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For many, the word "clerk" brings to mind Bob Cratchit - a timorous type with a pencil behind the ear, toiling in thankless obscurity. Eight students from the McGill Faculty of Law likely take a different view, however, after being chosen this year to work as clerks for the judges of the Supreme Court of Canada.
The Supreme Court clerkships are among the most coveted posts in the country, and it is a tribute to the calibre of McGill's law faculty that eight of 27 clerkships were given to its students. There are a total of 20 law schools in Canada, many of which are larger than McGill's.
"A clerkship is a rite of passage for a future leader in the law, in particular for future academics. It bears noting that two of the faculty's most recent hires are former clerks, and that we have a dozen or so former clerks on staff as professors," said a clearly pleased Nicholas Kasirer, dean of Law.
At the Supreme Court, clerks work closely with the judge to whom are they are assigned, hearing cases, conducting research and helping to draft judgments. The clerkships are also a conduit into a variety of top legal posts, including those at universities, corporate law firms and international courts. Plus, they're fun.
"One thing I remember is that when you finish the job, you're concerned that you've had the best job of your life way too early," recalls Professor Frédéric Bachand, who clerked for retired Justice Gérard La Forest.
Bachand was recently tasked with supervising the applications to the Court by this year's students. For a success rate that is perennially high, he credits the quality of the students, the diligence of the faculty's admissions staff and the nature of legal education at McGill.
"What distinguishes us is that we always try to get students to never forget about justice. We instill a sense of thinking that's very relevant to what the Court does, developing and training to students to think about the law in a broader sense."
This year's group of students bound for the Court in Ottawa are: Delphine Lourteau (Chief Justice Beverley McLachlin), Sylvia Rich and Jean-Michel Boudreau (Justice Ian Binnie), Véronique Roy (Justice Louis LeBel), Jason MacLean (Justice Marie Deschamps), Tam Boyar (Justice Morris Fish), Rohan Gulrajani (Justice Rosalie Abella) and Kelly Doctor (Justice Louise Charron).