Unsung Hero: Malcolm Lavoie

The Editorial Committee is pleased to introduce this issue’s Unsung Hero: Malcolm Lavoie. No stranger to issues around federalism, Malcolm recently appeared before the Supreme Court of Canada in R v Comeau on behalf of an intervener and his scholarship received considerable attention in submissions from other parties before the court in the same case. In humbly relating the experience, Malcolm acknowledged that it was “a bit odd” to be sitting at the counsel table and listening to another lawyer refer to the view of one “Professor Lavoie”. An impressive feat for any lawyer (how many of us can claim to have appeared before the Supreme Court, or have our research quoted by others in argument before the court, let alone both?), but particularly so given Malcolm’s (relatively) junior vintage.

Malcolm was admitted as a member of the Law Society of Alberta in 2013, after articling at a national firm in Calgary and clerking for the Hon. Justice Frans Slatter of the Alberta Court of Appeal. Thereafter, Malcolm went on to clerk for the Hon. Justice Rosalie Abella of the Supreme Court of Canada and then to complete his Masters in Law at Harvard. He is currently a candidate for the Doctor of Juridical Science degree at Harvard (his doctoral thesis, entitled Property Law and Indigenous Self-Government, is nearly complete), where he has been a Frank Knox Memorial Fellow, Fulbright Scholar, Weatherhead Center Graduate Research Fellow, and Project on the Foundations of Private Law Fellow. Malcolm is also an avid swimmer, and a former Canadian national champion, All-Canadian and member of Canada’s national swim team.

Malcolm is currently an assistant professor at the University of Alberta’s law school, where he works primarily on the areas of property law, Aboriginal law and Canadian federalism. The areas that he writes about often involve conflicts of underlying values, something that he has always found interesting. For example, his article R. v. Comeau and Section 121 of the Constitution Act, 1867: Freeing the Beer and Fortifying the Economic Union, dealt with the tension between the values associated with provincial autonomy and local self-government and the values associated with free trade, including economic efficiency. In discussing his experiences in law school and clerking, Malcolm explained that he believes important perspectives are often missing in discussions about Canadian law, including both economic perspectives and “old-school” liberal perspectives that emphasize the importance of legal certainty and predictability.

Malcolm was drawn to the law for a number of reasons, not least of which relates to his love of the show Law & Order as a child and a desire to be like Jack McCoy (if you meet Malcolm, you must ask him about the “Lavoie & Order” emblazoned on his softball uniform while playing for the SCC law clerks’ “Bench Warmers” team). Another reason stems from his belief that the law can distill the wisdom of the past and be a guarantor of personal liberty: “The legal system lets us down from time to time, but I’m happy to report that I still basically do believe that to be true.”

Malcolm will soon be adding “dad” to his list of titles and accomplishments, as he and his wife Moira are currently expecting their first child in the fall.

We look forward to what we anticipate will be a great many future contributions to the law from Malcolm Lavoie. Jack McCoy has nothing on you!   

Do you know an Unsung Hero?  Tell us about them.

If you know a lawyer who deserves to be recognized, please send us an email to newslet@cba-alberta.org with the lawyer’s name and the reasons why you believe they are an “unsung hero”.  The only formal requirements for nomination are that our “unsung hero” be an Alberta Lawyer and a CBA member.  

Kristjana Kellgren is in-house counsel with the Alberta Utilities Commission. In addition to her practice, Kristjana is a member of the CBA Alberta Editorial Committee and will be co-teaching an administrative law class at the University of Alberta this fall.