Doctoral in Law graduate (2018)
Faculty of Law
University of Ottawa
A phone call. Personal contact. That’s what made an impression on Olabisi Akinkugbe while considering where he would study for his Ph. D.
At a time when email is the means of choice to communicate with potential students, a phone call from a young professor from the Faculty of Law of the University of Ottawa allowed him to offer a detailed description of his research projects, to learn about the support offered at the Faculty, and convinced him that he should study in the national’s capital.
“I felt it was so unique," Olabisi said. "It brought something very personal immediately to an otherwise virtual process, and from then on, it was wonderful.”
Olabisi’s research work is organized around contemporary debates on the role of law in economic development. He is looking at the potential for an alliance of various traditions from development, law, history and politics to understand development policy that manifests itself through contracts and trade agreement.
His dissertation, supported by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada, examines how different conceptions about the role of law shaped the design of regional trade agreements in Africa. He based his study on a contextual historical analysis of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) – one of the key regional economic organizations in Africa. The dearth of inquiry into the role of law in regional economic integration schemes has contributed to policy initiatives that inhibit, rather than consolidate, the modest achievement of these schemes.
“If we consider regional economic integration in Africa from a law and development perspective by focusing on how they emerged and were revised, it might take our focus away from the failure of the regime,” said Olabisi. “Thinking about them only in economic terms is narrow and doesn’t acknowledge the complex context that these organizations have to work within.”
Olabisi obtained his LL.B. from the University of Lagos, Nigeria and an LL.M. from the University of Toronto in 2008 with concentration in Business Law. He has significant experience as a contracts and commercial transaction lawyer. He also worked as an in-house legal counsel on a public-private partnership toll road project in Lagos, Nigeria – the first of its kind in West Africa – where he advised on a complex range of projects and finance documents.
He has kept an avid interest through the years in business law and transnational law as his primary research areas. They inform his teaching interests in Contracts, International Trade Law, and Law & Development at the Faculty of Law of the University of New Brunswick, where he has been teaching as a term assistant professor of law.
“The practice of law enriches my teaching,” said Olabisi. “Having the opportunity to practice in the context of a law firm and then working as an in-house counsel, it requires a different skill sets. I can now use it to the benefit of my students."
Olabisi advises all new graduate students to take advantage of the resources that the Law Faculty provides and to engage with the people around them.
“Students need the community of friends. I was lucky to be part of a group that was very much connected, who shared ideas. The dynamic graduate program at the Faculty of Law of the University of Ottawa provides a unique environment to do that.”