Justice Anne Kirker, newly appointed to the Court of Queen’s Bench of Alberta, never imagined herself a judge. In fact, at one time she thought she would spend her entire career inside of a hospital.
Kirker started her post-secondary education at the University of Alberta, where she obtained a bachelor of science degree in nursing. She became a pediatric nurse at the Calgary Children’s Hospital, but in 1988, in the midst of an illegal nursing strike, her curiosity about the law was piqued. Finding it difficult to reconcile what the union was asking her to do with her duty to patients, Kirker went to work as normal during the strike; a decision, she said, that most colleagues respected.
Wanting to better understand how the issues like those at the centre of the labour dispute could be resolved lawfully, Kirker decided to pursue a legal education, enrolling in the Faculty of Law at the University of Calgary.
Kirker was called to the Alberta bar in 1992, eventually becoming a partner at Norton Rose Fulbright with a focus on dispute resolution and professional liability, the role she held until her appointment to the Court of Queen’s Bench, last May.
She worked in private practice for 26 years, during which time she also served as a board member of the Alberta Law Reform Institute, and as a member of the Alberta Lawyers' Insurance Exchange Advisory Board. In 2012, she was recognized with a Queen’s Counsel Appointment, and in 2016, she was inducted as a Fellow of the American College of Trial Lawyers.
“My journey to law school was a little bit different than most. I didn’t know any lawyers, and I didn’t understand or appreciate the role laws play in our society,” she said.
However, by the time of her appointment, she understood the enormity of being appointed to the bench.
“I was tremendously honoured. I was humbled. I felt so very privileged to be given the opportunity to serve,” she said.
Kirker’s attitude and caring persona are no surprise to those who know her at UAlberta Law. Kirker is a longtime friend of the Faculty, in part due to her involvement with the Law Society of Alberta, with which she volunteered for 20 years.
From 2016-2017, she served as president of the LSA, and at the end of her presidency, she and her husband Scott, a graduate of UAlberta Law, established the Law Society of Alberta President’s Award. It is awarded to graduating law students who exemplify “the high standards of conduct the Law Society of Alberta expects from its members.”
Jason Harley (2017) and Robert Marquette (2018) are the first two recipients.
“Professional responsibility and ethics have always been important to me and having committed so much time to the LSA over so many years, as my work there came to a close I felt compelled to establish the award as a way to encourage future generations of lawyers to continue the effort,” she said.
As she moves into the next chapter of her career, Kirker offered the following words of wisdom to anyone who may be just starting out.
“A legal career can bring so many unexpected rewards. It can lead you in directions you never dreamed of.”