Supreme Court Justice Greets First Year Class at Orientation 2016

The Hon. Mr. Justice Russell Brown encouraged the class of 2019 to be problem solvers in their legal careers.

Law Communications - 12 September 2016

It's not every law student who can say that he or she had the opportunity to hear from a Supreme Court Justice on his or her first day of law school, but the first year students from the Class of 2019 at the University of Alberta Faculty of Law can now make that claim. The Hon. Mr. Justice Russell Brown - a faculty member from 2004 to 2013, both as a professor and as Associate Dean for his final two years - was in Edmonton on Tuesday, September 6, to deliver the keynote address at Orientation 2016 and a public lecture on September 7.

Justice Brown began his address with greetings from The Right Hon. Madam Justice Beverley McLachlin, P.C., Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Canada, an alumna of the Faculty. He encouraged students to devote themselves to their studies, noting that studying law can be transformational, and that "if you do law school right - by making a commitment and devoting yourselves as completely as you can to it - that you will be ready when you leave this place to make your clients' lives better."

The official program for Orientation 2016 began with a ceremonial blessing from Eric Daniels, Elder, and also included welcome remarks from Dean Paul D. Paton and Law Students' Association President Nick Todd. In his remarks, Dean Paton acknowledged the honour of Justice Brown's attendance and also encouraged students to learn about one another and appreciate the group's diversity.

"The Class of 2019 - which includes accountants and animal biologists, civil and computer engineers, scholars of French, gender studies, and Greek & Latin, kinesiologists, philosophers, and physicists - represents a remarkable diversity of race, gender, aboriginal or indigenous status, sexual orientation, and place of origin," said Dean Paton, "something that the University of Alberta Faculty of Law both celebrates and values."

In addition to Justice Brown's address, students heard other words of wisdom from distinguished members of the Edmonton bar and bench, who welcomed the students to the legal community and the legal profession in Alberta. The Hon. Madam Justice Frederica Schutz brought greetings and words of wisdom from the Court of Appeal of Alberta. During her remarks, Justice Schutz reflected on her own time as a first-year law student, encouraging students to overcome their individual struggles, to study diligently, and to conduct themselves with integrity on the journey to becoming exceptional lawyers and trusted advisors.

Representing the Law Society of Alberta and the Canadian Bar Association - Alberta Branch, were President Anne Kirker, Q.C., and President Jeremiah Kowalchuk. President Kirker spoke about the importance of lawyers living up to their responsibilities as professionals, and President Kowalchuk - an alumnus of the Faculty - spoke about the Canadian Bar Association, encouraging students to get involved in the mentorship program.

Judge Robert Philp, Chief of the Commission and Tribunals of the Alberta Human Rights Commission, spoke to students about the importance of balance in work and life, noting that the Alberta Lawyers' Assistance Society (Assist) is a tremendous resource available to law students, lawyers, and their immediate families - providing free and confidential counselling services - should the need arise.

At the conclusion of the program, the students and guests gathered outside the Law Centre for the traditional incoming class photo, followed by cohort-specific small group information sessions about the law school experience led by upper-year student volunteers. The Dean's annual Orientation BBQ - featuring a musical performance by Prof. Bruce Ziff and his band the Strawflowers, as well as an appearance by University of Alberta mascots Patches and Guba - closed out the day.

Thank you to Student Services staff, upper-year student volunteers, and representatives from the Alumni & Friends of the Faculty of Law Association, for your hard work leading up to Orientation and throughout the day. Your commitment to the Faculty and our students is deeply appreciated.