mark on family law is indelible, and almost incalculable. Family law is a
culture that would not have existed without him. It is impossible to imagine
family law in the last 25 years without him. Without Jay McLeod, family law
was, and would have been, completely different.
had a brilliant mind. He was analytical, clear, outspoken, and most important,
he was unafraid. No court in Canada,
high or low, was safe from his analysis and criticism, if it deserved it. Judges
were more concerned about what Jay McLeod was going to say about
a judgment than
about whe-ther the judgment would be upheld on appeal.
had more energy and more passion for his work (our work, family law) than
anyone else. And he made family law his life's work.
read more family law than anyone in Can-ada, and he wrote about family law more
than anyone in Canada.
He read cases, wrote annotations, papers, articles, a weekly newsletter,
lectured at the law school, spoke at (and wrote papers for) continuing
education programs for judges and lawyers. The quantity and the quality of his
academic output is staggering. His work, his life's work, gives new meaning to
prolific. At his funeral, one speaker said five people doing his work could not
replace him. He was right.
a speaker at countless continuing education programs, Jay McLeod was always
fast, funny, full of valuable information, and extremely well prepared. The
lawyers in the audience were left breathless by the volume of material he gave
us and the speed of his presentation. He always wrote a long, detailed, and
extremely thorough paper to go with the presentation. No speaker ever wanted to
speak after him. He was an impossible act to follow.
McLeod was controversial and iconoclastic. I worked as co-counsel with him on
an appeal, and in other circumstances I criticized
him publicly. In the early 1990s when he successfully espoused a particular set
of principles regarding spousal support (a principle then known as causal
connection), Carole and the Carriage Trade (a singing group I was in with
Stephen Grant, Gerry Sadvari, and Evlyn McGivney) wrote a ribald and critical
song about him. He took it good-naturedly (at least in public). It was a
measure of his enormous influence that he merited a song. I hope he realized
that, and was flattered.
he was a character, larger than life. The bar has fewer characters than it once
did. We cannot afford to lose any.
male law-yers spoke at his funeral, and all of them cried. I have never been to
a funeral where so many grown men cried.
there some young pup teaching at a law school, somewhere in Canada, who
will pick up this torch, take on this enormous task, to pick up the pieces of
family law as an intellectual discipline?
told his son that what scared him was failure. He was far, far from a failure.
He was amazing. Jay McLeod, almost single-handedly, made family law important.
taught at the University
of Western Ontario's law
school, but we were all his students. His mission was excellence. He pushed us,
all of us (lawyers and judges) to be better. He pestered us into reading more
cases, more law than we ever would have done if he had never existed. We are
all better lawyers because of him. I am a better lawyer because of him.
his death, the loss to our family law community is a staggering one. Family law
turned a corner with the death of Jay McLeod. He is not replaceable. Family law
will never be the same.
Curtis is a family law lawyer in a three-lawyer firm in Toronto. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org