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Sabbatical Spotlight: Professor Robert Currie prepares to start a sabbatical with a pro bono focus

Posted by Jane Doucet on June 27, 2017 in News
(Photo: Bruce Bottomley)
(Photo: Bruce Bottomley)

Some people hear the word “sabbatical” and imagine sandy beaches in faraway lands. The truth is that the time away from teaching is anything but time off.

In mid-August, Professor Robert Currie will begin his year-long sabbatical working at Nova Scotia Legal Aid (NSLA) in Halifax, two and a half days a week over approximately 10 months, doing criminal appeals and extradition cases – and he’ll be offering his legal services pro bono.

“A year and a half ago I saw a sabbatical on the horizon, and I wanted to do something socially useful and make some contribution to society in the spirit of the Weldon Tradition of unselfish public service,” says Currie. “Doing pro bono work was also a decision that was strongly informed by my faith.”

I wanted to do something socially useful and make some contribution to society in the spirit of the Weldon Tradition of unselfish public service. 

A sabbatical means that Currie has a year where he’s able to direct his energy in a number of ways. “I thought working with Nova Scotia Legal Aid would be very exciting,” he says. “I talk a lot about access to justice, both in and out of the classroom, and I wanted to put my money where my mouth was.”

Currie was a trial and appeal lawyer when he practiced in Halifax from 2000 to 2002, but he only worked on civil matters. He plans to delve deeper into criminal law at NSLA. “I thought it would be neat to redevelop my advocacy skills,” he says. “Plus, since I teach criminal law, appellate advocacy, and extradition at the law school, I’ll be able to bring some real-life perspective to the classroom when I return.”

'I'm excited about gowning up again'

When asked what interests him most about returning to court, Currie doesn’t hesitate: “The oral argument. I enjoy the interaction with the judges in the Court of Appeal, which is the most fun. I’m excited about gowning up again.”

At NSLA, Currie will be working alongside Roger Burrill (LLB ’85) and Lee Seshagiri (’06). With Seshagiri, Currie will develop a clinical course on criminal appeals practice, which he hopes will launch at the law school in 2018 at the earliest. In addition to his NSLA work, he will conduct research in international and transnational criminal law under the auspices of an SSHRC Partnership Grant entitled “Justice for Victims of International Crime.”

Currie will be making one other transition: on July 1, he will step down from his role as director of the Law and Technology Institute (LATI), which he has filled for the past six years. Internet law and intellectual property expert Professor Jon Penney will take over the directorship, though Currie plans to remain active with LATI.

“I’ll miss being in the classroom with students,” says Currie, “but the work and research I’ll be doing during my sabbatical is all going to inform my teaching.”