Meet the Director

Dr. Carol Liao

Dr. Carol Liao is an Assistant Professor at the Peter A. Allard School of Law and the Director of the Centre for Business Law. She is also the UBC Sauder Distinguished Scholar of the Peter P. Dhillon Centre for Business Ethics at the UBC Sauder School of Business. Prior to academia, Dr. Liao was a senior Mergers & Acquisitions lawyer at Shearman & Sterling LLP in New York. She is a former law clerk of the BC Court of Appeal, and an alumna of the Allard School of Law.

What is your vision for the Centre?
The Centre for Business Law is a wonderful hub that draws faculty, students, and lawyers together – engaging in cutting-edge legal issues and scholarship, providing foundational experiential learning for our students, and fostering a real sense of community among our business law colleagues and industry. We are an exchange, a platform, and a gateway for the business community to foster critical thinking in this ever-evolving area of law. It is what all of us choose to bring to it and my role as Director is to help nurture those connections, provide intellectual space to challenge and advance new ideas, and also amplify and disseminate the important work we do so that it has impact. The Centre plays an integral role in enhancing Allard Law’s reputation as one of the world’s best law schools, and I plan on continuing those efforts to the best of my ability. 

How would you like to see the Centre grow?
Right now the Centre is entering a new phase of opportunity. There is a great deal of energy and momentum at Allard Law and our Faculty continues to thrive and grow thanks to our Dean’s leadership. The Centre flourishes as more and more individuals are invested in its success and understand its collaborative value. Whether we are aware of it or not, the legal and regulatory ecosystems surrounding business impact everyone in some way, be it directly as a business or practising lawyer, or indirectly in our institutional behaviours and everyday interactions. So, it is important to engage.

The integration of scholarship and community is perhaps the most exciting part of the Centre. Academia is not meant to be a siloed profession. The Centre hosts and co-hosts a number of workshops and events both at UBC and in downtown Vancouver to reach a variety of audiences in law and across disciplines, allowing researchers and practitioners to benefit from an exchange of knowledge and ideas. The law and business community is deeply interested in learning about real time issues affecting our corporate legal landscape, and diverse perspectives are important to scholarship. Research is more robust when shared and challenged. Our faculty members bring extensive networks in their areas of speciality, be it international trade and investment, climate governance, insolvency, taxation, anti-corruption, intellectual property, sports and entertainment, banking, securities regulation, corporate social responsibility, history, law and development...the list goes on. So the Centre grows as it reaches out to researchers and practitioners across a range of subject areas in business law, and draws in others to provide ongoing continuing legal education and information on the latest business and legal issues.

The Dean’s message of “reaching out and drawing in” is also central to the educational curriculum we provide. The Centre offers Allard students with some of the best business legal experiential learning in the country. Our Business Law Clinic allows our students to gain critical client-facing skills supervised by a senior lawyer, while increasing access to justice for a range of business and non-profit organizations. Our Corporate Counsel Externship, in its second year, places students in legal departments of businesses to learn first-hand the dynamic role of in-house counsel, and the Externship continues to grow each term as more and more businesses express an interest in taking in our students. Our Clinic and the Externship instructors are seasoned experts immersed in the business legal community, with a deep passion for teaching and giving back to society. Each year we have 10x more student applications than spots in these programs, and there is room to expand these programs down the road. As we continue to grow, we’re also exploring new educational programs to enhance the Centre, including broadening our scope into professional development and increasing legal literacy for non-lawyers.

The Centre for Business Law is truly a nexus for faculty, students, lawyers, and the broader community. The importance of community cannot be emphasized enough. The Centre and its programs would not thrive without our generous sponsors, dedicated faculty and instructors, engaged students, and the ongoing support of our Dean’s Advisory Committee. I’m immensely proud to be handed the baton after a wonderful line of predecessors that have set the bar very high. Needless to say, I’m thrilled to be taking on the Directorship and the next few years look very exciting.

What are some of the issues you see the Centre engaging in the next few years?
I think there are a lot of issues on the ground that are keeping business lawyers’ awake at night and need some attention, including scholarly attention. In no particular order, here are some issues I think the Centre will likely be engaging in the next few years. Artificial intelligence, data, and cybersecurity are on a lot of boards’ minds. Cannabis has captured a great deal of international interest, particularly in corporate transactions, and there is a real need for more information-sharing there amongst the legal community, so I see a workshop on that in the future. Public awareness of climate change has become a game changer, and there is important work being done at the faculty on climate-related risk and governance that needs to be amplified. Folded into that are issues on corporate social responsibility rephrased as risk, ultimately what businesses need to do to mitigate legal, regulatory, social, economic, environmental, and reputational risk – these issues are at the forefront of business engagement as markets adapt to our climate emergency. Board diversity is also included in that, in my mind – I see it all interrelated. 

Other important issues that immediately jump out: indigenous economic development and how businesses can deliver on the Truth and Reconciliation Calls to Action. Indigenous business is growing at five times the national rate and reconciliation is a collaborative undertaking. Furthermore, Vancouver is the mining capital of the world, and mining is ground zero for many of these issues regarding indigenous rights and reconciliation, environmental justice, stakeholder engagement, anti-corruption compliance, customary international law, and corporate group liability, among other things. We are also a port city and gateway to Asia. The increasing number of acquisitions by Chinese state-owned enterprises of natural resources companies operating in other countries, particularly Africa, produces a hotbed of critical issues that need to be considered. I hope to collaborate with our other Centres on some of these topics.

It’s hard to stop so I’ll throw in a few more quickly. Millennial and impact investing. Bitcoin, cryptocurrency, and blockchain. Access to justice and the business of law. Global anti-bribery and anti-corruption laws. The future of public policy advocacy in the charitable and non-profit sector. As for the rest, well, the lovely part is it isn’t just up to me. I encourage our community to be in touch.