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Student Legal Services 2018/2019

Dear 1Ls,


Welcome to the University of Alberta’s Faculty of Law. I’m sure you’ve heard that a dozen times or so already, but that’s only because your being here is worth multiple congratulations. Get used to reading/hearing it, and enjoy the novelty while it lasts.


You either already know, or will quickly learn, that law school isn’t trade school. It’s academic. The theory and substance of what you learn here will serve you very well for decades to come, but it shouldn’t be confused for the practice of law. It’s sort of like how your LSAT scores don’t define how talented of a lawyer you will become. The grades you will receive (and scores you’ve received already) are clean, standardized, and imperfect.


Academia studies and understands the world, but the world operates all on its own. It is beautiful and terrifying. Clients haven’t been to law school, and so your job will be more than understanding what the law is. Practicing, in whatever field you choose, means that you’ll not only have to apply abstract principles to a specific circumstance but also explain what the hell is going on to whoever you’re working with. That’s all before you get in front of a judge, when the real “performance” starts. The point is you’ve started down an incredibly demanding career path, and you have no idea of all of the things you don’t know yet. The best way to broaden those horizons is to jump in. Get your feet wet. That’s what SLS offers.


Whatever area of law you’re interested in, SLS can give you experience that you won’t find anywhere else. You can help someone not get screwed out of alimony payments, or avoid a criminal record they don’t deserve. You can help resolve a landlord-tenant dispute, educate a vulnerable sector of the public about their legal rights, and so much more. When my predecessor told me I could be speaking in front of a judge within a month of starting classes, I thought they were crazy. Two years later I’ve run enough trials and cross-examined enough police officers and security guards that it is, indeed, crazy.


Helping real people resolve real legal problems is uplifting, but failing can be just as valuable a learning opportunity. Learning how to handle the downs is just as important as learning how to create the ups. Understanding that both wins and losses might have more to do with the cards you were dealt than your playing skill is perhaps the most valuable lesson of all. Be excited; there’s a whole world of highs and lows, of challenge and opportunity, of strife and glory out there waiting for you. If you want to be a lawyer you’ll experience all of that sooner or later. You’re shielded from the pain and the ugliness in class, but also deprived of the joy and satisfaction that comes from helping someone through the most difficult thing they’ve ever faced.


SLS is a great opportunity, and the most important thing I’ve ever done. Come share the experience. Stop me and say “hi” in the hallway. Ask questions. Be passionate and ignorant and eager to learn, because that world is waiting for you whether you jump in now or not.


Andrew Dirgo

Executive Coordinator 2018

Student Legal Services of Edmonton