Gold medal graduate appreciates the value of teamwork

Taylor Thiesen wins 2019 Horace Harvey Medal in Law

Helen Metella - 12 June 2019

The University of Alberta Faculty of Law Class of 2019 that graduates today is 173 students strong, and topping its ranks is a student who says law school provided him with a revelation about success he'd never encountered before.

Taylor Thiesen is the recipient of the Horace Harvey Medal in Law (known informally as the Faculty's gold medal), which is awarded to the student graduating with a Juris Doctor degree who achieved the highest grades throughout all three years of law school. The gold medal also automatically grants him the Mr. Justice WG Morrow Memorial Prize.

Additionally, Thiesen's hard work as a law student earned him a clerkship at the Court of Queen's Bench of Alberta, which began in early June.

While he acknowledges the role his long hours of study in the law library played, Thiesen gives credit to a valuable resource he hadn't previously realized existed - his fellow students.

"If you really want to succeed in law school, you can't go it alone," he said. "For the first time in my academic career, I found myself comparing notes and working through difficult concepts with friends, and at times even making significant use of materials prepared by others. It sounds cliché, but I think being in a program with a lot of very competent friends and fellow students showed me the value of collaboration."

Thiesen achieved his outstanding academic record while also acting in Law Show all three years, and serving as a member of the editorial board of the Alberta Law Review and as co-president of the Runnymede Society, for two years each.

The society is a non-partisan organization dedicated to exploring the rule of law, constitutionalism and individual liberty, which it does by hosting debates and panel discussions in law schools across the country. One of its most high-profile events at UAlberta was a debate between Professor Eric Adams and Ranjan Agarwal, the counsel for Trinity Western University, before the evangelical Christian university lost its legal battle at the Supreme Court for a planned new law school.

"Taylor's exceptional academic standing throughout law school is an impressive and inspiring accomplishment, especially in light of the time-intensive activities he undertook with the Alberta Law Review and the Runnymede Society, not to mention being involved with Law Show," said the Faculty of Law's Dean Paul Paton,.

"We are enormously proud to celebrate his academic achievements as Gold Medallist and his contributions to a law school rightly lauded for producing very intelligent and well-rounded future lawyers."

Since June 3, Thiesen has been clerking at the Court of Queen's Bench, an internship that runs through March. Following that, he will complete his articles at Reynolds Mirth Richards and Farmer LLP in Edmonton.

His longer-term plans are to practice in litigation, possibly in employment law. Short term, no doubt there's a celebration in store, because there's nothing sweeter than a hard-won goal that's been attained.

"It's quite an amazing feeling," said Thiesen. "I hoped I was a contender and it was definitely something I worked for, but with such strong competition, I can't say I was expecting it."