Two UAlberta Law graduates land coveted clerkships at Supreme Court of Canada

Joanne Cave and Leah Strand's selection makes it six recent clerks from this law school

Helen Metella - 13 March 2020

Two graduates of the University of Alberta Faculty of Law will be clerks at the Supreme Court of Canada in 2021-2022.

Joanne Cave, '20 JD, was chosen last week to clerk for the Rt. Hon. Richard Wagner, PC, the Chief Justice of Canada. Leah Strand, '19 JD, will clerk for the Hon. Russell Brown, a former Faculty member.

That means the total number of students the law school has sent to the country's top court is six in five years.

Joanne Cave

For Cave, clerking for the Chief Justice of Canada is both an exciting honour and proof that persistent dedication can overcome onerous obstacles.

"My first year of law school was pretty tough," said the former Rhodes Scholar. "I was used to being a good student but I couldn't apply myself. I was focused on other things."

Just prior to starting law school, Cave lost her mother to early-onset Alzheimer's disease. In the last stage of her mother's life, her father was diagnosed with the disease, too. So in addition to her studies, Cave spent the equivalent of several days each week at his home, making meals, completing household chores, liaising with doctors and a homecare nurse, and fielding calls when her father wandered away from home.

While Cave was a summer student for MLT Aikins following first year, her father disappeared for almost 36 hours. It's believed he walked downtown from his home in Sherwood Park. A Good Samaritan reported him to police after seeing him on a median of the Yellowhead Highway, dehydrated and dishevelled.

"It was extremely stressful," said Cave, who subsequently moved her father into extended living before starting second year.

Despite such formidable duties, Cave belonged to the Women's Law Forum all three years at UAlberta Law and volunteered for all of the projects delivered by Student Legal Services - civil/family law, criminal law, legal education and reform, and the SAGE Wills Clinic through Pro Bono Students Canada. For her dedication to those programs and to other access-to-justice issues, she was awarded the Faculty of Law's 2020 Cecilia Johnstone Equality Award, earlier this month.

During her upper-year law classes, Cave also became engrossed by studies in constitutional, Aboriginal and environmental law, which supported the interests she'd developed while earning a double major in women's' studies and sociology at the University of Toronto, and two, one-year master's programs in public policy while a Rhodes Scholar at Oxford.

Following her convocation in June, Cave will clerk at the Court of Appeal of Alberta in Edmonton. She'll finish her articles at MLT Aikins and then begin her clerkship at the Supreme Court of Canada in September 2021.

Leah Strand

Leah Strand was instrumental in bringing success and renown to UAlberta Law long before her clerkship to the Supreme Court of Canada was announced.

In 2019, she was a member of the Gale Cup Moot team that not only won the most prestigious moot competition in Canada, but went on to win the Commonwealth Moot, a competition of 10 law schools from the world's Commonwealth countries, held in Livingstone, Zambia.

At the Gale Cup, Strand was also named Top Oralist, while at the Commonwealth she won Best Mooter of the final round. She made the Dean's List all three years of law school and at graduation was awarded the George Bligh O'Connor Silver Medal in Law and was chosen valedictorian of her class.

The opportunity to clerk at the Supreme Court of Canada plays directly to her strengths.

"I'm passionate about persuasive advocacy, and to persuade judges you need to think like a judge," she said. "I think this will be a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to see how the law develops, first-hand, and to improve my writing skills."

During law school, Strand was a member of the Alberta Law Review's editorial board, a member of the Women's Law Forum, a volunteer with Student Legal Services, Pro Bono Students Canada and the Edmonton Community Legal Centre, and played on the women's law hockey team, Swift Justice.

Prior to entering UAlberta Law Strand earned a bachelor of arts in English and communications from the University of Lethbridge, after transferring from Red Deer College.

She will complete a clerkship with the Court of Appeal of Alberta at the end of March, then moves to Calgary to finish articling with McCarthy Tetrault. She begins her clerkship at the Supreme Court in August 2021.