Excerpt from "Interviews with Alumni from the 1990s and 200s by Tim Smith", 2011 Department Newsletter.
Robert Leckey, an Associate Professor of Law at McGill University, recalls that he “came to Queen’s because I wanted to read the big texts and I wanted to learn how to write. I felt that I could do that at Queen’s. As a law professor, my training in the humanities was invaluable. I teach and conduct research like someone in the humanities. Queen’s was a special place where I could grow intellectually. I felt that I had very good access to professors at Queen’s--even in my first-year courses. I had a sense of being known as a person. I didn’t feel like a number. I got a lot of feedback from my English and CHRONICLES Interviews with Alumni from the 1990s and 2000s, by Tim Smith 3 and History professors.”
We reached Robert in his office perched high on the slopes of Mount Royal. He teaches family law, constitutional law, and administrative law. He is one of Canada’s leading young law professors. His award-winning book, Contextual Subjects: Family, State, and Relational Theory, was published in 2008. Robert studied English and History, graduating in 1997 with the Medal in English and with the Honourable Mention for the Prince of Wales Award. From Queen’s it was on to McGill Law, the Université de Paris, a clerkship at the Supreme Court of Canada, and a doctorate in law (supported by a prestigious Trudeau Foundation Scholarship) from the University of Toronto. Robert has already won the Principal’s Prize for Excellence in Teaching at McGill as well as the Law Students’ Association’s John W. Durnford Teaching Excellence Award. Robert has worked for the Bastarache Commission (on the process for appointing judges) and he is the Chair of the Legal Issues Committee of Egale Canada. Robert frequently contributes op-eds to major Canadian newspapers.
We asked Robert what he gained from studying English and History: “Apart from a broad education in the liberal arts I gained crucial skills which have helped me in my current job. At McGill I have interactive classrooms. The close, critical reading of texts that I learned at Queen’s is something I try to reproduce in my law classes. I felt well prepared in law school; I had already learned how to manage large amounts of material. I was taught to read closely, to read vigorously, to organize an argumentative essay. In fact, my first job, in the year between graduating from Queen’s and going to law school, was in the financial sector. I was hired—on the basis of a Queen’s arts degree —by the Investment Funds Institute of Canada to conduct research, to write reports, newsletters and speeches. They recognized my ability to conduct research.” Robert recalls two seminars, in particular, which honed his research and writing skills. A course with Paul Christianson in Tudor and Stuart History “was revelatory. The way we were introduced to primary sources, what they might have meant back then, what they might mean to us today. It was amazing.” And a seminar with Elizabeth Hanson in English Renaissance literature was a place “where one learned how to read texts critically. I had the sense that my instructor knew me. I could talk to her and ask her how to improve my writing. She would read drafts. I got a lot of valuable mentoring. I am grateful for it.”