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Alberta Law Review Banquet Features Justice Binnie

ALR

Kelsey Robertson (3L)

On February 27, 2013 the Alberta Law Review celebrated the anniversary of its 50th volume by hosting Justice Ian Binnie, Former Justice of the Supreme Court of Canada as the keynote speaker for an evening banquet. Over 130 people, including academic commentators, law students, and members of the legal profession, joined the ALR to commemorate this milestone. The ALR has been in continuous publication since 1955 and remains one of the only student-run legal journals in Canada.

In his speech, “Parting Shots from the Bench”, Justice Binnie highlighted the major events that influenced his time on the Supreme Court, and the surprising impact that the Charter had on shaping legal process and the consciousness of the Canadian public.

Of particular interest to law students were Justice Binnie’s tips to new (and upcoming) law school graduates. First, be an opportunist. If a file comes across your desk that is complex and interesting, but is not a typical case for your firm, take it! If you are given a hard time about taking on this particular file, ask yourself if this is the right firm for you. That interesting file might be your ticket to argue before the Alberta Court of Appeal or Supreme Court of Canada. Never shy away from a challenge.

Second, take charge of your legal education after law school. While you may feel that you have learned a lot during your time at law school, sadly your legal education has only begun. It is during the articling process, and your first few years past call, that you learn the art of lawyering. Client interviewing, settlement negotiations, and the cross examining witness are all skills that you develop in practice. If you want to be well versed in these particular art forms, it is up to you to make sure you develop them. Your law firm may be perfectly content to have you go through boxes of discovery evidence and preparing affidavits for the next few years, but this will not help you to become skilled at your craft. So take charge, make sure you attend discoveries, sit in on client meetings, and get banged up in Court while you are still new and humble. It is a lot harder to develop these skills when you are five years or more past call (and much more humiliating).

Lastly, always remember you are a valuable commodity for law firms. Bright, energetic individuals are always needed in the legal profession, and it is this energy that keeps files moving. While it may be difficult to remember during articling week, recent law school graduates are the lifeblood of the legal profession and these law firms need you more than you need them.