Sitting in his Calgary law office, where he is a partner with the law firm Osler, Hoskin, Harcourt LLP, Alexander (Sander) Duncanson lets out a soft chuckle.
“It was a bit of a complicated path I took to get here,” he says. “I wasn’t studying at university to get a job. I wasn’t thinking about life after university at all.”
Little did Sander know that even in his first year of university he was already being prepared for a career in law.
“The Foundation Year Program (FYP) at King’s equipped me with many of the skills that I now rely on as a lawyer: reading large volumes of material and distilling the key concepts and hidden meanings, analyzing and debating complex ideas with peers, and considering and thinking critically about diverse theories and types of writing.”
But back to that complicated path.
After taking FYP at King’s, Sander headed off to Queen’s University for Canadian Studies. The day he graduated he bought a plane ticket for Calgary where his girlfriend (later his wife) lived with her parents.
It wasn’t long before his future mother-in-law suggested maybe he might investigate a career in drafting. This was at a time when Calgary was booming and drafting was a marketable skill. Sander did look into it. He took a one-day crash course in AutoCAD, a digital design and drafting program. With that he started making calls. A month later he landed a job as a draftsman. Sander admits, “I wasn’t the best draftsman. So, they promoted me, and I became the Drafting Manager for the company.”
Now it was his future father-in-law’s turn. He sat Sander down and suggested maybe he might take the Law School Admissions Test (LSAT). Sander took his advice, did well on the test and, still not sure he wanted to do law as a career, enrolled at the University of Calgary law school.
By the time he was called to the bar, Sander felt he was on the right track. When he signed on the dotted line with his current firm, he knew it.
“At first it was the people in the firm that attracted me. But now it’s the law. What I do is quite specialized. We call it regulatory law. Any company across the country that wants to develop some large-scale infrastructure, I help them navigate through the regulatory process, getting all the right permits and dealing with any municipal, environmental or aboriginal issues they need to address.”
Sander works with clients involved in major energy projects such as the Lower Churchill Falls project, solar and wind projects and the contentious Trans Mountain pipeline. He considers himself an environmentalist, working from the inside to ensure these projects meet not just regulatory standards, but community standards as well.
“The important thing is to figure out how to do that in the most environmentally and socially responsible way possible. That is a consistent principle for us.”
It was a complicated path from King’s to Calgary for Sander, but King’s students these days might have an easier time. In the fall of 2018, King’s and the University of Calgary entered into a partnership that allows students admitted to FYP to be provisionally pre-admitted to Calgary’s Faculty of Law. Read more about the partnership.