Osgoode Hall Law School Milestones and Pioneering Graduates

Osgoode Hall Law School.


Osgoode Hall Law School is founded when the Law Society of Upper Canada permanently establishes the law school at Osgoode Hall.

Thomas Brown Phillips-Stewart.


The Phillips-Stewart Student Library is established after Thomas Brown Phillips-Stewart, a 26-year-old barrister and sometime poet tragically dies, leaving the law school $8,000 to purchase books expressly for the use of students – the equivalent of more than $250,000 today.

Clara Brett Martin.


Clara Brett Martin graduates from Osgoode, becoming the first woman in Canada to be admitted to the bar and making her the first female lawyer in the British Commonwealth.


The Legal and Literary Society becomes the official student society of the law school.

Helen Kinnear.


Helen Kinnear, the first woman in the British Commonwealth to be appointed King’s Counsel, graduates.

Vera Parsons.


Graduation of Vera Parsons, the first female criminal defence lawyer in Ontario, likely the first woman to represent clients before a judge and jury, and the first to defend an accused murderer.

Abraham (Abe) Lieff.


Graduation of Abraham (Abe) Lieff, the first Jewish justice of the Supreme Court of Ontario and the first person in Ontario to be sworn in wearing a yarmulke and holding the Old Testament.

The first issue of the Osgoode student newspaper Obiter Dicta.


The first issue of the Osgoode student newspaper Obiter Dicta hits the presses.


Bora Laskin graduates, later becoming the first academic and the first Jewish man to be appointed to the Supreme Court of Canada (1970) and to become chief justice (1973).

Kew Dock Yip.


Kew Dock Yip, Canada’s first Chinese Canadian lawyer, graduates.

George Carter.


George Carter, the first Black judge born in Canada, graduates.


All Osgoode entrants now must have a bachelor’s degree.

Leonard Braithwaite.


Leonard Braithwaite graduates.  He goes on to become the first Black member of the Ontario legislature.


The benchers of the Law Society of Upper Canada unanimously approve in principle the affiliation of the law school with York University.


The Community Legal Aid Services Program (CLASP) is established. Under the supervision of practising lawyers, Osgoode students provide legal services to members of the community who would otherwise be unable to afford representation.

Osgoode Hall Law School.


Osgoode Hall Law School is officially affiliated with York University and becomes the first law school in Canada to allow upper year students to choose their own courses.

Parkdale Community Legal Services.


A student-staffed community legal services clinic is established at Parkdale Community Legal Services.

Russell Juriansz.


Russell Juriansz graduates. He goes on to become the first person of colour and the first South Asian judge on the Ontario Court of Appeal in 2004.


Osgoode and York University’s Faculty of Administrative Studies establish the LLB/MBA. The combined degree is the first of its kind in Canada.


The Clinical Education Program begins with the Intensive Program in Criminal Law.  The LLB/Master of Environmental Science degree is introduced.


Osgoode adopts a comprehensive policy on admission for mature students, Indigenous students and economically disadvantaged students.

Harry La Forme.


Harry La Forme graduates and goes on to become Canada’s first Indigenous appellate judge.


A Gay Caucus is formed at the law school to provide support for LGBT individuals after the officers of the Pink Triangle Press in Toronto are charged with using the mails to “transmit indecent, immoral or scurrilous” literature.


New student groups include the Osgoode International Law Society and a Native Law Student Association.


The Aboriginal Intensive Program in First Nations Lands, Resources and Governance is established as a pilot project by Osgoode graduate Susan Hare and Professor Alan Grant.


Dean Marilyn Pilkington spearheads a new Professional Development Program, which oversees the continuing legal education of law graduates by offering part-time graduate programs, non-credit courses and various one- or two-day programs.


Professors Dianne Martin ’76 and Alan Young ’81 found Osgoode’s Innocence Project. Based on the original Innocence Project created by the Cardozo School of Law in New York City, Osgoode’s Innocence Project investigates cases of suspected wrongful conviction.


Mark Nathanson donates $3 million to create the Jack and Mae Nathanson Centre for the Study of Organized Crime and Corruption.


Osgoode signs a gift agreement with developer Ignat Kaneff, whose $2.5 million donation to the law school helps to launch The Building Osgoode Campaign in 2007.  The law school building is named in recognition of his generosity.


Osgoode becomes the first Canadian law school to introduce a public interest graduation requirement (Osgoode Public Interest Requirement or OPIR) to promote the ethic of community service and public mindedness. Students are required to complete 40 hours of unpaid, law-related public interest work.


Ethical Lawyering in a Global Community, a required first-year course that emphasizes legal ethics and professional responsibility, is introduced.


A new holistic admissions policy based on excellence and equity is introduced.  There are two categories of admission: a general category and an Indigenous category.  Under the policy, admission decisions are based on a holistic set of criteria, including undergraduate grades, LSAT score and a personal statement.


The bachelor of laws (LLB) degree designation is changed to a juris doctor (JD) degree.

A group of Osgoode faculty throw hard hats into the air.


Osgoode begins building renovations.

Exterior of renovated Osgoode building.


The renovated building opens.


The Office of Experiential Education is established to support the wide array of experiential opportunities – including clinical programs, the Osgoode Public Interest requirement and internships.


A student success and wellness counsellor is hired to support JD students.


Osgoode Professional Development establishes the LLM in Canadian Common Law program. 


The annual Anishinaabe Law Camp is established.


Osgoode Digital Commons, an open-access institutional repository of the law school’s intellectual output, is launched.


The praxicum course degree requirement is introduced.  Students must take a course, seminar or program that integrates legal theory with practice in order to graduate.


The Income Contingent Loan Program is implemented. The three-year pilot program is focused on improving financial accessibility by offering five eligible JD students every year admission on an income-contingent loan repayment basis.

Senator Murray Sinclair and Indigenous graduates.


The first Honour Ceremony for Indigenous graduates is held as part of spring convocation celebrations.  Senator Murray Sinclair, chair of the Indian Residential Schools Truth and Reconciliation Commission, is awarded an honourary doctorate.

A composite of all Black alumni of Osgoode Hall Law School from 1900 to 2015.


A composite of all Black alumni of Osgoode Hall Law School from 1900 to 2015 is created for the Osgoode Black Law Students’ Association’s (BLSA) annual Black History Month celebrations.


An Indigenous and Aboriginal Law Requirement is adopted that requires all JD graduates to complete at least one course that engages in a substantial way with Indigenous law, Aboriginal law and aspects of professionalism and/or practice skills related to serving Indigenous clients.


Creation of a new administrative role of Program Manager & Special Advisor, Indigenous & Reconciliation Initiatives, in response to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s Call to Action number 28.


Osgoode goes remote in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.