Testimonials by Law Students on UTP Book Building Justice: Frank Iacobucci and the Life Cycles of Law

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Building Justice: Frank Iacobucci and the Life Cycles of Law by Shauna Van Praagh draws on the inspiring life of former Canadian Supreme Court Justice Frank Iacobucci to offer insight into the meaning of engaged citizenship through law. It is a book that is approachable for readers of all kinds, but especially for students of the law. In the following testimonies by law students in Canada who have read Building Justice, it becomes clear how this book has helped them in their legal studies and how it can help other law students as well.

Building Justice has helped me reflect on what it means to be a person with a law degree and how to lead a good life. It provides a glimpse of Frank Iacobucci’s brilliant life but does not dwell on his accomplishments. Rather, it reveals Iacobucci’s impact across many different spheres, particularly through the relationships he forged with people around him. This encourages me to think carefully about shaping my own impact now. 

I believe other law students can use this book as an opportunity for similar reflections. It welcomes us into a broader conversation by affirming that everybody, no matter their background, belongs here – in law school and beyond. It also suggests that our lives post-graduation do not need to follow linear trajectories. Through Iacobucci’s life, we learn about the many options before us: clerkships, master’s degrees, law firms, teaching, and so on. I am glad I read this book now and would recommend it as a refreshing break from all the other reading students have to do!” By Sofia Watt Sjöström, McGill Law 

Building Justice is a unique opportunity to understand, with concrete and clever examples, how legal education is embedded in the interstices of our profession. We always continue learning about the law and how to be better jurists, and, in turn, legal education should always be connected to the day-to-day practice of law. Frank Iacobucci (with the various legal roles he played throughout his life) is an eloquent example of the mutual learning that is permanently established between education and the legal profession.   

Furthermore, the book uses Justice Iacobucci’s life as an excuse to reflect on the urgent need to guarantee diversity and inclusion within our profession. People with ‘funny sounding names’ (like Iacobucci) should have equal access to positions of power, and part of our duty as jurists should be to promote social and legal rules that ensure this happens. This book shows Professor Van Praagh’s magical power to express her own perceptions of law through the live of other(s), sometimes almost imperceptibly and, in any case, beautifully.” By Maria Ceballos, McGill Law  

Building Justice is exactly the kind of book I wish existed when I first contemplated the idea of pursuing legal education. Professor Van Praagh has created a beautifully thoughtful, insightful, and humanizing collection of stories and meditations that invite readers to reflect on the diverse roles that jurists play in society – an approach that will be immediately familiar to her students. This book could have been written as a straightforward chronicle of The Honourable Frank Iacobucci’s illustrious life and career. Instead, examples carefully chosen from a wide variety of sources and unique perspectives combine to form an inspirational picture of the rich possibilities that become available to future jurists, while reflecting on lessons learned over a lifetime spent working with the law. Perhaps most importantly for law students, whether present, past, or prospective, Building Justice reminds us that whatever roles we step into – be it lawyer, judge, parent, professor, negotiator, or neighbour – legal education endows us all with responsibilities to participate in building justice.” By Connor Hasegawa, McGill Law 

“In a discipline that privileges the articulation of abstract rules and principles, Shauna Van Praagh’s Building Justice is a vital reminder of the human stories that underpin law and legal education. Frank Iacobucci’s life provides a backdrop to exploring questions of identity, belonging, the testing of boundaries, and the interactions of communities, individuals, and norms. Reading and reflecting on Building Justice will help law students develop a more nuanced perspective on law, its potential, and its limits. Shauna Van Praagh carefully details the relationships that animate Frank Iacobucci’s life and career and the individuals and communities “behind” legal cases. By doing so, she invites us to think through the social complexity of the judicial decisions that form the bread and butter of learning materials in most law classes. 

The book’s greatest strength, however, is how it inspires us to consider how our legal education can inform how we approach living together. Frank Iacobucci’s life is nothing short of exceptional: the son of Italian immigrants arriving at the highest levels of the judiciary, higher education administration, and more. Looking beyond his varied and illustrious titles, we see the power of a legal education when combined with a commitment to public service and engaged citizenship.” By Michael Beauvais, University of Toronto Law  

“Perhaps like many first-generation university students with a ‘funny sounding name,’ I find the story of the Honourable Frank Iacobucci immediately relatable and inspiring. However, this book is more than biographical sketches of an influential jurist; it is a multifaceted observation of a journey that invites students in any subject to look beyond formal education. Framed in the parable of three workers who each consider themselves ‘cutting stone,’ ‘making $5 a day, and ‘building a cathedral,’ it encourages students to contemplate the much larger project of cathedral-building they necessarily partake in. Our daily work is, in fact, a collective enterprise that shapes human interactions in infinite ways. For me, this book prompted reflections on how and why I learn and practice law: the how entails humility, compassion, and dedication, and the why urges me to consider the ripple effect of my words and actions. As a future lawyer, I will be entrusted with the power to listen, learn, and advocate with the utmost care and responsibility. The book reminds me that, while cutting stone and making $5 a day, I am also building the cathedral – a shared space in which individuals can live and interact with respect, dignity, and justice.” By Xuan He, McGill Law  

“Reading this book is an exercise in mentorship. Professor Van Praagh curates Frank Iacobucci’s life by telling his stories as they interweave with her own, and in doing so she reveals the power of narrative to create values, to model justice, and to shape legal outcomes. As I continue my own legal education, I am left asking what stories are meaningful to me, and how I imagine myself carrying forward the responsibility entrusted to me by this degree. Professor Van Praagh’s candid narrative provides two important examples from which I can draw.” By Stephanie Belmer, McGill Law 


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