Dal Law is Canada’s oldest university-affiliated law school and for a long time it was also the smallest. The school’s class size played a large role in establishing its trademark tight-knit community. This quality endures to this day and has always been regarded as one of our best features. So when the class size was increased in the early ‘60s many worried that a greater number of students would ruin the intimate atmosphere at Dalhousie’s “Little Law School.”.
Founded in 1965, the Domus Legis Society was envisioned as way to preserve the collegial sentiment at Dal Law. The society was explicitly intended to:
Promote good fellowship among congenial students at the Faculty of Law of Dalhousie University; to encourage a high standard of professional work; and to assist by every honourable means the advancement of its members."
The home-base for this affable enterprise was located at 1255 Seymour Street, affectionately nicknamed “the Dome.” Here law students, faculty, and alumni could come together to enjoy one another’s’ company, engage in lively debate, share their (often musical) talents, and escape the stresses of life.
The Dome housed a licensed bar, and the law students and local lawyers made sure to put it to good use. Whether on Fridays for “Weepers”, a weekly meeting for students to drown their work-related sorrows, or at one of the society’s famed theme nights, the Dome was the place to be for the Halifax legal community.
There are many stories about the Dome from all across its nearly 40 year tenure, and many of the people involved would now much rather remain anonymous. Suffice to say the house was the scene of many good times, some remembered, some not, some legendary.
But Domus was so much more than just a party setting: it was an active force in the development of Canada’s legal culture. As Tom Khattar (‘78) put it, Domus has always been “a desirable social atmosphere … in which a meaningful dialogue might occur between students and practising lawyers.” Just so, the Dome hosted countless legal practitioners from around the country, as well as many other illustrious figures in Canadian legal history. Former Supreme Court Justices Louise Arbour and Frank Iacobucci, as well as current Chief Justice Beverley McLachlin all came to the Dome. Former Justice of the Supreme Court John Sopinka was a huge Domus supporter, and participated in numerous fundraisers on behalf of the society. Even some current faculty members were Domus members in days of yore, including Professor John Yogis and the new director of the Law and Technology Institute, Robert Currie.
Each of these members and guests signed their name to a part of the house, joining in a tradition followed by hundreds of Dal Law students. And just as they each left their marks on the house, Domus left its mark upon them all. As any Dal alumni will tell you, Domus remains as important to them as it does to students today. Domus holds an important place in the hearts of everyone who has passed through its doors, and many of those people have gone on to play significant roles in the development of Canadian law.
Unfortunately all good things have their costs, and as the years went by Domus was forced to change with the times in order to stay open. But no such change was as dramatic as the closing of the house in 2004. That year the University announced that it needed the land on which the Dome stood to build a new Faculty of Management building, and as a consequence Domus was left without a home. Since then the society has moved from one bar to the next, staying at each for at least a year and hosting parties for Dal Law students every Thursday night. For over half a decade students have been keeping the tradition going past the end of the Dome, making sure that there’s somewhere to go on Thursday nights every new school year.
Domus is part of the lifeblood of Dal Law. It is the night that highlights every week, especially the really bad ones. It is what makes the law school experience something that every alumni looks back fondly on instead of “that dark time” in their lives. It is what makes our peers our friends instead of our competition. It is what makes us more than just sections and graduating classes but rather a whole community together. Former Domus President Christine Pound (’03) put it perfectly when she said:
Students come to Domus to relax, chat with friends and to make the Dalhousie Law School experience something more than cases, legal research and writing, and moots. What also makes Domus Legis special is that it is ours: it belongs to the Dalhousie Law School students. And, it has been passed down from hundreds of fellow Dal Law students who have gone before to those of us lucky enough to be enjoying it today.
So join us on Thursday nights at The Split Crow Pub, The Auction House, or the Dalhousie University Club Pub! We have some great nights in store and we want to make this year worthy of all the ones that have come before it. We want Domus to be the place where each and every Dal Law student feels comfortable, the place they can go to join their peers on Thursday nights for a drink and a laugh (or several). We love Domus for what it is and we have not forgotten what it was. Come say hello and become a part of the tradition that’s been going strong for over half a century, and has made Dalhousie the place to study law in Canada.
We’re all in this together, lets make it the best we can, together!