Faculty of Law Class of ‘24 welcomed by Justice Russell Brown of the Supreme Court of Canada

1Ls encouraged by Orientation Day speakers to use their law studies as vehicle to assist others

Helen Metella - 08 September 2021

The incoming class of University of Alberta Faculty of Law JD students were welcomed to their first day of law school on Tuesday with guest speakers all urging them to be inspired by their potential to make a difference in people’s lives.

“Lawyers make the system navigable and comprehensible,” said Justice Russell Brown of the Supreme Court of Canada during his keynote address. “We are problem solvers. We make the system work, we make the system bend where it needs to bend.”

The study of law, if done in a spirit of openness to subject matter, can be transformative, he said. He asked students to always keep in mind two elements of the rule of law — that penalties must not be a product of official capriciousness and that no one and nothing is above the law. 

He also reminded the group that “wrecking balls are not hard things to wield,” but that a damaged or even dismantled democratic institution can take a long time to repair. 

Justice Frederica Schutz of the Court of Appeal of Alberta encouraged students to consider working with people in need of Legal Aid, of criminal defence, of assistance in family law, among other matters. 

Darlene Scott, QC, president of the Law Society of Alberta, reminded them that the possibilities of what they can do with a law degree are infinite, covering not just traditional practice but meaningful work in business, politics, academia and social justice.

Third-year student Mia Bottos, president of the Law Students’ Association, shared simple advice she once gleaned from a law Twitter feed that continues to resonate deeply with her: “We are all smart here. Distinguish yourself by being kind.”

Other speakers included Elder Rick Lightning, Dean Barbara Billingsley and Vice Dean Eric Adams. 

The new JD class at the Faculty is 180 students strong, drawn from a pool of applicants that numbered more than 1,200. 

There are also 20 students enrolled in U of A’s one-year Internationally Trained Lawyer Pathway. It prepares lawyers who attained their legal degree abroad to practice law in Canada by fulfilling the requirements of the Federation of Law Societies of Canada National Committee on Accreditation process while studying alongside JD students.

The Orientation Day welcome, including a keynote address by Justice Russell Brown of the Supreme Court of Canada, is viewable on our YouTube channel.