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, Bill Black and Michael Jackson, among others, - aimed to give their students a broader, more socially conscious, 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 from his law school 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, particularly of course in the judiciary. The more recent generation of law students from Allard Law, as revealed by the law clerks it produces, are generally excellent writers.
Sigurdson articled at Bull Housser, where he notes that the articling process was much less formal than it is today. Still, like it is for most students, it was no easy transition from law school to articling. He spent a year articling under and working for Bill Esson, later Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of BC before joining a brand-new firm made up UBC grads Don Monroe, Rick Watts, John Fraser and classmates Steve Kelleher and Stein Gudmundseth.
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.
Sigurdson was influential in the resurgence 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 and enhancing the law school’s reputation.