Firsts in Class

Throughout the Faculty's history, UAlberta Law alumni have forged firsts in their profession

Helen Metella - 31 January 2020


Lillian Ruby Clements, '15 LLB

Lillian Ruby Clements was the first woman admitted to the Alberta bar, in 1915. She was also the first woman to receive an LLB from the University of Alberta, under the old system in which a degree could be earned alongside a three-year article. The U of A issued several degrees before the law school was actually established. After being admitted to the bar, Clements subsequently married businessman Chester Gainer and ceased practising law.

Gertrude Elizabeth Bury, '24 LLB

Gertrude Elizabeth Bury was the first woman to practise law in Alberta for any length of time, and in 1929 became the first woman in the British Commonwealth to address the jury in a murder trial.

Justice William George Morrow, '39 LLB

William George Morrow, later a judge of the Territorial Court of the Northwest Territories, was one of the first Canadians to champion the legal and cultural cause of the North's Indigenous Peoples. As a senior partner in an eminent Edmonton law firm in 1960, he went to the North to act as a volunteer defence counsel for $10 a day. At the height of his career, he travelled more than 50,000 kilometres a year to set up makeshift courtrooms in remote communities.

Violet King, '53 LLB

First black female lawyer in Canada, as well as the first black person to graduate law in Alberta and be admitted to the Alberta bar.

Jean McBean, QC, '72 LLB

Jean McBean's legal firm, McBean Becker Cochard and Gordon, was the first all-female law firm in Edmonton. One of her early accomplishments as a lawyer was to protect women's rights to property in divorce settlements. She established the first Legal Aid Alberta Family Law offices in Edmonton and Calgary and served as their first senior counsel.


Barrie Chivers, QC, '68 LLB

First University of Alberta Faculty of Law alumnus to be elected to the Legislature of Alberta as a New Democrat, where he served from 1990-1993. After politics, he resumed his legal career with the firm of Chivers Carpenter Lawyers.

Peter Lougheed, '52 LLB

First alumnus to serve as premier of Alberta (1971-1985). Led Alberta's first Progressive Conservative government and the party's first majority government in the province.

Vincent Dantzer, '55 LLB

First alumnus to become mayor of Edmonton (1965-1968).

Linda Duncan, '73 LLB

First alumna elected as a member of Parliament for the New Democratic Party.

Jack Harris, QC, '79 LLB

First alumnus to be elected as a member of Parliament from Newfoundland, who is still a current MP, representing St. John's East.


Marjorie Bowker, '39 LLB

First alumna to be appointed a judge when she became a judge of the Family and Juvenile Courts of Alberta in 1966. In 1972, she was instrumental in establishing a court-centred Marriage Conciliation Service, the first of its kind in Canada.

Ronald Martland, '28 LLB

First alumnus appointed to the Supreme Court of Canada (1958-1992).

Beverley McLachlin, '68 LLB *

First alumna to become chief justice of Canada (2000-2017), and both first Albertan and first female to hold the position.

Ed Wachowich, '54 BA (Law) and Allan Wachowich, ''58 BA (Law)
First Canadian siblings to serve as heads of respective courts (Ed was chief judge of Edmonton's Provincial Court, 1971-1999, and Allan was chief justice of the Court of Queen's Bench of Alberta 2001-2010.)

Ellen Picard, '67 LLB

First female full-time member of the Faculty of Law and first female faculty member to be appointed a judge.

Catherine Fraser, '70 LLB *

First woman to be appointed chief justice of Alberta and chief justice of Northwest Territories in 1992. In 1999, she was appointed as the first chief justice of the Nunavut Court of Appeal.

Mary Moreau, '79 LLB *

First female chief justice of the Court of Queen's Bench of Alberta.

* During the appointments of McLachlin, Fraser and Moreau, it was the first time in Canada that three women from the same law school simultaneously occupied the positions of Chief Justice of Canada, Chief Justice of Alberta and Chief Justice of the Alberta Court of Queen's bench.


Danielle Bourgeois, '09 LLB

First Pandas hockey player to be inducted in the University of Alberta Sports Wall of Fame for being the lynchpin in a dynasty team that won seven national university championships between 2000 and 2010.

Clarence Campbell, '24 BA (Law)

First alumnus to become president of the National Hockey League.

Dave Fennel, '79 LLB

First alumnus to win the Schenley Award, as most valuable player in the Grey Cup.

Daryl Katz, '85 LLB

First alumnus to appear on Forbes' list of billionaires, and first alumnus to own a National Hockey League team.

Mike McLeod, '84 LLB

First former UAlberta Law student to play in the NFL. Mike played with the Edmonton Eskimos while in law school, and then with the Green Bay Packers. He practised as an attorney in Montana from 1987-89.

Dave Thomlinson, '04 LLB

First (and only) alumnus to play shifts alongside Wayne Gretsky (while playing for the L.A. Kings in 1994-95).