By Pascal Zamprelli
Recent McGill law graduate Sam Walker wasn’t sure who was trying to call him one morning a few weeks ago when his ringing cell phone’s call display read “private number,” so he wasn’t sure he should bother answering. He’s glad he did – on the other end of the line was Justice Morris Fish of the Supreme Court of Canada, calling to offer Walker one of the most prestigious legal jobs in the country: Supreme Court clerk.
“You know, fetching coffee, giving massages,” Walker joked when asked what his duties will entail. That sense of humour will come in handy, as being a Supreme Court clerk in fact means long hours of research, analysis, and drafting of judgments, with an unremitting commitment to intellectual rigour expected throughout.
But it is also a superb opportunity for a budding jurist to gain extraordinary exposure to the country’s top legal minds as they deliberate over most important issues of the day.
“You get to be part of a small group of people helping make very important decisions that have a huge impact on the everyday lives of Canadians,” Walker said. “It’s a great privilege to be put in that position.”
And it’s a privilege that an impressive number of McGill students have known in recent years. Walker is one of seven to have been chosen this year (to begin in 2011). Given that each of the nine judges gets three clerks, there are 27 spaces to fill with students from Canada’s 21 law faculties. It is quite a feat for one school to land more than a quarter of the clerkships. What’s more, McGill’s success has become something of a tradition: from 2001 to 2009 inclusively, a whopping 54 clerks have come from McGill, including a record eight in both 2006 and 2007.
One major reason for the streak is that students from McGill, who are bilingual and earn degrees in both of Canada’s legal systems (civil and common law), are naturally in high demand at the court that hears cases from across the land.
Joining Walker will be Jasmine Wahhab (Justice LeBel), James Gibson (Justice Deschamps), Perri Ravon (Justice Deschamps), Seo Yun Yang (Justice Charron), Anja Grabundzija (Justice Rothstein), and Alexandre Bien-Aimé (Justice Cromwell).
All of them can look forward to a demanding but rewarding experience, and they can all expect a year during which they will be far too busy to fetch any coffee.