Then and Now: The Moot Times from 2008-2022
By Heidi J. T. Exner
I started my journey as a law student in 2019, and in those glorious pre-pandemic times “Clubs Day” at UCalgary Law was an in-person event during the first week of Foundations. This was not so much a day as a one- or two-hour activity, in which my 1L cohort was led through a maze of tables set up in the corridors of Murray Fraser Hall. Each club or group had those tri-fold cardboard displays that reminded me of my fifth-grade science experiments from the early 1990s. It struck me as quaint and a little odd, but then again everything about law school struck (and still strikes) me as a little odd, so I went with it.
When I reached the Moot Times’ table, then-editor Mitch Bringeland was standing there with a stack of issues and a sign-up sheet. He started to tell me about this publication, but he was wasting his breath; I was already sold on joining long before I stood before him that day. I excitedly added my email to the sign-up sheet and dreamed of all the cool things I might have the opportunity to write about, if only I could be so lucky!
And write I did. By the end of 1L I was offered the leadership torch, and I was thrilled to accept it. Of course, this was right about when the world was turned on its head from the pandemic and there was no other leadership but little me.
The shift to online learning is what created the opportunity to step back and breathe new life into our student-run publication. It started with a new logo (which I learned is not, in fact, our first one!), and the sleek new look for the Moot Times was fashioned from there in the summer of 2021. A new look would not be sufficient, though. This publication needed to define its purpose if it was going to have a strong presence. I put a lot of thought into what this publication represented then - and what it should represent, moving forward. In the fall of 2021, we were finally back on campus and our current leadership team was put in place. Together, we discussed what the ‘Times means to the UCalgary Law student body, and what it should mean. A platform for students’ voices. A place to empower one another. Relationships: engaging the broader legal community. A sense of student community. A place where we do not need to take ourselves too seriously (though we do have standards!).
Through our social media accounts, we made some serendipitous connections that eventually led me to discover some of the Moot Times’ founders. I had always been curious about how this little-‘zine-that-could stacked up to its original intent. That’s the great thing about asking questions. When we ask the right questions to the right people, we will find the answers we seek.
A wonderful friend named Eileen Lesko (of Lawyers’ ASSIST fame) connected me to Geoff Boddy, who was involved with the Moot Times in its beginning. He was able to provide me with the answer to my most pressing question: “Why was the Moot Times started?” He forwarded me an announcement from the SLS President dated September 16, 2008, from which I draw the following excerpt:
Until now, the University of Calgary Law School lacked a student newspaper. As a result, several students in second year have collaborated to create Moot Times, a newspaper published by law students for law students. The paper features articles that cover legal issues, current events, student life, and various other topics that are of interest to the audience. In creating this paper, we hope to foster a sense of community and school spirit within the faculty and the Calgary law community, educate students, as well as provide a forum for the discussion of issues that are important to law students at the University of Calgary.
The first issue of Moot Times was released today, September 16th, 2008. Copies can be found in the Student Lounge - please pick up an issue and read through the articles written for you, by your fellow classmates.
Geoff introduced me to Vhari Storwick, who filled in a few more gaps. She informed me that the Moot Times was initially conceptualised in 2008 by Orlagh O'Kelly, Esther Kim, and her, and later came to become an SLS entity with the help of Geoff Boddy, who was the SLS VP, Events. Vhari claims the publication was the “brainchild” of Orlagh, who unsurprisingly went on to become a public interest advocate. It was Esther who brought the business end into the mix; she suggested the publication should be funded by firms to cover overheads (go Esther!). Vhari was responsible for the layout, and there were a handful of other contributors. Together, they turned their vision into reality and made something incredibly special.
Vhari provided me with the following two images of issues from February and April 2010 (one regular issue and one satire issue).
Vhari was also kind enough to connect me with Kevin Madison, who is a 2009 UCalgary Law LLB. Kevin was a 3L when the ‘Times first started, and he contributed a comic strip to the first few issues. He was the first student to slip a profanity into an issue (see images below - sorry, Kevin - profanity redacted because we made promises to our sponsors!), which might give you an idea about his willingness to push envelopes.
During Kevin’s time at UCalgary Law he was the Student Director of SLA, and he had also created comics for the SLA prior to his comic for the Moot Times. He is modest about the quality of his work back then, but it’s pretty good if you ask me.
Kevin used Adobe Illustrator and PhotoShop to make his comics. I personally recall purchasing the Adobe suite of software in 2007 for over $1K, but apparently there was a student version that was a fraction of the cost. (In the words of Homer Simpson, “D’oh!”)
It was not until my conversation with Kevin that something important struck me. He conveyed some contextual insight about UCalgary Law at the time:
He estimates the new cohorts grew from 75 to 100 students from 2006-2009. By virtue of this growth, the student body may have become more homogenised (my interpretation and wording, to be clear!). My notes on this: UCalgary Law admits about 130 new students each year today, and while we are diverse, the overwhelming majority of our student body is comprised of the "typical" 22 year-old law student. As someone who just turned 40 last year, I notice this big time. I am confident that others who do not fit into the "typical" category notice this, too. This says more about the profession than it does about UCalgary Law, though. The school itself continues to make wonderful strides to diversify our JD student body!
The JD was introduced instead of the LLB somewhere around 2009, which made a young law school like UCalgary feel a bit like a kid playing dress up in their parents’ clothes (once again, my interpretation and wording!). See above “JD Club” comic for reference.
In his view, the spirit that makes UCalgary grads so innovative and gives them their “can do” spirit is their diversity and depth/breadth of experiences.
Ah ha! Bingo! That last one.
This was just the connecting piece I needed. I think the Moot Times has always represented something that is special about UCalgary Law: its “can do” attitude. From my communication so far with two founders and one artist, this truly has been the common thread among them. This is the thread that connects them with the Moot Times team of present day, too.
The legal profession is filled with people who can whip out 50 reasons not to chase a dream, do something differently, or dare to attempt to achieve the same ends in more creative manners. It’s as though they keep these reasons in some kind of fear-holster, and it boggles my mind. What we need is more lawyers who are willing to find creative (yet still reasonable) ways to solve problems for their clients. We need lawyers who are not afraid to do things differently. These are the lawyers who are going to make a difference in society. These are the humans who are going to make a difference to one another's lives.
These are the people who drive the Moot Times. Yes, I said it. And you can bet your butt that I am proud to count myself among this esteemed group!