‘So Worth It’: How a former accountant made the jump to law school

Gold medallist Michael Stuart exemplifies academic excellence

Priscilla Popp - 08 June 2022

Michael Stuart, ‘15 BCom, ’22 JD, had a plan. After graduating from the Alberta School of Business, he set a goal to earn a Chartered Professional Accountant designation, and, following completion of that, to start law school. Now recently graduated and this year’s recipient of the Horace Harvey Medal in Law, the Faculty’s highest honour for the graduating JD student with the top marks, that plan has come to full fruition.

“It sounds cliché, but it really does take a village; this success wasn’t mine alone,” he said, adding that he is grateful for his supportive family, friends, classmates and passionate professors.

Of course, even the greatest of plans can’t account for some unexpected bumps and surprises along the way. Stuart knows that first hand.

“When I showed up to Orientation in September of 2019, I never in a million years would have predicted that half of my time in school would be spent online in the midst of a pandemic – I’d never even heard of Zoom at that point!” he said.

“But, even through all that, I leave with a new appreciation for so many areas of our legal system, a group of friends that I’ll have the rest of my life, and memories that I’ll look back on fondly for years to come.”

Despite the unique situation that Stuart found himself in alongside other law students, he was still able to achieve a number of awards and accolades throughout his academic career, including the Canadian Petroleum Tax Society Prize in Corporate Taxation in 2021, awarded to the student who achieves the highest grade in the Corporate Taxation course.

Before beginning law school, Stuart spent four years in various accounting and tax roles at Deloitte, where, he said, he developed skill sets that would later help him achieve success at the Faculty.

“My mentors taught me how to identify issues, solve problems and communicate solutions. Those skills came in handy come exam time, no matter the subject,” he said.

Stuart is now able to bring both an accounting and legal background to the projects before him.

“The idea of being able to look at a problem through both the accounting and legal lenses is really exciting to me. And, while choosing to put a career I enjoyed on hold for three years to come back to school was a difficult decision, that decision was so worth it in the end,” he said.

Stuart is currently articling with Felesky Flynn LLP’s Edmonton office, with plans to stay in the city and practise as a tax lawyer after being called to the bar.

“I moved to Edmonton from Vancouver more than a decade ago to complete my undergrad degree at the U of A, and haven’t left since. I met my wife here, built a career here, and found a really wonderful community here. There are so many great things happening in Edmonton that might go unnoticed in other parts of the country, and I couldn’t be more excited for my next chapter to unfold in this city,” he said.