The “Just Under The Wire Prize”
by Tony Wilson
When I left law school in December, 1984 (UVic had – and still has – a summer law centre program that allowed about 16 of us to graduate at Christmas, rather than in April), I received a “telex” from my friend, Don Todesco. Don, like the remainder of my class, stuck around for one long final term while I started my articles, happily on the payroll of my new firm. The telex read: “Congrat-ulations: The last shall be first” or words to that effect.
Don was reminding me that although I was one of the first to leave UVic’s law school that year, I was the last one actually admitted to it in 1982, having been something like number five on the waiting list all that summer. I was called by the law school’s administrator, Gary Charlton, during the evening of the first day of school, when, after welcoming everyone else in the first year class, he determined that there was one last spot available. Had Gary not called me that night, it’s possible I would have chosen to do something else with my life, married someone other than a woman I met in law school, had different children than the ones I have, and made a multitude of different choices. But this fork in the road appeared; I took it, and here I am, 20 some-odd years later, the wand having chosen the wizard (if you’ll forgive the “Potter-speak”).
Being the last one admitted was the source of endless bragging rights for me at the time. I had been working as a bureaucrat by day and a Keg waiter by night, quitting both jobs the morning I started class (being, of course, the second day for everyone else).
My situation was the product of excellent undergraduate grades and a lousy LSAT. The fact that I received my fair share of B’s and A’s in law school, have enjoyed a reasonably successful legal career these past 20 years, have written scads of articles in my field (and one upcoming book), and am regularly invited to teach other lawyers, lends some credence to my theory that the LSAT is a waste of good trees, measuring more than anything else, one’s ability to take standardized tests: tea leaves and entrails for the modern era.
As there always has to be a first one admitted to each of Canada’s 16 law schools every year, there always has to be a last one as well. And I’m surmising that we “last-ins” probably did just fine in law school, and just fine in whatever else we chose to do after it (including of all things, law), despite the fact that there were hundreds of people whose dance cards filled up with multiple law school offers well before we were even invited to the party.
So I’m suggesting all of us “last-ins” across Canada (352 since 1982) create small bursaries to our respective alma maters for the last student admitted in each year. Call it the “Just Under The Wire Prize” and award cash to the person whose LSAT may have been sadly lacking, or who chose an undergrad program with ridiculously tough grading, or who had kids to look after, or who had to hold a part-time job while striving for outstanding marks, all patiently waiting on a law school’s waiting list until called on the day classes started (or in my case, the day after).
Because as we all know, in the long B.C. Ferry Line-Up of Life, it’s not the driver of the first car on the 5 p.m. sailing that really has the best trip. It’s the driver of the last car, happily squeezed on at the very last second, leaving the rest of the line-up behind.
Vancouver Franchise Lawyer Tony Wilson practices at Boughton Law Corporation in Vancouver, and has written for the Globe and Mail, Macleans Magazine and Canadian Lawyer. email@example.com | www.boughton.ca/people/lawyers/tony_wilson
This article was published in the October 2004 issue of BarTalk. © 2004 The Canadian Bar Association. All rights reserved.