Ellen Zweibel
Ellen Zweibel
Full Professor
LL.M. Taxation
Denver University, 1981
Juris Doctorate, cum laude, Brooklyn Law School, 1974
Bachelor of Arts, cum laude, State University of New York at Stony Brook, 1970
Bar Admissions: New York State, 1975, and Colorado, 1977 non-active status
Roster Mediator, Ontario Mandatory Mediation Program- Ottawa/Toronto B.A

57 Louis Pasteur St., Room 339
Office: 613-562-5800 ext. 3303
Office: 613-562-5124


Ellen B. Zweibel, Professor and Co-Founding Director of the Legal Writing Academy at the University of Ottawa Faculty of Law. LL.M Tax Law (Denver University, 1981); J.D., cum laude (Booklyn Law School,1974) and B.A. English, cum laude ( SUNY at Stony Brook,1970). Professional training in conflict resolution, negotiation, mediation, dispute resolution systems design, and collaborative processes for public policy disputes includes courses at CDR Associates, (Boulder); CIIAN (Ottawa), and PON at Harvard (Boston).

Everyone needs left and right brain activity. I exercise my left-brain teaching Introduction to Income Tax and my right-brain creating, organizing, and teaching the experiential learning-based Dispute Resolution and Professional Responsibility program for all first-year law students. The Legal Writing Academy occupies both my left and right brain continuously.

Over thirty-five years I’ve done a lot of stuff. You don’t really want to read a list of my book chapters, articles, and presentations. So, I’ll just pick some of teaching, research, and writing examples that are highlights for me and that tell you something about what makes me tick.

Teaching - A few of my absolutely favourite things

Take Tax-You Won’t Regret It

Tax is my absolute favourite course to teach. At some point, every aspect of law and public policy intersects with tax and tax policy. Students in my tax class pick up a new vocabulary, learn to read and apply complex statutory provisions, and to research and write about the tax aspects of a social-economic issue of their choice. I’m working on an online version of intro tax that you can take at your own pace over the summer or as a month-long intensive.

Zealous Advocates Use Dispute Resolution Processes to Get Their Clients the Best Outcomes

Forget what popular culture says about lawyers as voracious litigators. Although I love a good TV court room drama, in reality, the experience of going to court might be exhilarating for lawyers, but never for clients. In your legal career you’ll likely represent plaintiffs and defendants in many court actions, and you’ll likely argue many preliminary motions, but mostly you’ll achieve your client’s objectives negotiating deals and settlements or working with a mediator to resolve disputes. And that’s why my absolute favourite thing is designing the experiential learning activities for our first year Dispute Resolution and Professional Responsibility course where we introduce basic conflict analysis, interviewing, negotiation, and mediation advocacy skills along with professional responsibility and ethics.

The DRPR course puts the substantive law you learn in other first-year courses into the context of real client problems and real ethical dilemmas. You’ll interview clients, consider multiple approaches and solutions to client situations, choose among dispute resolution processes, negotiate and mediate agreements and disputes, practice oral advocacy in a non-litigation setting, and write a case analysis memo on a professional responsibility problem and a client advice letter. You’ll become familiar with the Rules of Professional Conduct, grapple with ethical dilemmas, and consider what it takes to be culturally competent and to ensure access to justice. And, in keeping with the new reality of lawyer’s work, you’ll learn both in person and online skills.

DRPR is my signature course. I introduced it over 25 years ago. The course is as real as we can make it. We train upper-year students as clients and each year over 50 legal practitioners participate as demonstrators and coaches for our capstone activity. And because the course always incorporated online learning strategies, when the Covid 19 shut down in-person courses, we had the know how to pivot to fully online course delivery.

As a bonus for me, I’ve used my dispute resolution skills to design and deliver courses to medical professionals and medical trainees on “raising conflict productively” and negotiation.

Great Lawyers are Great Writers – The Legal Writing Academy

Now, my other absolute favourite thing is the Legal Writing Academy programing. Here’s where I combine my passion for pedagogy with ensuring that UOttawa law graduates are confident and competent writers. The ability to write clearly, concisely, and persuasively is a core competence for every lawyer regardless of their career path. I take pride in our first-year workshops, DRPR writing modules, Civil Procedure memo module, Writing Leader’s program, Dean’s Fellows, Social Justice writing courses, and ten, upper-year Write with Purpose seminars. Students can meet with an upper-year Writing Leader to work on strategies to overcome writer’s block and recognize, correct, and avoid typical writing problems. And our award-winning www.Pointfirstwriting.com website gives you just-in-time access to modules on writing legal memo and editing your own work.

Experiential learning drives every component of the Legal Academy programming. We combine real life writing tasks with personalized and frequent feedback and mentoring, and presentations by practitioner experts. We emphasize student self-reflection, goal setting, and life-long learning strategies.

We pilot new courses and new approaches to writing instruction. We’ve run our first online summer course, Legal Memos Made Easy, designed for students to study at their own pace while working full time. Stay tuned for new initiatives.

My Three Favourite Research Projects – Projects that Stretched my Brain

Charitable Gifts of Conservation Easements: Lessons from the US Experience in Enhancing the Tax Incentive, Canadian Tax Journal (2010) vol. 58, no 1, 25 - 61 (co-author Karen Cooper).

Researching the impact of the charitable tax credit on preserving eco-sensitive land let me delve into the science and economics of ecosystem services, climate change, environmental and behavioural economics. I learned a lot. A second branch of the project became a series of presentations that we thought had more punch than an academic article.

What Sticks: How Medical Residents and Academic Health Care Faculty Transfer Conflict Resolution Training from the Workshop to the Workplace (Spring 2008) 3:25 Conflict Resolution Quarterly 321-350 (co-authors Goldstein, R, Manwaring, J. Marks, M.).

Working with the faculty of medicine on training medical faculty and residents in raising conflict productively, led to an interdisciplinary study of what program participants actually took away and could apply in their work at the hospital and on research team. I learned new social science research techniques. The research had a double-back effect; we learned what worked and what we could change for greater impact.

Legal Memos Made Easy and Edit Your Own Work on www.Pointfirstwriting.com

These companion modules teach the practical skills of writing legal memos and a five-layered approach to editing. Each layer concentrates on a different task, keeping students and other users from being overwhelmed by fixing everything at once. Chunked sub-parts allow students to practice skills multiple times on a variety of documents and apply online feedback incrementally to drafts. The website is used in writing seminars and to support students writing assignments and major papers. Students can self-study anytime. And graduates tell us they return to the website in their first years of practice and share the site with colleagues at work. The website content and activities reflect years of studying how we learn and delving into online learning strategies.

Teaching Awards – We don’t teach or innovate for awards. We teach for the joy of it. But sometimes awards follow

2021 TLSS Award for Leadership in the Provision of Distance/Online Education

2021 TLSS Award for Most Innovative Project in the Provision of Distance/Online Education Co-Recipient with Craig Forcese

2015   Canadian Network for Innovation in Education 2015 award for Excellence and Innovation in the Integration of Technology in Instructional Design/Teaching and Learning for "Legal Memos Made Easy”: http://www.pointfirstwriting.com/legal_memo/index.html. Award shared with the team (Ellen Zweibel, Virginia McRae (Law); Elizabeth Campbell Brown, Caroline Marcoux, Erwan Pérès, Marc Bélanger, Richard Pine) (eLearning Centre).

2013 Desire2Learn Innovation in Teaching Award

2011 University of Ottawa Excellence in Education Prize

2007 Sharing the Flame Award: Recognizing Excellence in Learning Award by the Canadian Council of Learning- Health and Learning category.  Award shared with J.A. Manwaring, Dr. Rosie Goldstein and University of Ottawa Centre for e-Learning.