During a visit to the Faculty of Law this fall for Homecoming, John Harrison, LLM’92, General Counsel for Airbus, spoke to members of the Faculty’s Chancellor Day Circle* during a luncheon, sharing with them insights on his career and on his time at McGill Law.
Hailing from the United Kingdom and having resided in France for the last 26 years, Harrison received a scholarship that allowed him to pursue his Masters of Law at McGill. “It was a real privilege to come study in Montreal and at McGill, as it opened up many opportunities for me,” he noted. “I think it says everything that wherever I travel in the world, people comment on the prestige of McGill, the status of this great campus, and the beauty of Montreal when I mention that I studied law here.”
Founded 50 years ago, Airbus is a multinational aerospace corporation with over 135,000 employees worldwide – including 4,000 in Canada. Serving as General Counsel since 2015, Harrison manages the work of Airbus’ Legal Department, as well as its Ethics & Compliance services, and is responsible for contractual oversight, mergers and acquisitions, and regulatory compliance. “We have a team with over 450 lawyers working all over the world,” he said, “along with a vast array of qualified external counsel”
Among the stories with which he regaled the Chancellor Day Circle, Harrison shared the details of Airbus’ acquisition of the A220 aircraft, previously known as the Bombardier CSeries. When the then-CSeries came under attack from Boeing for alleged dumping in the US market, the future of the aircraft seemed uncertain. As Harrison explained, “Airbus took a 50.01% share of the aircraft program, and established a second final assembly line for the jetliner in Alabama alongside Airbus’ existing A320 FAL aircraft. Through this partnership, we are able to serve the US markets and the program now has a more positive outlook.”
Looking ahead, Harrison stressed the importance for Airbus of attracting skilled people and developing new expertise in order to find technology-driven solutions to future business challenges. “A new pipeline of talent is vital to our success,” he said. “Attracting a whole new generation to Airbus, recruiting millennials, and becoming an inclusive employer for the 21st century are among our top priorities.” Furthermore, the task and costs of planning for Brexit are also a concern. Despite these challenges, Harrison is confident Airbus will achieve its goals, noting the future leaders of tomorrow are on McGill’s campus today. “Just as our predecessors prepared us, we need to prepare them for what’s ahead and realise how important they are for all of our futures.”
*Established in 2017, the Chancellor Day Circle acknowledges the Faculty’s most significant donors. Admission to the Circle is bestowed on donors who have given $100,000 or more to the Faculty of Law.
We thank our Chancellor Day Circle members for their significant support:
Article by Sarah Huzaski
Photos by Nicolas Morin