August 28, 2012
In November 2011, U of T launched a campaign to raise $53 million to fund a new building to house the faculty after three external reviews and student feedback cited shortcomings in the physical facilities as hindrances to the faculty’s research and leadership capabilities. The new addition, designed by Toronto architects Hariri Pontarini, will increase space by 50 per cent, and the money raised will also cover work on the existing Bora Laskin Law Library and the faculty’s current home in the heritage building Flavelle House. Law firms Torys LLP and Osler Hoskin & Harcourt LLP kick-started the campaign, with each unveiling a $2-million donation towards the target on the launch date.
The diversity of law school backgrounds can also be a source of friction within firms when the schools come calling for money. The choice of recipient isn’t always as straightforward for firms without 100 years of solicitor-client relations. At Torys, the firm's deep connection with the University of Toronto — five of the law faculty's seven deans have worked for them at some stage — made it an obvious source to tap for the new building. But Peter Jewett, the Torys partner who spearheaded the internal fundraising effort, says it wasn’t as simple as that. "If you go back 30 or 40 years, the high majority of our lawyers would have actually graduated from U of T. That's not true now. It's more like 30 per cent, and of course we now have offices in New York and Calgary. For us to do something major as a firm raises questions about different law schools," says Peter.
Still, the "once-in-a-generation" nature of the project meant Torys wanted to be significantly involved, so it maneuvered its way around the quandary by committing the firm to match donations made by its individual alumni up to about $1 million. The total has ballooned to more than $2 million, and is still growing, so that firm members are actually personally responsible for more than half of that amount. "The reaction was overwhelming. It was not a high-pressure campaign by any means. We just presented them with the case for giving and they got out the chequebooks. I think the main motivation was the school helped us, and now it’s time for us to help the school," Peter says.
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