Update on the Senior Legal Counsel, Office of the President (PDAD&C #63)

From: Meric Gertler, President
Date: April 16, 2021
Re: Update on the Senior Legal Counsel, Office of the President (PDAD&C #63) 

I am writing to update you on impending changes in the area of legal services delivery at the University.

Mr. Steve Moate will retire from his role as Senior Legal Counsel, Office of the President on June 30, 2021.  Steve has served with distinction in various legal counsel since joining the University of Toronto in 2002.  During his tenure, he has provided sage and insightful advice to me, several former presidents, and many other senior leaders across our three campuses.  His superb analytical capacity, exceptional judgement, calm demeanour, and encyclopedic knowledge of University policy and relevant jurisprudence have made him an invaluable and widely respected member of our team.

I would like to express my sincere appreciation to Steve for his exceptional service to the University.

In anticipation of this retirement, the Provost, Vice-President Human Resources & Equity and I commissioned an external review of the provision of legal services across the entire University last summer and fall.  The terms of reference for the review were to provide advice and recommendations regarding:

  1. the organizational structure of internal legal services
  2. alignment of units using non-practicing lawyers with internal legal services
  3. the use of external legal resources.

The review was undertaken by Mr. Stephen Jarrett, retired University Legal Counsel, Western University and Mr. Timothy Lynch, Vice-President and General Counsel, University of Michigan.  Their work was informed by extensive documentation of legal services as currently provided at the University, as well as interviews with many senior administrators, internal lawyers, and outside counsel.

The reviewers identified a number of strengths of our current approach, including the high quality of legal advice, the very talented and dedicated cadre of in-house lawyers, and the effective working relationships they have established with key internal clients.  At the same time, the reviewers expressed the view that, with the growing scale, scope and complexity of University business, the delivery of legal services at the University would now benefit from a stronger degree of co-ordination and centralization.

In light of these findings, we have recently begun a search to identify a new University Counsel & Chief Legal Officer, who will report directly to the President.  Once appointed, the successful candidate will undertake broad consultation with key stakeholders across the University before establishing and leading a new central office to provide University legal services, with a mandate to ensure that both internal and external legal resources are utilized efficiently and effectively. 

I look forward to this evolution of our legal services function to ensure that the provision of legal services continues to meet the needs of the University.