The Legal Information Clinic at McGill celebrated its 40th birthday this October, with a special conference highlighting the important role of McGill law students in increasing access to justice.

Alumni panel

Plusieurs anciens de la Clinique ont participé à un panel sur le thème de “40 ans d’information juridique”—parmi eux, Alexander Pless (BCL’98, LLB’98), Anjali Choksi (BCL’90, LLB’90), Laurent Kiyali Koné (BCL/LLM’10), Claudine Millette (BCL’97, LLB’97) et le fondateur de la Clinique, Me Michael Bergman (BCL’75, LLB’76).

Michael Bergman outside moot court

Michael Bergman, himself a star, taking a break outside the Maxwell Cohen Moot Court.

lamed-ramanujam panel

The “Clinical Legal Education” panel, featuring: Me Helena Lamed (BCL’82), Supervisor of the Faculty’s Legal Clinic Course; Lil Kraus, a 4L student; Janet Mosher, Professor at Osgoode Hall; Milton James Fernandes (BCL’96, LLB’96); and moderator Nandini Ramanujam, Executive Director of the CHRLP.

Professor Colleen Sheppard moderated a panel uniting the directors of several local legal clinics and community organizations: Melpa Kamateros (Shield of Athena), Nakuset (Native Women’s Shelter of Montreal), Christine Paquin (Clinique Juridique du Mile End) and Yolaine Williams (BCL/LLB’04; Just Solutions Legal Clinic).

 nov2013-licm-Michael Bergman presented with plaque

The current Executive Director of the Clinic, Rebecca Dawe, presented Me Michael Bergman with a commemorative plaque, “in honour of his vision in founding the Clinic, and of his commitment in continuing to support the students who run it every year.”

Photos by Lana McCrea, except final one, courtesy of Howard Leibman.

« La Clinique d’information juridique de McGill, c’est une étoile, c’est un bénéfice pour les Québécois et les Québécoises, pour la communauté, pour la renommée de McGill, et pour cette Faculté, » a dit Me Michael N. Bergman (BCL’75, LLB’76) le 18 octobre dernier, lors d’une conférence spéciale à la Faculté, intitulée « Justice sociale et éducation juridique: Un partenariat au-delà des frontières.”

Presque 200 personnes y assistaient, parmi eux des étudiants et professeurs de la Faculté, des anciens de la Clinique d’information juridique (CIJM) de McGill, des avocats et des membres d’autres organisations communautaires qui fournissent des services juridiques dans la région de Montréal.

This “Partnering Social Justice and Legal Education Across Boundaries” conference was a full-day, 40th anniversary celebration for the Legal Information Clinic at McGill (LICM), an entirely student-run organization which has been providing free, bilingual legal information since it was founded in 1973 by then-student Michael Bergman.

“As far as I know,” he said, “it is the only student-run legal information clinic in this country. It has no lawyer on staff. It perpetuates itself only by the hard work of students.” As such, the conference sought to highlight the role of law students in access-to-justice initiatives such as the Clinic, whose benefits go not only to the community at large—approximately 4,000 people use the Clinic’s services each year—but also to the students pursuing a legal education at McGill.

In his personal, moving keynote address, Me Bergman recounted the origins of the Clinic in 1973, its evolution over 40 Octobers, and the future projects that await it. “Over the years,” he remarked, “I began to notice that my colleagues were telling me they had been volunteers at the Clinic. Professors began to tell me that. Law deans began to tell me that. Judges began to tell me that. Business leaders began to tell me that. Politicians began to tell me that. The experience at this Clinic was transformational for many.”

Le doyen a profité de l’occasion pour souligner l’importance de la Clinique dans la vie de la Faculté. « C’est d’abord un lieu d’action communautaire très important, un lieu où les étudiants contribuent activement à la vie des groupes communautaires à Montréal, et à la vie de l’Université McGill plus largement, » a dit Daniel Jutras. « C’est aussi un lieu d’apprentissage, ce qui est très important pour nous. Et c’est l’endroit où beaucoup d’étudiants font un parcours qui les emmène à transformer leur perspective sur le droit et leur compréhension de ce que ça représente sur le terrain que d’être un juriste. »

The current Executive Director of the LICM, Rebecca Dawe, agreed. “As law students, we’re very lucky to have this opportunity to volunteer at the Clinic,” she said, “to use our knowledge and skills to the benefit of our community, and to increase our awareness of the legal challenges faced by our peers and fellow citizens.”

These challenges, Dawe reported, are as urgent today as they were 40 years ago. “I can tell you our phones are ringing every day,” she said. “We make ourselves available 40 hours per week, 40 weeks of the year, so that we can pick up every phone call possible and provide that person-to-person contact that can be so valuable in a difficult time.”

Dans le discours de clôture de la conférence, les étudiants  David Plotkin (directeur de recherché à la CIJM) and Kiran Ross (directrice du programme de représentation étudiante) ont offert leur perspectives personnelles sur leur expérience de travaille à la Clinique pendant leurs études juridiques. « Un commentaire de notre doyen que j’ai beaucoup apprécié est que travailler à la Clinique comprend un don de soi et aussi une transformation de soi, » a dit Ross.

« That’s a sentiment that I really take to heart,” she continued, “because I’ve always felt, and I think all of our volunteers feel, that we get back as much as we put into the Clinic, if not more.”

-Bridget Wayland


“The directors and volunteers of the LICM as well as the organizing committee were instrumental in making this conference a success,” said the conference coordinator, Laura Damecour, currently a 3L student at the Faculty. “We had an amazing team.”

The Faculty of Law of McGill and Dean Daniel Jutras provided financial support for the conference, while the Clinic and the Faculty also provided resources in terms of the director team, volunteers and the conference committee.

“It was great to see it all come together,” said Megan Mah, the LICM’s Director of HR, who served as MC during the opening session and was on hand to help things run smoothly at the conference. “Laura put a lot of work into it over the summer, and she did a fantastic job pulling it together.”