Clerkships 2021-22 | Student Stories | Spring & Summer 2021 | NEXUS Magazine | The Faculty of Law | UNB

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For a second straight year, a UNB Law grad lands Supreme Court of Canada clerkship

Third-year student Erik Arsenault has been selected to clerk for The Hon. Justice Andromache Karakatsanis at the Supreme Court of Canada. Erik will begin his one-year term in August of 2022 following the completion of a clerkship at the Ontario Court of Appeal.

“I know it's a little cliché, but surreal is the only way I can describe it,” said Arsenault. “I have loved my time at UNB Law because it allowed me to engage with difficult, thorny legal issues. The clerkship will give me the chance to engage with those types of questions in real cases—and I get to work on those issues with very bright and dedicated people. Of course, I am a little nervous; there’s a big difference between swinging wide on a federalism question in Dr. Froc's 1L constitutional class and at the Supreme Court.”

As a clerk, Erik will be responsible for assisting Justice Karakatsanis in several of her functions, such as researching points of law, writing bench memos, editing and translating drafts for speeches and decisions, and attending hearings.

“I love the academic side of the law, so the opportunity to read and write on novel and unconventional legal issues is something that I really look forward to. I plan on litigating after my clerkships, so watching people litigate before the Court and learn through osmosis is also something I am very excited about.”

This marks the second year in a row that a UNB Law student has secured a clerkship at Canada’s top court. These coveted positions are highly competitive, requiring academic excellence and a robust application process. Candidates compete for one of 36 positions against hundreds of applicants from law schools across the country. Erik joins the company of Curtis Doyle (JD ‘20), who is set to begin his SCC clerkship this summer.

“I worked extremely hard to get here; harder than I ever thought I could,” said Arsenault. “I wanted to clerk at the Supreme Court as soon as I learned that it was an option. I am very proud and grateful to finally see all that work pay off. I am relieved that all those nights in the McKay room and room 2A weren't for nothing.”

Erik received the call from Justice Karakatsanis while away for the weekend in St. Andrews.

“I spent that whole Friday turning notifications off and on my phone. Eventually, I convinced myself that it was not going to happen. My girlfriend had just convinced me that the process might take longer when my phone rang.”

He immediately called his parents at home in Mundleville, New Brunswick (near Richibucto) to share the good news.

“When I finally got through, my mom immediately started to cry. I also called Dean Marin and Professor Thomson, who made this entire process possible. Their encouragement and guidance are invaluable, and I cannot thank them enough for all they have done.”

Students heading to the FCA and NBCA

Third-year student Lori Wareham will clerk at the Federal Court of Appeal in Ottawa (2022-23) for The Hon. J.D. Denis Pelletier. Lori is a first-generation university graduate from Mount Pearl, Newfoundland. She came to law school with an engineering background and had no knowledge of the clerkship process.

“Clerking wasn't a concept I was even familiar with until attending a speaker series in 1L. I hadn't considered it as something that would be realistic for me until I took my first paper course with Prof. Thomson—she really encouraged me to apply. Once I looked into the clerkship program and the different courts, I realized pretty quickly the FCA would be my 'shoot for the stars' application.”

Wareham is thankful for the encouragement of her professors, and their help throughout the intensive—and at times stressful—application process.

“Knowing those mentors took the time from their busy schedules to write recommendation letters, or to meet and discuss interviews, was really moving and made me feel so lucky as a student to have those connections.”

Lori plans to complete her articles with McInnes Cooper in Halifax before heading to Ottawa. As for her plans after her clerkship, Lori hopes to pursue an LLM.

“I hope to complete an LLM, either immediately afterward or return to practice for a bit before. I'm not fully sure where my path will lead me, but I hope to keep some sort of balance between practice and academics. The FCA will be such an important experience in applying for an LLM and helping me on my career trajectory.”

Second-year student, Alden Spencer, a Creston, Newfoundland native, will be one of two clerks working for the Justices of the New Brunswick Court of Appeal. Alden got a taste of the clerkship role as she completed an internship with the Court this past semester. She is honoured to have been selected and looks forward to continuing her work with the NBCA.

“I still suffer from imposter syndrome at the best of times, so this position really reminds me that I am where I am supposed to be! I will be working on many of the appeals that the court hears and will discuss cases with the justices before and after the hearings. I am most looking forward to hearing both sides of the appeal and getting to learn not only from the excellent justices on the panel, but also the wonderful lawyers that will argue in front of them!”

Upon completion of her clerkship, Alden plans to return to Newfoundland and Labrador to practice.

“Ideally, I would like to work with the Newfoundland and Labrador Legal Aid Commission, but I have not ruled out private practice—especially private criminal defence! I think this clerkship will give me a unique perspective for my clients. I will have insight into how judges make their decisions, what results in appeals, and what makes a convincing argument.”

For Dean Michael Marin, these remarkable students continue to represent the recent success of the UNB Law clerkship program.

“Our students are competitive not only in Atlantic Canada but nationally. These clerkships are a testament to this, and speak to the hard work of our students and the dedication of our faculty members.”

UNB Law would also like to wish the best of luck to students who will begin their 2021 clerkships this August; Curtis Doyle, Supreme Court of Canada; Erik Arsenault, Ontario Court of Appeal; Caitlin Gallant, Ontario Superior Court of Justice; Dominque Goguen, Ontario Superior Court of Justice; Shayna Levine-Poch, Federal Court of Canada; Charles White, Ontario Superior Court of Justice; and Sonny Xue, Tax Court of Canada.

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