Professor of the Month: Vanessa Gruben

Each month, we feature a professor from the Faculty who supports and contributes to feminist legal thought.


Vanessa Gruben
Associate Professor
Interviewed by: Maja Petrovic

MP: Tell us where you started. What was your first job?

VG: My first law job?

MP: Any job!

VG: I went to law school here and I worked at the legal clinic as my first summer job. At the time they had an HIV/AIDS Division and so we provided all sorts of different types of legal advice to that community. It was great, I learned a ton! It was fantastic, a really great learning opportunity. I then took the legal aid course the following year. That was in the first summer after first year. In my second summer, I summered at BLG.

MP: What was your path to law?

VG: I have always wanted to be a lawyer but I was really interested in health issues, and the difficult legal and ethical questions around health. My undergraduate degree was actually a Bachelor of Science, in Life Sciences, which I completed at Queens. But I always knew I wanted to go to law school, so I was delighted when I got in. I have been lucky in that I have kept fairly close to my interests, and I have managed to keep on that track, while doing some other stuff of course– but this topic has always been part of my practice, from private practice to when I clerked. I have been really lucky in that sense.

MP: As a summer student at BLG, did your work focus on health law?

VG: Not really. As a summer student, I kind of worked on a little bit of everything. Although, I did do some work for the Patented Medicine Prices Review Board, which was interesting. The practices were less specialized than they are now, and I worked in General Litigation so my practice varied a lot.

MP: Did you know you were interested in the academic side of law then or did that happen later?

VG: It sort of evolved. When I was in law school, I always enjoyed doing legal research. I became more interested in it once I clerked, that that kind of career would be something of interest to me. But I didn’t go into law school thinking that I wanted to be an academic. It is really something that developed over time.

MP: What are you working on right now that you’re particularly excited about?

VG: There are so many things! The thing that is most exciting at the moment is my work on the regulation of Assisted Human Reproduction. We have new regulations, draft regulations, under the Assisted Human Reproduction Act that I am in the midst of putting a submission together on. They deal with the reimbursement of expenses to egg donors and surrogates, what those expenses should be, what can be reimbursed, how the process is going to work, the oversight and enforcement of the process and the framework, and so on. That is on the front burner at the moment. I also have a book, an edited collection, coming out next Monday on Surrogacy in Canada!

MP: What is the best thing about being a professor at uOttawa?

VG: Probably the students! I love to teach and love to work with law students, it is always interesting. It is great and is definitely the highlight of being a professor here at uOttawa.

MP: Did you always know you wanted to teach or did that gradually develop as well?

VG: That also gradually developed. When I was clerking I thought this might be something I might be interested in. Clerking tends to attract people who are interested in academia. I also practiced after I clerked, at McCarthys, and I taught the trial advocacy course while I was practicing. I enjoyed the teaching and the research, so that is how I figured out that teaching might be the next step for me in my career.

MP: Was Trial Ad the first course you’ve ever taught?

VG: Yes! Trial Ad was the first course I taught here at uOttawa.

MP: What about your free time? What do you like to do during your free time?

VG: In the winter, I downhill ski. We have a cottage, so I like to ski in the winter. I swim in the summer. I also really enjoy just spending time and hanging out with my kids.

MP: What else are you interested in outside of law?

VG: I play the piano, not particularly well any more, but I used to play the piano well. My family and I – we travel a ton! We just got back from Germany. We try to bring the kids to Europe about every year and a half, so we travel quite a bit. We also like to read, play games, and hang out at our cottage.

MP: If you had one piece of advice for us law students what would it be?

VG: Love what you are doing. Try to love what you do, and make sure to take care of yourself, it is important. Self-care is critical.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: