A global perspective: Ted L. McDorman retires after 37 years with UVic Law


By Ivan Watson

Professor Ted McDorman has served with distinction at UVic’s Faculty of Law since 1985, “with time off for good behaviour,” he says humorously, while sharing fascinating stories about far-flung work assignments that made him in high demand for his legal expertise around the world.

On one memorable occasion, he was at home having dinner and the phone rang. On the other end was an acquittance calling from the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) in Rome, who knew of McDorman’s interest in trade and fisheries law. The FAO contact offered him a consulting contract, and three days later McDorman was on the plane heading to Fiji.

“I always tell students, whatever you do in life, answer the darn phone,” he says. “Because you just never know what might happen. You never know where it could lead. In the above case, it was an interesting FAO project related to sea food safety in the South Pacific Island States.”

McDorman started teaching at UVic Law in 1985. His research and teaching interests include Public International Law, International Trade Law, International Ocean and Environmental Law, and Private International Law.

His regional focus was Southeast Asia and North East Asia. In the 1990’s, McDorman was part of a major oceans project centered in Thailand.  He was a frequent participant at ocean law workshops and conferences in in Korea, Taiwan and China.

He has been a visiting professor at institutions in Thailand, Sweden, the Netherlands and Canada and has over 140 publications in the areas of ocean law and policy, international trade law and comparative constitutional law.

For 20 years, he served as editor-in-chief of Ocean Development and International Law: The Journal of Marine Affairs. He describes his varied and international career opportunities as a case of “one good thing leading to another.”

From 2002 to 2004, and again from 2011 to 2013, he was the Academic-in-Residence with the Bureau of Legal Affairs in the Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade (DFAIT) in Ottawa. In the spring of 2007, he was the Fulbright Visiting Chair in Canada-U.S. Relations at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars in Washington, D.C. 

For more than 15 years at UVic, he was the faculty lead overseeing the evolution of the student law journal Appeal.

“I’m happy to have been involved,” he says modesty. “I have really enjoyed working with the student teams. Writing is something that I know, having grown up in a newspaper family, and I figured I could help, but most of the work has been done by the students and they deserve the credit.”

One of his many talents has been his versality. At one point or another during the past 37 years, he has taught many different courses offered by the Faculty, including Canadian Constitutional Law for many years, Canadian Environmental Law and Comparative Asian Law. He also held a cross-appointment with the Department of Geography and was an Associate of the Centre for Asia-Pacific Initiatives (CAPI).

His advice to law students beginning their studies? “In first year, read everything and, get your reading skills up to par,” he says. “I tell students that every hour that you put into reading in the first year, will save you five hours later in your academic career, because you’ll learn what you need to do. Don’t shortcut it, because that will just cause you grief later on.”

Wise words from a well-loved and respected professor who will be sorely missed by his many former students and colleagues.

“Ted has inspired countless future lawyers and has made an impact that extends far beyond his teaching at UVic, leaving behind an outstanding legacy,” says Interim Dean Val Napoleon. “On behalf of his colleagues, I wish him all the very best as he transitions into retirement and thank him for his years of dedicated service to the Faculty, in particular his mentorship of younger colleagues and his commitment to going above and beyond to bring out the best in his students.”

In honour of the many contributions McDorman has made to the Faculty and to UVic Law students, a new scholarship has been created in his name. The Ted L. McDorman Entrance Scholarship in Law will help new UVic Law students gain their footing as they begin one of the most challenging and rewarding degree programs in the country. This scholarship will ensure his commitment to UVic law students will continue to have an impact here in the Faculty.


Ivan Watson
UVic Law Communications