Law alumni share notes of inspiration and encouragement with students for McGill24

March 2021

In the leadup to McGill24, the university’s day of giving on March 10, we asked alumni to send in notes to encourage our students. Dozens obliged, sharing the ways they got through difficult situations as students, and urging students to focus on the light at the end of the tunnel. The messages were shared on the Faculty’s social media channels and in the Quid Novi. And by the end of McGill24, 295 donations from our generous community allowed us to unlock $128,000 in additional funds: we are grateful to all our donors!

Here are only some of the notes that alumni sent in.

Justice Mahmud Jamal“As you approach the end of what must have been a very challenging academic year, remember that all of you — without exception — have remarkable futures ahead. You are at the best law school in the country, if not the world. You have expertise in two major legal systems and both of Canada’s official languages. Set your sights high and have faith that you will reach your goals. As the saying goes — shoot for the moon, and even if you miss, you’ll still be among the stars. Even though some of you may not feel this today, the odds overwhelmingly favour your success. So good luck in this last push of the academic year, and all the very best in what lies ahead.”
Justice Mahmud Jamal, BCL/LLB’93


Valérie Black St-Laurent“I admire you all so much for going through law school in the midst of a global pandemic. Your strength, resilience, and capacity to adapt continuously amaze me and I promise that they will serve you well throughout your careers. Remember to take care of yourselves. Grades matter, but not nearly as much as you may think. Take some time for yourselves and breathe it through. You’re doing better than you think, I promise you that as well.”
Valérie Black St-Laurent (she/her), BCL/LLB’19


Souhila Baba“Wow. You made it this far, and in the midst of everything, you’re determined to persevere in the program and in life. Although it’s difficult to realize in the moment, the things you are doing now are the building blocks for a great career ahead of you. More than that, you are shaping the advocate you will become and the community around you. So, don’t be afraid to take a stand and make connections, reach out to each other, build a community, be bold, and enjoy every second of it.”
Souhila Baba, BCL/JD’20


“Les temps sont étranges! Mais, comme vous êtes chanceux d’être à Chancellor Day Hall. Les professeurs qui vous enseignent sont tous maîtres dans leurs domaines. Vous suivez des cours virtuels, et moi, depuis le début de cette pandémie, j’ai dû apprendre à tenir des audiences virtuelles! Et je suis plus âgé que vous. Alors, comme on dit au Quebec, ça va bien aller!”
Yves Fortier, BCL’58, DCL’01


Alexia Hefti“The challenges you faced during Covid-19 speak to what the future holds for you and for the law. […] This is an awakening. The profession […] will be disrupted. Everything is changing. Use Covid as a lesson and as an opportunity. Identify the problems you encountered during your studies, and find solutions. Do not go back to your old ways, and think about where the law will go.”
K. Alexia Hefti, BCL/LLB’16


Armand de Mestral“I chose McGill Law several times in my career: to study and to teach. I have never regretted my choices. Imagine learning from FR Scott and Max Cohen then going on to have six remarkable deans including Rod MacDonald and our current dean as colleagues. Our transsystemic program gets better all the time and is recognized around the world. I would not have wanted to study or teach elsewhere.”
Professor Armand de Mestral, BCL’66


Shelley Flam“Hang in there. Dark times WILL pass. It’s the nature of things. In the meantime, if you are struggling, please don’t be shy or ashamed to seek help or support from family, a trusted friend or a professional. Help and support make a BIG, BIG difference.”
Shelley Flam, BCL’90, LLB’90

Katia Opalka “Not a day goes by when something in my work doesn’t remind me of law school. For so many of my classes, while I may have learned the concept and passed the exam, it would take decades before I learned the lesson. You, my friends, are planting a garden in your minds. Let me tell you: watching it grow is incredible. Tenez bon les ami(e)s.”
Katia Opalka, BCL’97, LLB’97


Stuart Chelin“You are gaining a law degree from one of the world’s leading law schools. Yes… that’s correct. McGill is always high in the rankings. It is an exceptional institution. Be proud of where you are, and excited about launching a future from such a great place.”
Stuart N. Chelin, LLB’91


Stan Taviss“I can remember graduating in Law at McGill in 1956—probably before you were born. I have never regretted this wonderful education. Whether you end up practising Law as a career for decades, as I did, or whether you take the training your mind will have received to another vocation, you will benefit throughout all your life. Your mind will have forever followed paths of logic and reason, always defining terms and asking the key question, “What if?” Please do pursue your education at this Faculty of this great university.”
Stan Taviss, BCL’56


“Aussi difficiles que soient les circonstances actuelles, elles sont temporaires. Vos études sont un investissement dans votre avenir. Votre retour sur l’investissement durera les trente, quarante ou cinquante années que durera votre carrière, quelle qu’elle soit, et même si vous ne poursuivez pas une carrière juridique traditionnelle. Sélectionné.e.s parmi les meilleur.e.s, les diplômé.e.s de droit de McGill – et j’en suis (1982) – se félicitent toute leur vie de la formation rigoureuse et des diplômes prestigieux qu’ils-elles ont reçus, ainsi que des liens qu’ils-elles ont tissés avec leurs pairs. Je vous souhaite courage et solidarité en ces temps incertains.”
Professor François Crépeau


Seymour Trachimovsky“There is nothing more important for a lawyer than to challenge the conventional wisdom. Many of us have been focused on the action in the United States over the last few days and it’s most important not to be carried away by groupthink, a lawyer’s worst enemy. In particular, bear in mind the apothegm over [west side entranceway], Audi Alteram Partem, and let those words always be your guide.”
Seymour Trachimovsky, LLB’73


Don-Ray Simmonds“In English we wouldn’t say “have courage” or “good luck” or “hang in there” if you were going about your daily tasks, but in France the term “bon courage” is something that is often said because it’s seen as a means of providing inspiration – encouragement. So I say to you, “bon courage.” This time in your life will form a part of your personal legacy, embrace it.”
Don-Ray Simmonds, BCL/LLB’12


Fernando Garcia“I remember it as if it were yesterday, the stress of finishing law school, of finding an articling role and the uncertainty regarding what my legal career would look like. Fifteen years later, looking back, everything turned out great. Although not always as planned, opportunities arose when I was least expecting them to. I would do nothing different, except I would tell myself, 15 years ago, to stress less, enjoy the experience more, and to be confident that I was well trained and able to hit the ground running, and add value immediately once given the chance. Yes, COVID-19 has made a stressful and anxious time even more so, but always remember the words of a very wise leader who once said, “that only when it is dark enough can you see the stars.” Keep your spirits up and get ready for your opportunity to shine!”
Fernando Garcia, BCL/LLB’04


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