From opera to the Supreme Court

After graduating this May with her law degree, Emily MacKinnon will begin a prestigious clerkship with Beverley McLachlin, Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Canada. 

“Some of my most memorable moments at UBC Law were the visits by various Supreme Court of Canada Justices,” said MacKinnon, who is also an accomplished opera singer. “It was from them that I learned about this clerkship opportunity.”

“They were unbelievably inspiring, and I was absolutely captivated by the behind-the-scenes process of coming to a decision on a case and then writing a judgment,” MacKinnon said. “From the moment I discovered it was possible, I wanted nothing more than to clerk at the Supreme Court of Canada.”

From performing arias to preparing court memorandums, MacKinnon’s path from opera to law might not be the most traditional, but for her it was a natural fit.

“I was craving a connection with the community and opera is a small part of the world” explained MacKinnon who obtained her masters in Ethnomusicology at UBC after completing her Bachelor’s in music at the University of Ottawa. “Ethnomusicology was a way for me to reach out and be involved with something that is making a difference. But even that has its restrictions. With law, you are actually out there in the community making change happen.”

MacKinnon’s thesis for her Ethnomusicology MA looks at the way music is used around the world to educate people about HIV and AIDS. She carried those interests into law school, receiving a fellowship from the law firm Borden Ladner Gervais to research the criminalization of HIV nondisclosure.

“It has been exciting to use legal research to advocate for better criminal laws around non-disclosure of HIV status,” said MacKinnon who is also a long-time volunteer with the Positive Living Society of B.C., a group dedicated to empowering persons living with HIV?AIDS.

After the clerkship, she returns to Vancouver to practice with the firm McCarthy Tétrault. She hopes to pursue a career in litigation.

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