At just 23, Brian Bird may not yet possess the wisdom that comes with age but the Port Coquitlam man may need to prove he’s wise beyond his years at his new job.
Meet one of the Supreme Court of Canada’s newest hires.
The Archbishop Carney regional secondary school alumnus and recent UVic law grad said he’s excited to be joining the ranks of former deputy prime minister John Manley and former B.C. attorney general Geoff Plant when he begins a one-year clerkship next year at the country’s highest court in Ottawa.
And while September 2012 is still a long way off, Bird will be honing his legal research and writing skills in the meantime as a clerk at the B.C. Supreme Court in New Westminster beginning this August.
“The Supreme Court of Canada clerkship is kind of like the crown jewel for law students,” said Bird, who graduated from University of Victoria with a Bachelor of Laws just a few weeks ago. “So, to be completely honest, I didn’t think I’d even be in the competition for it, given how competitive it is.”
But in the hunt he was, beating out more than 170 applicants from across the country and being hand-picked for the job by Supreme Court Justice Louise Charron.
Although the court hires its clerks a full year and a half in advance, Bird said he didn’t get word that his application had even been accepted until just two weeks before his interview in Ottawa.
“There were people there interviewing with five or six different judges that day,” Bird told The Tri-City News. “I only got one interview and to get even one was an absolute honour.”
And so, spending less than 24 hours in the capital, Bird met with Justice Charron and impressed her enough that she hired him to be the trusted right-hand of her Supreme Court replacement when she retires at the end of the summer.
He won’t be the only one: Each of the nine Supreme Court judges hires three clerks for a total of 27 SCC clerks each year — from a pool of more than 200 applicants.
And once hired, the clerks must also undergo and successfully pass a security clearance and swear an oath of public service.
“It’s a big, big responsibility,” Bird said.
Indeed. The Citadel Heights resident will be responsible for researching and summarizing case law, preparing memos and offering his legal opinion on interpretations of laws as they pertain to the most pressing and important legal questions of our time.
“One of the first things one of my friends said to me was, ‘Congratulations Brian, are you scared?’ And I had certainly thought about that but… ‘scared’ isn’t the right word. I certainly have an understanding of the responsibility that comes along with it, especially at the Supreme Court of Canada, and I’m excited for it.”
As for his plans after the back-to-back stints at the superior courts of B.C. and Canada, Bird said he hopes to return to school for graduate studies and eventually teach law at the university level.
For now, he’s focusing on the tall tasks at hand.
“Now I know what it means when people say, ‘I’m so honoured just to be nominated.’” Bird said. “To assist with the administration of justice at the highest court in our country is just unreal. But I have until September 2012 now for it to become real.”
Supreme Court: what it is and what it does
From the Supreme Court website:
“The Supreme Court of Canada is Canada’s final court of appeal, the last judicial resort for all litigants, whether individuals or governments…
“The Supreme Court of Canada stands at the apex of the Canadian judicial system. The Canadian courts may be seen as a pyramid, with a broad base formed by the provincial and territorial courts whose judges are appointed by the provincial and territorial governments…
“The Supreme Court of Canada hears appeals from the court of last resort, usually a provincial or territorial court of appeal or the Federal Court of Appeal.”
• For more information, visit www.scc-csc.gc.ca.