Rielle Gagnon recognized with Mandy MacLeod Prize for Excellence in Mooting

Contributions as moot mentor and competitor earn Gagnon prestigious honour

Priscilla Popp - 25 April 2022

The Celebration of Mooting earlier this month – an annual gathering in which another season of mooting is capped and students, coaches and sponsors come together to reflect on the experience – had a welcome surprise for third-year law student Rielle Gagnon. She is the 2022 recipient of the Mandy MacLeod Prize for Excellence in Mooting, an award she said was anything but expected.

“I was shocked, honoured and very humbled to be selected. It was the perfect setting to receive the news, because I was surrounded by many of the incredible women who made my mooting experiences so special,” Gagnon said, including past coach Katherine Fraser, current coach from this year’s Wilson Moot, Maddison Croden, and two of her Wilson teammates.

In a short time, Gagnon – who holds an Honours Bachelor of Science degree in Psychology – established herself as a leader in competitive moots. After her 2020 first-year moot was cancelled due to pandemic restrictions, she competed in the Brimacombe Selection Round in her second and third year (the latter of which she received honourable mention). “When I started law school I heard about the Brimacombe Selection Round and several of my professors spoke excitedly to my class about mooting, which then prompted me to participate in the Brimacombe Selection Round myself when I became eligible as a second-year law student,” she said.

She went on, in her second year, to compete in the Alberta Court of Appeal Criminal Law moot, where her team won the criminal round and the University of Alberta won the overall competition. More recently, Gagnon and her teammates at the Wilson Moot won first place for factums and placed second overall.

In addition to being an experienced moot competitor, Gagnon also had the opportunity to try out a new role as a mentor in her final two years of studying law.

“For each group I mentored, I read their written factums and came up with questions that I planned to ask them, hosted practice rounds for them and put together panels with my classmates as practice judges to help them prepare. It made me so proud to watch my students moot and handle tough questions from judges with such poise, skill and confidence,”she said.

Gagnon’s willingness to lend a helping hand is evident by her numerous volunteer experiences while studying at the University of Alberta Faculty of Law. She currently serves as an editorial board member of the Editing Committee at the Alberta Law Review, is a Board of Governors board member and music minister at St. Joseph’s College, and has also held roles for the Faculty’s curriculum committee, Law Show and Student Legal Services.

Receiving the Mandy MacLeod Prize for Excellence in Mooting is the latest recognition Gagnon can add to a growing list of honours and awards she’s received to date, including the Edmonton Bar Association Award (based on academic achievement and contribution to student life) and the Master LD Hyndman Memorial Prize (awarded to the student with the highest mark in the Professional Responsibility course), both received in 2021.

What’s next for Gagnon once she crosses the convocation stage in June? A former summer student for Parlee McLaws LLP, she will return to the firm to begin her articles following graduation, the experience she gained from mooting well in tow.

“Prior to participating in moot competitions, I probably would have said that I would be happy to be a full-time solicitor. However, competitive mooting has shown me what an incredible art oral advocacy is, and it has given me a strong desire to pursue work in litigation (with some solicitor work thrown in too!)” she said.

Alumna Mandy MacLeod, '14 JD, is a current crown prosecutor and former competitive moot student. The award in her name was established in 2020 to recognize a graduating student who has made the greatest contribution to the moot program during their time at UAlberta Law.