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Andrea Lee

July 7, 2023

Elisa Romano

In the search for her dream job, the third time was the charm for Andrea Lee.

Coming from a long line of engineers, it initially seemed like Lee’s work future was mapped out for her – at least until she developed a high school aversion to physics, one of that profession’s core tenets.

“So I went into architecture, thinking I’d let the engineers take care of the science while I focused on design,” Lee explains.

It wasn’t until the third year of her architecture degree – during a class on professional practice – that she finally uncovered the path that would lead to her true calling in life.

“Lawyers came to talk about building code issues, intellectual property, contracts and liens for fees, and that really spurred an interest in law,” says Lee, who has barely looked back since.

Now a partner at Toronto firm Glaholt Bowles LLP – the renowned construction law boutique where Lee has spent her entire legal career – she was recently named a co-founding program director for OsgoodePD’s brand new Professional LLM in Construction Law.

Although architecture is a relatively rare choice for pre-law undergraduates, Lee says there are striking parallels between the two professions that set her up for success in law school and beyond.

“The analytical skills that you pick up in architecture can be applied to law,” she says. “As an architect, you are required to design within parameters set by your client’s instructions, regulations and building codes, as well as the project budget and schedule.”

“In law, your parameters are provided by facts of the case, legal authorities, contractual provisions and dispute resolution rules, but the aim is still basically the same: to advise a client and advocate for a particular outcome, within those boundaries,” Lee adds.

Still, in the absence of a specific construction law class on her law school course list, Lee had to build her own curriculum, roping in a contracts professor to supervise an independent research project on the subject.  

Lee’s effort paid dividends when her work on the research project helped her make connections with Glaholt Bowles, where she worked as both a summer student and articling student before her call to the bar in 2006.

In the intervening years, Lee has made an outsized impact on her corner of the legal community. In addition to acting for owners, design professionals, contractors and insurers in a wide variety of complex disputes, she is also one of just 41 specialists in construction law certified by the Law Society of Ontario, has been named a fellow of the Canadian College of Construction Lawyers, and previously served as chair of the Ontario Bar Association’s Construction and Infrastructure Law section.

After ploughing her own furrow in construction law, Lee has thrown herself into teaching roles, helping clear the way for anyone who hopes to follow her lead in the area. She is now a guest lecturer in the very same architecture professional practice class that sparked her own legal journey, and also teaches construction law at her alma mater Queen’s University, after personally lobbying the law school dean on the value of a devoted course on the subject. 

As well as Lee’s extensive teaching background and subject matter expertise, her own history as an instructor on Osgoode’s Energy and Infrastructure and Business Law Professional LLMs made her the natural choice as one of the program directors when the law school decided that Construction Law warranted its own devoted LLM course. The program is set to launch in the fall of 2024.

“It’s a very important – and growing – specialized area of law,” Lee says. “When you really think about it, construction pervades all aspects of our lives, and it will be great for students to gain in-depth insights into the area and learn from expert faculty who will share their practical experience and knowledge.”

Want to learn more about the Professional LLM in Construction Law? Sign up for an Information Session!