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Law Society Special Lectures

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Are you familiar with the Law Society Special Lectures series? Do you know why they are “special”?

First of all, they are special because they began in the 1940s, around the time that the Law Society offered a legal refresher course to Ontario lawyers returning from military service in World War II. The materials from this course are available in the Great Library as Refresher Course Lectures Arranged by the Law Society of Upper Canada for its Members of the Armed Forces. (Toronto: Richard De Boo, 1945. 2 volumes).

The papers in these two volumes are the actual transcripts of the lectures presented in October of 1945, and include an address by then–Treasurer J. Shirley Denison. On page ix, he stated “There were 736 members of the Bar and 177 students who were on Active Service, making about 900 or over altogether”. Considering that there were approximately 3,230 Law Society members at the end of 1945, this means that nearly a quarter of Ontario’s lawyers were on active service that year.

In 1943, the Law Society held the Special Course of Lectures on Wartime Emergency Orders and Administrative Tribunals. (Toronto: Carswell, 1943). The transcripts of these lectures indicate that they were aimed at lawyers practising in Ontario, rather than lawyers returning from service.

The first title in the library with the series name “Special Lectures of the Law Society of Upper Canada” is Taxation, by H. Heward Stikeman et al. (Toronto: Richard De Boo, c.1944). This book has actual transcripts of the lectures, as well.

The second reason that this series is special is due to the preeminent speakers involved, such as H. Heward Stikeman, the original editor of Income Tax Act Annotated.

Thirdly, the series is special because the Special Lectures have survived even after being discontinued between 2013–2016. The latest one in the series is Canada at 150: the Charter and the Constitution, held in November of 2017, and the next one is planned for 2019. As of writing, the topic and date have not been set.

A nostalgic aside: various publishers have published the Special Lectures over the years: Richard De Boo, Carswell, the LSUC, and now Irwin Law. Richard De Boo had a distinctive and lovely logo and was eventually acquired by Carswell, which is now part of Thomson Reuters. Although the covers have changed over the years the bindings have always been blue.

With many thanks to Ann-Marie Langlois, Records & Information Management Specialist, Law Society’s Corporate Records & Archives, who provided background research and statistics.

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