acknowledge the impact of of his worked, he would describe himself “chuffed” at the thought of how Slaw contributed to the growth and success of CanLII and the fierce commitment to free access to law in Canada. He wrote about it once, and I highly commend his telling of the symbiotic relationship between CanLII and Slaw:

    Farewell, Simon, and thank you.

  4. I “met” Simon first through the magic of Twitter and it seems appropriate therefore that I learned there of his passing earlier today. I only met him in person once and it was a delightful occasion – with a group on a patio in Calgary, drinking and eating and talking about law and tech and a dozen other topics.

    As both Malcolm and Jordan have also noted, the community Simon brought together via Slaw has been one I have always felt privileged to be part of. Without ever having met me and based solely on some kind words from friends, Simon gave me an opportunity to develop my voice as a writer and to stretch my wings here on Slaw. I remain immensely grateful to him for having confidence in this prairie girl.

    I will miss his voice.

  5. I can hear Simon’s voice earnestly and excitedly sharing a thought or opinion on something that he felt needed further discussion or investigation. Building a more connected and stronger Canadian legal community with SLAW is a fitting and lasting tribute. Thanks Simon. We will miss you.

  6. I am so sorry to hear this sad news. I never met Simon but he encouraged me to write about law and the Canadian federal appointments system when I was in the PMO. Since then,I have followed him on Twitter and occasionally engaged on SLAW blogs. My personal instinct was that he was a first rate person who never hesitated to speak up on matters of principle. My deepest sympathy to his family. He will clearly be very missed.

  7. RIP Simon… with eternal thanks…

  8. Good-bye, Professor Fodden. Thank you.

  9. RIP Professor Fodden.

  10. This is very sad news. Among Simon’s many tremendous contributions I wanted to mention his short text on Canadian family law which is clear, concise and full of insight:

    Simon Fodden, Family Law (Toronto: Irwin, 1999).

  11. Among Simon’s many contributions is that he was one of the founders of Parkdale Community Legal Services, where he served as Academic Director, a position that I currently inhabit. Since hearing this sad news I have been reflecting on all that he accomplished for Osgoode, PCLS, and beyond — and I am grateful for those contributions. My condolences to family and friends.

  12. Very sorry to read this. I remember his being consulted informally about the design of the Ministry of the Attorney General’s website, about 1996 …. a pioneer, already recognized as deeply knowledgeable and thoughtful on uses of the Internet and the law.

    His help in bringing me on board here as a contributor then columnist was always patient and always pertinent, and often amusing as well.

    His post-Slaw ventures into The Monday Letter were a continued delight. What a mind, and what a raconteur!

    Already missed. Condolences to those to whom he was especially dear.

  13. Simon was a man ahead of his time. I always loved the fact that Simon was the trailblazer of online law in Canada in his retirement years. That speaks to his impressive intelligence and creative thinking. But most of all I shall remember Simon for his wry sense of humor, his total commitment to treating everyone in the same quiet, respectful way, and his steady goodness. I’m so sorry I can’t be at his celebration (I’m in Sydney, a weather location choice that I feel Simon would understand).

  14. I am saddened to hear of Simon’s passing. He brought me, a Texan, into the Slaw community and taught me a great deal about blogging. He meant a great deal to me, and I will forever be thankful for the gift of his time and intellect.

  15. I was heartbroken to learn of Simon’s death. His vision has revolutionized legal publishing – SLAW continues to be the place to go to keep up on the evolution of the law, legal tech, and legal information.
    Simon as a person was an inspiration and just a fun guy to talk to. He was endlessly curious and generous with his time and ideas.
    My condolences to his friends and family. He will be greatly missed.

  16. I didn’t have the chance to meet him, I only knew him on a virtual basis, when I was a Law Blogger (La pub et le droit 2004-2015). He was a real nice person. I owe him a Clawbies nomination. I’m so sad about this news, really..

    My condolences to his friends and family

  17. Rebecca Saha (née Fodden)

    On behalf of Simon’s family I want to tell you how much your kind reflections on Dad’s work mean to us. Dad would indeed be “chuffed” to hear them. He was a person driven by curiosity, the love of ideas, and a hunger to learn . These qualities allowed him to grow ever better with age. The best way we can honour Simon’s memory is to keep thinking, asking and finding out. Also, we can drink only the good beer. To that end, I hope some of you will drop by Allen’s at Danforth and Broadview for a pint on Tuesday between 3-5. Rebecca, Simon’s daughter

  18. I remember Simon fondly. He was my Property Law teacher at a time when property was taught very traditionally. But Simon rose above convention and his intellectual curiosity was infectious. Simon inspired me to teach Property Law when I became his colleague on the Osgoode faculty a number of years later. He will be missed by his many students and colleagues.

  19. I can’t believe he’s gone. Only last week Gary Rodrigues was asking me if I had seen Simon recently. It had been a while since I last saw him.

    I came to know Simon Fodden through Slaw, when he was looking to start it and Steve Matthews suggested approaching me as well. I had been blogging on my own blog for a while and was thrilled to be included. From the humble beginnings of a little group blog, Slaw has grown into a robust, in-depth magazine. I love that it incorporates many voices. And thanks to Steve for continuing it with that original vision intact.

    Simon built bridges across the legal field. I know of no one else who truly sought diversity of perspectives in this typically homogeneous landscape the way he did. He was always looking to add to the roster, looking for a viewpoint that had not yet been represented. He treated the law library community with respect, bringing us into the Slaw fold and making us feel like an important part of the legal field. And it was not unusual to run into Simon at a law library conference, even when he wasn’t on the speaker list.

    Being a blogger with Slaw had a profound impact on my professional profile and career–for that I thank him. I can’t believe he will no longer be there to send the messages checking in to find out when I will be blogging again. Part reminder, part cajoling, he kept us all on track.

    Fortunate to be in Toronto, I saw Simon periodically at Slaw get-togethers. Other times I would just run into him randomly on the street since we lived in the same area. I hadn’t run into him lately, and now I know why. But I will always still look for him, I think.

    Rest in peace, Simon.

  20. What terribly sad news. Simon was my colleague at Osgoode Hall and our Associate Dean. He had an infectious, dazzling smile that radiated openness, wit and charm. Simon was one of the most fair, caring and kind people I have had the honour of working with – generous, curious, innovative, understanding – Lovely!

    He will be missed.

  21. Simon Fodden taught me Family Law at Osgoode Hall Law School in the 70s, and he was also my first-year advisor and supervised me in the first Intensive Program in Family Law offered at Osgoode. Years later, we met again through his work on Slaw and his proposed and published projects for Irwin Law. He was always so engaged and interesting to talk to, had so many ideas, was involved in so many things, and learned in so many areas. He could speak as fluently about mystery novels and popular music as about legal subjects. He was always working on his “next thing.” He was very matter-of-fact and unbowed by his illness, and he kept on working right up the end. I will miss him, and will we will all miss his presence in the legal firmament.

  22. In one of those very odd coincidences that seem to pop up in a Douglas Adams fashion, a number of us were talking about Simon at breakfast just this Friday last. The former Osgoode student among us remembered what a fantastic teacher he had been. Another, a former dean at Osgoode, remembered him as a delightful colleague and excellent professor of both property and family law. In my case, I spoke of how his approach to teaching family law fit with my approach to practising family law, how “chuffed” I had been to be invited by him to be a guest lecturer in a family law class, and how that grew into a friendship that expanded into other areas beyond the law. I will soon raise my pint glass to him.

  23. Gary P. Rodrigues

    I last saw Simon at the Chateau Montebello between Christmas and New Years just over a year ago. He had told me about his health issues, but to me he appeared to be the picture of health. In response to my obvious surprise at seeing him peruse the diner menu, he told me that the problem remained but that he intended to enjoy the best things in life to the very end.

    As Connie said, Simon “built bridges across the legal field. I know of no one else who truly sought diversity of perspectives in this typically homogeneous landscape the way he did. He was always looking to add to the roster, looking for a viewpoint that had not yet been represented.”

    I was one such viewpoint. For better or worse, it was Simon who called on the old warhorses of the legal publishing industry to contribute to slaw. I am sure that I speak for my colleagues when I say that it was liberating to be able to share with the legal research community our real thoughts, without the need to “position” every sentence, and use the often meaningless “corporate speak” to respond to the issues clearly identified by law librarians and legal researchers.

    Simon, thank you for that. Rest in peace.

  24. I have memories of Simon from the Osgoode community, but only really got to know him through the “Friday Fillip” and the Monday Letter. I am glad I managed to write this to him a few months ago:

    “Has it been one hundred already?! I enjoyed and looked forward to each Monday Letter very much, and it never occurred to me to look at the vol. number at the head of each one, any more than I did with the “Friday Fillip” on Slaw, which got me through many a civil servant’s Friday morning!

    “I was first inclined to say something resistant, such as “say it ain’t so!” On reflection, I am simply grateful to have had you in my in-box every week these past two years. As I look back, it has, very often, meant a great deal to me. I have sometimes taken your offerings on such disparate topics as music, punctuation, colours, book reviews, art, and interesting innovations into my other daily relationships, and brightened someone else’s day. What more can one ask?

    “I responded sometimes, and regret that I did not do so more often …. Sometimes I did have more serious thoughts that I did not get around to expressing. I think perhaps that is a lesson learned…. I resolve to correspond and interact more with people whose thoughts I respect. and whose offerings I appreciate….. Best wishes. I look forward to seeing what you do next!”

    Simon, of course, replied graciously, as always. In so many ways he showed us, by example, how to live. We will miss him very much.

  25. “He does not die that can bequeath Some influence to the land he knows…”Hilaire Belloc

    At about the same time SLAW began, I left private practice and joined a corporate in house legal team as their KM leader and legal researcher. What a delight it was when my first online blog searches located SLAW! SLAW and the ideas and challenges and guidance and insight provided by Prof Fodden and his merry band have accompanied me on the second half of my career. Words are inadequate to express the loss of such a man as described by other SLAW readers and contributors, but I know his influence will live on through all of us. Thank you Prof Fodden. I send my sincere condolences to his family and friends.

  26. Xavier Beauchamp-Tremblay

    I grew up as a computer-loving kid, but strangely decided to go to law school (teenage idealism is to blame). My interest in technology never disappeared while in law school, even if the curriculum was oblivious to it. I credit Slaw for opening my eyes to the fact that there were other people who thought that technology had much to do with the law (and vice versa), and whom I could learn from.

    Some posts published here (or by authors I discovered here) changed my life. Having been a Slaw reader since Slaw’s inception is directly related to the fact that I ended up with the job I now have (after +-10 years in big law) that perfectly matches my tech-loving tendencies with what I strangely decided to study in. Simon thus has a lot to do with reconciling my teenage self with my adult self, after a 10-year-long chill.

    I had the chance to meet Simon in person a couple of times, and I wished I had taken the opportunity to tell him that then.

    Thank you Simon.

  27. It’s been my utmost pleasure working with Simon for just a few months shy of a decade.
    There are few people I’d enjoy hearing from more— he was one of the best and most sincere.

    May you all continue adventuring for him, both in life & law.

  28. I only know Simon Fodden from his posts and from the comments above. All I can add is that he clearly left his mark and that we are all benefiting from his ideas. Information is power, now more than ever, and that power should be shared openly and freely. Personally, I don’t think that Slaw gets enough attention and I feel incredibly privileged to be part of this community.