Osgoode’s Dean for a Day lays down the law

York’s Osgoode Hall Law School was left in good hands last Thursday as 2005’s Dean for a Day, Michelle Simard, took over the reins of power. As author of the winning essay in this annual competition for Osgoode students, Simard’s first act was to put temporarily supplanted Dean Patrick Monahan’s mind at ease with her plans to hold the line on expenditures and any sudden drop in student attendance during her one-day term.

Patrick Monahan and Michelle SimardWhen Simard’s first-year classmates learned she was being elevated to the post, they immediately came forward with suggestions for spending money and getting out of class. “They wanted the dean’s office to pay for everything. I said, no, you can’t do that,” Simard explained to the visible relief of Monahan, who sat nearby,  wearing jeans and ready to attend Simard’s classes.

Right: From left, ‘student’ Monahan and ‘Dean’ Simard

For her part, Simard had her own concerns about getting good notes from the classes on criminal law and contracts she would miss that day, to which Monahan replied, “I’ll do my best. I’m nervous because I hear the profs are going to be calling on me in class, so I’ve got to be prepared.”

Born and raised in Toronto, Simard studied political science and history in York’s Faculty of Arts, graduating in 2004 with an BA (Honours). She has volunteered with many organizations, including Big Sisters of Toronto and the Arthritis Society, and has worked on several election campaigns at all levels of government. Volunteering her time and resources, Simard is a strong advocate on animal and environmental rights issues. She plans to continue to contribute to those causes by completing a law degree and pursuing graduate work. When she isn’t studying or volunteering, Michelle loves reading books, watching movies and writing stories.

As dean, Simard was expecting to speak with a number of people about suggestions for improving the student experience, including enhanced IT support for students who don’t know how to operate their laptop computers. She also hopes to put in her two cents on Osgoode’s strategic planning process and recommend changes to the recently held first-year mooting competition, which she felt “disenfranchised” some students.

As for why she really wanted to be dean for a day, Simard said she has her eyes set on a teaching career. “I want to be faculty eventually,” she said. ” It’s a good learning experience. A lot of people ask me if I want to be dean and I say, maybe someday, you never know.”

When asked why she wasn’t setting her sights on a career as a practising lawyer, Simard quickly pointed out  that “a law degree provides more than just being a lawyer; there are so many different things you can do – be a journalist and so forth. At the end of the day, if you want to teach, what better person than someone who has some experience in the law field and then decides to teach, to show students how it’s supposed to be done.”

Simard said she plans to practise law for a few years before pursuing graduate studies and teaching. “I’ll still have the magic, the youth and the innocence,” she said. “I won’t be tarnished. I think teachers are very important. I hold them at as high a level as doctors.”

In her essay, Simard said she planned to continue her predecessors’ work of attracting more private-sector funding to improve Osgoode’s technology, and work at building on the sense of community she feels as a member of the “Osgoodian” family. She also wrote of her ideas on increasing the number of guest speakers at Osgoode and continuing with international exchange programs to further expand Osgoode’s reputation as a “world-leading law school”.

After outlining her policies, Simard made her first decision of the day: to share her $100 prize by treating classmates to coffee and refreshments at Friday’s guest lecture by John Sims, QC, deputy attorney general of Canada.