Canadian Lawyer InHouse

April/May 2021

Legal news and trends for Canadian in-house counsel and c-suite executives

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10 www.canadianlawyermag.com/inhouse GC PROFILE AS UNIVERSITY COUNSEL at the University of British Columbia, Hubert Lai takes responsi- bility for all legal affairs at the organization that is ranked as one of the top 10 public universi- ties in North America. UBC is home to 67,000 students and 18,000 employees and produces annual revenues of around $2.9 billion. In addition to its focus on education and its linkages to thousands of universities around the world, UBC is also involved in many different types of research as well as real estate development and thousands of trusts, so Lai's role covers a wide range of duties. "It's a very rich and complex environment, so the delivery of high-quality legal services is really important, but just as critical are the values that underline the decisions we make," says Lai, who has been with UBC for 27 years. "Protecting the integrity of the institution is fundamental in representing UBC's overall best interests, so, of course, as university counsel, that is my duty and my highest priority." When Lai was appointed university counsel in 2001, he was the youngest person to have ever served in such a capacity at a major Canadian university. He now leads a team of 23, consisting of nine lawyers as well as non-lawyer specialists, paralegals and administrative staff. He is also a member of the 11-person executive management team that reports directly to the university's president and vice-chancellor. The executive management team takes responsibility for executing UBC's strategic plan and over- seeing its day-to-day operations. In addition to providing strategic legal advice, Lai is also involved in internal regulatory work and overseeing the develop- ment and review of the board of governor's policies that constitute much of the universi- ty's internal regulatory framework. Lai and his team are also responsible for compliance with B.C.'s Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy legislation. Like other universities, UBC had to make major adjustments when the pandemic crisis first struck last year. "We had to take 67,000 students and thousands of faculty members who teach those students and shift them from a teaching model that's been based on face-to-face in-person instruction for centuries to one that is almost entirely virtual — and we had to do that overnight," says Lai. This tremendous challenge involved thou- sands of faculty members adapting course material and learning how to use new platforms. To support this unprecedented shift, Lai and his team had to consider a host of intellectual property laws, privacy laws and other regulations. Like many universities, UBC has experienced an increase in cheating cases amid the remote Understanding critical values Protecting the integrity of the institution is the top priority for Hubert Lai at the University of British Columbia "Protecting the integrity of the institution is fundamental in representing UBC's overall best interests, so, of course, as university counsel, that is my duty and my highest priority."

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