Each fall and spring, the Provincial Court of BC welcomes students from the Peter A. Allard School of Law at the University of British Columbia (UBC) as interns. Since 2007, the Court and the law school have partnered in Canada’s only Judicial Externship Program, in which final-year students earn academic credits as they spend a term working with judges.
The interns’ work includes research, preparing memoranda, and attending trials and other proceedings. Judges volunteer their time to liaise with the law school, mentor interns, and teach them subjects including judicial independence, judgment writing, sentencing, and youth court and child protection procedures. The interns are assigned to a courthouse (or a rotation of courthouses to ensure exposure to all aspects of the Court’s work) and work with judges four days a week. On the fifth day they will attend a workshop with Professor Emma Cunliffe, the Allard Law faculty member responsible for the program, and adjunct professor Jeffrey Locke, a program alumnus.
This fall, the usual number of eight interns has been reduced to five to ensure that social distancing can be maintained. With funding from the Law Foundation of BC, in previous years each student has accompanied a court party to a series of remote court locations (called a “circuit court”). While the program this year may differ because of COVID-19, this aspect of the program gives students a chance to see justice in action in smaller, remote communities. See last month’s eNews, Circuit court – through the eyes of a law student, for one intern's enthusiastic account of her experience on Haida Gwaii.
Interns travel to circuit courts
Above – Anahim Lake Airport en route to Bella Coola
Left – travelling by boat from Bella Bella to Klemtu
Judges are always impressed by the interns’ breadth of experience and accomplishments. Our autumn 2020 law interns have undergraduate degrees in arts and science from universities across Canada, and one has a master’s degree in philosophy. Their academic achievements include being awarded the Walter D Young Prize for the best student in Canadian politics and serving as Faculty of Arts valedictorian at McGill University. At law school, their volunteer contributions include serving as a peer tutor, associate editor of the UBC Law Review, instructor for Legal Education Outreach, and phone operator for the Justice Education Society’s legal information hotline, as well as participating in the Law Students Legal Advice Program.
The students bring varied life and work experience to their legal careers, having lived in the UK or worked as a subway and bus operator, research assistant, legal intern with professional organizations, or for charities and non-profit organizations. They have often gained legal experience as summer students working with BC law firms. In addition, they have been involved with organizations including Indigenous groups, mentorship programs, the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation, MS Society, Ch’nook Indigenous Business Education, Pivot Legal Society, West Coast LEAF, Girl Guides of Canada, More Than A Roof Housing Society, Atira Women’s Resource Society, Pro Bono Students Canada, Asia-Pacific Law Club, Allard Law Women’s Caucus, and the Federation of Asian Canadian Lawyers (B.C.) Society.
Their spare time activities include singing, designing South Asian apparel, skiing, hiking, cycling, playing sports, coaching basketball, and travelling.
BC Provincial Court judges are looking forward to working with students once again in this win/win program. Reflecting on the program’s value to judges, Chief Judge Gillespie says, “Judges benefit from exposure to the varied perspectives of students from a younger generation, as well as from invaluable research assistance.”
Professor Cunliffe sees first-hand the benefits to students: “It is remarkable to see how students’ professional skills and confidence grow during their time with the Court. The judges and court staff are tremendously generous to them, and this program offers students an unparalleled opportunity to contribute to the administration of justice in BC. At UBC, we take real pride in our partnership with the Court for this program.”