Jon Sigurdson arrived at law school in the fall of 1970 amidst great change. “I was one of the first Canadian students to write the LSAT,” he recalls. “Law school then was really focused on case study and the Socratic method,” Sigurdson said, but added that a number of younger professors - Chris Carr, Diana Davidson, and Steven Wexler - aimed to give their students a broader, more social view of the law.
Sigurdson has maintained his connection to UBC post-graduation both through his wife Lynn Smith, Dean of the law school from 1991-1997, and through his work with the UBC Law Alumni Association. He proudly notes that students today are “much better at research and writing” than in generations past. Writing, Sigurdson says, is one of the most important skills in the legal profession. He credits his role as a judge in learning how to write judicial decisions.
Sigurdson articled at Bull Housser, where he notes that the articling process was much less formal than it is today. Still, it was no easy transition from law school to articling. He spent a year articling under Bill Essen before starting up his own firm with his colleagues Don Monroe, Rick Watts, John Fraser and Steve Kelleher.
In the 1980s Sigurdson recalls seeing two major changes in law: the Charter and the popularizing of the billable hour. “In the 1980s, law was becoming more business-based and there was a greater focus on hours.” As a judge, Sigurdson thankfully notes, he is no longer required to bill by the hour.
The Charter, Sigurdson says, has had the biggest impact on criminal law and aboriginal law. With the advent of the Charter, cases in aboriginal law “are now provable.”
Sigurdson was influential in the creation of the UBC Law Alumni Association and remains a director of the organization. Talking with the Allard Law History Project, Sigurdson took time to reflect on the importance of the newly created Allard Hall building. He credits the new building for upholding the law school’s reputation.