Teamwork is key

Bronze medal winner Connor Vaandering steadies himself with sports

Helen Metella - 22 July 2021

Connor Vaandering’s disciplined study habits led to numerous academic awards during law school, but in some respects it’s his involvement in sports that created a foundation for his success.

“I love working as a team,” says the 2021 recipient of the Judge’s Bronze Medal at the University of Alberta Faculty of Law. “I like that camaraderie, to be able to accomplish something together as a group.”

Among his law school team experiences was participation in both the Wilson and Laskin competitive moots. The latter, which put him alongside accomplished mooters Aidan Paul, Zachary Wilson and James Allan, honed his belief in the power of groups. “They certainly made their teammates work at their level. They’re very committed and competitive, which I like.”

Vaandering says the quality of his studying improved every year of law school, and not only because playing rugby and serving as president of the Bearristers rugby club relieved stress and allowed him to make a wide array of friends among classmates, upper years and alumni. He made a point of balancing studying with bowling and softball nights, soccer and basketball intramural games. The mindset sport carries lends valuable perspective to hitting the books, he says.

“It’s nice if you can treat it like a sport — studying is your practice and the exam is your game.”

His pre-law experiences were also a factor in how much he achieved. He’s always loved reading, and his family encouraged strong opinions and vigorous discussion. Spending a pre-teen year in the United Kingdom when his father’s job transferred them there fostered his interest in current and global affairs. He was a member of his high school debate club and during his undergraduate studies in political science, he completed the Peter Lougheed Leadership College certificate in interdisciplinary leadership studies, exploring how groups work and what makes a good leader.

In addition to attaining first-class standing in grades, Vaandering worked as a teaching assistant for the Legal Research and Writing Program and as a research assistant to Prof. Malcolm Lavoie. “I very much enjoyed the opportunity to learn from many different perspectives during law school. Working for Professor Lavoie and Professor Samuel greatly helped sharpen my legal skills.”

About to start articling with the Alberta Court of Appeal in Calgary in August, Vaandering will finish his articles with Blake, Cassels & Graydon LLP.