By Jeremy Deutsch
Kamloops This Week
As pomp and ceremony marked the start of classes for the first law school in the country in more than a generation, the moment was not lost on the Thompson Rivers University students who will make up the graduating class of 2014.
They are law students like Debra Febril, a Kamloops resident, who is thrilled to get down to work.
“We’re it. People are going to look to us,” the 35-year-old said on Tuesday, Sept. 6.
She added being the first class does add some pressure to do well.
Febril, who took her undergraduate degree at TRU, said she received offers to law schools in the U.S., but liked the idea of a smaller campus in Kamloops.
“This is where my home is,” she said.
Savannah Hamilton was also intrigued by the smaller setting of Kamloops.
The 21-year-old Vancouver native completed her undergraduate degree at the University of British Columbia, but wanted to attend a smaller school with a closer community environment.
“It’s perfect for me and TRU is a great place to be,” Hamilton said, noting there are plenty of other students in the program from Vancouver.
She considered it an honour to be part of the inaugural class.
“We are always going to be the first class. It’s a real special occasion,” Hamilton said.
The two future lawyers are part of the first class of 75 students in TRU’s faculty of law.
There are also 20 faculty members teaching at the school.
A who’s-who of the law community in Kamloops and around the province turned out to mark the occasion.
It’s the first new law school in the country in 33 years and just the third in B.C.
The list of dignitaries included Lance Finch, the province’s chief justice, B.C. Law Society president Gavin Hume, Canadian Bar Association B.C. chapter president Sharon Matthews and former B.C. attorney general and TRU chancellorWally Oppal.
All touched on the importance of the new law school, not only for the province, but also for Kamloops and the region.
Leading the ceremony was TRU’s founding dean of law, Chris Axworthy.
The former Saskatchewan MP was chosen last year to head up the school and was as excited as the students for the first day.
Though the school has to compete with law schools in major centres across the country, including UBC and the University of Victoria, Axworthy believes TRU has some advantages.
He said students will find it easier to meet and speak with lawyers and judges in the Tournament Capital.
The academic program will pay particular attention to legal issues involving energy, natural resources and social and economic challenges facing First Nations communities.
Axworthy said the law school will have a major impact on Kamloops.
“I think the city will change as a result of the law school being here, of course for the better,” he said.
As the first group of law students dive into the books, the school is already looking toward next year.
Axworthy noted there is plenty of interest in the program, along with demand for law school spots across the province and country.