Jane Shackell was just 20 years old when she entered the Allard School of Law in 1981, after completing three years of her Bachelor of Arts in political science at UBC.
Beyond the “impressive” faculty and course offerings, her first impression was that of a strong sense of community among students, one which would only grow stronger in her three years at the school.
“We spent those three years in each other’s company all the time, so we developed many, many strong and many lasting relationships, many of which I still have in my life and really treasure,” Shackell said. “It was a very foundational experience and time in my life … Those friendships were sustaining and guiding, and I learned a huge amount from my fellow law students, and we’ve travelled down the years together – many of us – and it’s been a joy.”
In the 36 year since her graduation, Shackell has run a successful business law practice and was recognized with the Queen’s Counsel designation in 1999.
She is also known for serving as an ad hoc member of both the Canadian and British Columbian human rights tribunals.
Shackell, who is a Life Bencher with Law Society of British Columbia, was also one of the founding members of the West Coast Legal Education and Action Fund, better known as LEAF. The organization arose out of heightened interest in the equality guarantees introduced in Section 15 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, which came into force in April 1985. Through litigation, law reform, and education, the organization seeks to use the law to work towards equality for women and other people who experience gender-based discrimination.
“It seemed to a lot of people that it would be important for governments to have advice and assistance from interested people in their efforts to update legislation (to bring it into compliance with Section15),” Shackell said. “There would probably be some test case litigation to be done in order to persuade government of the needs of women and other equality-seeking groups.”
“We prided ourselves on having some significant impacts on the decisions that were made in the early years of the Charter. It’s something I’m very, very proud to have been a part of and still proud to be associated with.”
In addition to her busy career, Shackell has remained involved with the Allard community, including through the Steven Volrich Memorial Bursary, which Shackell’s graduating class set up to honour the courage of Steven Volrich, a classmate who died of terminal cancer shortly after completing his degree. The bursary provides up to $2,250 in annual financial support to a student in need at the Allard School of Law, with preference given to students with disabilities.
“It’s important to me because my experience at law school was very positive and profoundly influential in my life. Law has been a very good career for me. I’ve had a huge number of opportunities and a very good life from doing this work. I want to help young people who want to adopt this as a career,” she said. “It was expensive to go to law school when I went. It’s still expensive now, so we can’t all adopt a law student, but we can all do our little bit to help.”