Nearly twenty years ago, Ian Kerr was a rising star in the law and technology field at the University of Western Ontario. He had already published on the role of computers as intelligent agents in the nascent world of electronic commerce and was crafting new courses examining the legal and ethical challenges posed by machines and the law. In the fall of 1999 – about a year after I had arrived at Ottawa – he agreed to a visit to consider coming to help build a leading program focused on law and tech. I spent the day trying to convince Ian to come, offering tours of the law school, the city’s foodie hot spots, and a dinner at my house. My closing argument was that no matter his decision, this was going to happen since Ottawa was ideally situated to lead on tech law and policy and that there was no better place for him, personally or professionally.
I’m heartened that Ian told me during my last visit with him at the Ottawa Hospital that the decision was one of the best he ever made. But I was wrong. This wasn’t just going to happen. It happened because Ian – my colleague, friend, advisor, and professional partner – made it so.
Ian passed away last night after months of battling complications from cancer. He was a singular talent, whose impact not just on the field, but on everyone he worked with, taught, mentored, or lectured will be felt for decades to come.