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Professor Hopp Exits the Classroom

Jordan Lefaivre (3L)

Professor Ronald Hopp Q.C. will be teaching his last class at the Faculty of Law this year.  His departure from the classroom means we will need a new Wills Professor.  He leaves big shoes to fill.  Despite Hopp being by far the best Wills professor I could ever have, it is his contributions outside of the classroom that render him especially irreplaceable. Hopp’s dedication to public service and his enthusiasm to interact with the student body has left a lasting impression on countless students.

In his tenure as professor, Hopp has taught 18 different classes including Contracts, Torts, Criminal Law, and Wills.  I asked Hopp how he has been able to grapple with so many subject areas. He assured me that the easiest way to learn any area of law is to start teaching it.

Hopp is proud to have taught many current leaders in Alberta’s Legal Community.  There are several current and past Provincial Judges and Queen’s Bench Justices in these ranks. Despite having a hand in their legal training, his modesty prevents him from taking any credit. When I asked him whether he feels partly responsible for their achievements, he responded, “we are responsible for ourselves and that’s a big enough task in itself.”

While carrying out his teaching duties, Hopp has made a name for himself serving the low-income community.  His role as an advising lawyer at SLS has spanned over five different decades. Hopp mentioned that he enjoys watching students “struggle earnestly to help people.”

Even though service of the low-income community has become second nature for Hopp, he insists his wife actually introduced him to service: as a past faculty administrator she assisted with securing space and supplies for SLS operations.

Hopp first started advising students at SLS in 1976.  Since then, he has become an institution at SLS.  There is an old book at Emily Murphy House that was commissioned to commemorate the 15th anniversary of SLS. Musings of Hopp are interspersed throughout.  He discusses past SLS volunteers’ relentless activism and the gratitude of SLS principals.  Hopp describes SLS volunteers in the 1970’s driving around a Bus painted in psychedelic colours, engaging in social activism.  These students were part of the Agitation and Propaganda project of SLS.  The Ag-Prop project has long since been renamed the Legal Education and Reform project.  Even though the name has changed and SLS has conservatively toned down its tie-died roots, Hopp’s commitment has remained steadfast.  Hopp’s contribution has been steady; dutifully advising one file at a time.

Hopp has never hesitated to share the wealth of knowledge and experience he has accumulated over 41 years of practice.  He is always willing to assist students.  Students are privileged to access his office and advice so readily.  Before entering, a student can be sure that Hopp will have some first-hand experience to share.   After all, he has maintained a practice throughout his teaching career. He has practiced in small claims, real estate, wills, civil litigation and family law, among others. He also acted as a Crown Prosecutor. The breadth and depth of legal experience upon which Hopp can draw is impressive.

Hopp’s student involvement is not limited to his teaching and advising lawyer position at SLS.  It extends into his eagerness to socialize with the student body. Not so long ago, Hopp was a mainstay as a dancer on the Law Show Stage.  He was a devoted dancer for 10 years.  He has been described as “possessing the unique talent to only be a little off step all of the time.”  Ask Hopp what his favorite Law Show was.  He will answer, “the last one; every year it’s the best.”  I have encountered Hopp at Barbecues, Wine Socials and (shudder) Rugby Fashion shows.  In fact, there is not a single faculty member I have seen interact more with the student body.  Hopp says that he would attend every social function if they were held in the building.  He mentioned that it is important for faculty members to attend student functions. Hopp insists that collegiality between students and faculty is more easily fostered through events like baseball tournaments and social events than lecturing.

If you have not had the opportunity to visit Hopp yet, it’s okay.  He will be keeping his office on the fourth floor.  If you have the chance, pop in for a conversation.  I guarantee Hopp will not fail to provide a pearl of wisdom.  Regardless of what he says, it will undoubtedly begin with a long sigh and pensive stare.  He usually follows this up with a one-liner that is simultaneously humorous and insightful. When posed with a particularly frustrating file, Hopp once stated that he “should have been a gardener.”  Of course after some consideration of things like “drought and blight” he is confident that he made the right decision when he entered into law. Of course Hopp wasn’t being serious, but he insists that he does not like conflict.  That is why he prefers teaching over practice. We are thankful for this preference; we are lucky to have had him as a professor.

On that note I will leave you with some Hopp wisdom. He insists that each case in the practice of law should teach you something.  He says that “you advance in your career, if after each case, win or lose; you find something that you could do better. As soon as you think you have mastered the law, you are heading down hill.”