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2001 - 2002 Law students publication, Law - University of Alberta, Canada  


From the Annals of Better Late than Never: Introducing Michael Pratt

Chris McKay (3L)

Well, here we are, November already. The leaves have long fallen to the earth and been swept away in the blustery autumn winds. The reddish hue of the sun, though no less brilliant in ones eyes, nevertheless projects less heat on ones body than in the glorious summer months. The geese, though annoyed by the glistening ice on their otherwise tranquil ponds are reluctant as yet to depart for their winter-long hiatus to the south. What devilish soul would dare interrupt such endearing sights and sounds of autumn with the gut wrenching, brain teasing work-ridden schedule of law school?

One of the guilty culprits of this heinous crime is the last of the new recruits to our faculty, Professor Michael Pratt. Having arrived in Edmonton from a four-year lectureship in Queensland, Australia, the nuances of an Edmonton autumn are still somewhat new and refreshing to this native Torontonian. As is the cool, clean air. This writer was quick to point out that the last two winters in Edmonton have been unusually mild, and so if the trend continues, he will have a somewhat painless entry into his first Prairie winter. Otherwise, he is in for a somewhat painful surprise.

As mentioned, Professor Pratt hails from the center of the universe, otherwise known as Hog town, or Toronto, Ontario, USA to its residents. At this time it would be prudent to trot out the old adage that the fast-paced world of Toronto draws people in and why might he have decided to leave. For this Osgoode Hall grad, the market not only in Ontario, but nation-wide, took him away: to the Pacific. Having graduated Osgoode in 1994, Pratt knew that his career would not be in the practice in law but rather in the teaching of it. Traveling down to the road to U of T, he completed his LLM in 1995 with a specialization in Policital Science and Legal Philosophy. For those of you who remember 1995, the legal field was not strong at that time, and jobs for new professors were limited. On a whim, Pratt applied to a posting at the University of Queensland in Brisbane. Having traveled in and around Australia following his undergrad studies in Mathematics and Physics, Pratt felt comfortable making the transition to resident and citizen of Australia. His focus at Brisbane was in teaching both Contract and Employment law during his four-year stay.

This writer finds it difficult to imagine that there would come a time where a person would choose to leave a successful career in a beautiful country to return to the wind-swept prairies of Western Canada. Professor Pratt explained that for the locals, there is a degree of isolation that comes with growing up and living on an island, even one as large as Australia. Aside from coastal areas, for the most part the country is desert. Though inherently beautiful to the outside observer, its lustre fades to a monotonous sameness. The great cultures of Europe and North America are an irresistible enticement to Aussies, evidenced by their sheer numbers in places like Banff and Jasper year round. For Pratt, however, the prospect of raising his newborn daughter so far away from family in Canada was the major attraction for a move back to his domicile of origin.

As for Edmonton, Pratt notes that his expectations were very low in coming here, (so as to minimize the obvious disappointment). Despite its appearances, Edmonton has been a pleasant surprise so far. Living in Old Strathcona and having his wife work in the Law Centre at the Law Reform Institute has been an easy adjustment to make. The beauty of the greenery and the openness of the River Valley have been obvious highlights so far for Pratt and his family.

As for work environment, Pratt has found the Faculty to be extremely welcoming, whether sharing lesson plans and knowledge or just collegiality among members of the faculty. This writer notes that Pratt appears to have a pretty easy load this term, teaching a mere 2 credit Sale of Goods course. Pratt quickly retorts by noting that next term, his schedule will be severely increased by 2- 4 credit courses, Jurisprudence and Company. Of course, in his spare time, Professor Pratt is 5 years into a part-time PhD in Law and Philosophy from the University of Sydney, in addition to spending as much time as possible with his wife and infant daughter Charlotte.

As with anything, a career in academia can be transient in nature. Whether one is able to obtain tenure at a Faculty, continue to have the desire and motivation for teaching will have a lot to do with the length of ones career in the so-called 'ivory towers'. Pratt hopes to retain his present love of teaching in the coming years, in addition to becoming a staple here at the University of Alberta. This writer notes that with his ever-present smile, desire to continually challenge his students intellectually, and attentiveness to student challenges, his goals seem imminently achievable.

As with any new professor, it is noteworthy to discover what their reaction to new students has been and any advise that they might choose to offer. Pratt suggests that learning the law and writing exams are mutually exclusive, and succeeding in the former does not guarantee success in the latter. Exam writing is a skill unto itself, and only through practice can one obtain the expertise necessary to do well here. From experience, this writer concurs, with the added note that students should feel free to converse during exam preparations. One can learn as much from one another as from the book or your instructor. At the end of the day, however, decipher what you believe to be the most relevant factors, and ensure that the exam you write is on your terms, not those of your colleagues.

This writer hoped to glean something more personal with his final questions of Professor Pratt, a glimpse inside the man.

Q: What is your best day ever?
A: No question, the day my daughter was born.
Q: Worst?
A: Being excluded from the last issue of Canons, I immediately attempted to tender my resignation to Dean Klar. The offer was rejected out of hand.

Fortunately for all of us, it appears as though Michael Pratt is here to stay. All the best in your new home: Edmonton.

by Chris McKay (3L)
November 2001

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