Feb. 8, 2016

Faculty, staff and alumni among top lawyers appointed Queen's Counsel

Michelle Christopher and Lise Houle receive designation recognizing exceptional commitment to legal work and community service
Michelle Christopher (left), executive director of Student Legal Assistance in the Faculty of Law, and Lise Houle, associate general counsel for the university. Both have been designated Queen's Counsel along with six other university alumni.

Michelle Christopher (left) and Lise Houle. Both have been designated Queen's Counsel.

Michelle Christopher, executive director of Student Legal Assistance in the Faculty of Law, and Lise Houle, associate general counsel for the university, have been designated Queen’s Counsel (QC) for outstanding contributions to legal and public life. Six alumni were also appointed.

“The appointment of Michelle Christopher, Lise Houle and our six alumni as Alberta’s newest Queen's Counsel is wonderful news,” says Ian Holloway, dean of law.

“Together, they represent the very best of our profession. They embody a deep commitment not only to professional excellence, but also to serving their communities. They — and all those who came before them — stand as a source of pride to all of us.”

Assisting vulnerable citizens with access to justice

Christopher received her Bachelor of Arts in 1982 from the University of Calgary, her Bachelor of Laws in 1986 from the Dalhousie Law School and her Master of Laws in 2006 from the Osgoode Hall Law School. She has taken extensive training at Harvard Law School’s Program on Negotiation and Program of Instruction for Lawyers, specializing in mediation, negotiation, and dispute resolution pedagogy. She was called to the bar in 1987. 

“I am delighted to have been appointed Queen’s Counsel,” says Christopher. “As a lifelong volunteer, former University of Calgary student leader and lawyer specializing in family and criminal law, I’ve been privileged to be able to assist many of Calgary’s most vulnerable citizens in obtaining access to justice.

"I am proud of my work at the university, and am pleased to share my experiences and insights by mentoring law students to ‘be the change they want to see in the world’.”

Teacher and volunteer providing service to community

Since 2003, Christopher has taught in the Faculty of Law in the areas of dispute resolution, criminal law, criminal justice and clinical theory and practice. She has spent much of her career working to ensure access to justice for all citizens, and has run a family law practice assisting poverty law clients while simultaneously working in a number of mediation and dispute resolution positions with the Court of Queen’s Bench of Alberta and the Provincial Court of Alberta.

She has also been a legal representative for children and youth in both courts, and worked as staff counsel with the Youth Criminal Defence Office in Calgary.

Christopher was also awarded a 2016 Distinguished Service Award by the Law Society of Alberta and the Canadian Bar Association for distinguished service to the community. She works as a volunteer lawyer and board member with numerous not-for-profit organizations.

Member of university's in-house counsel team

Houle received her Bachelor of Laws in 1984 from the University of Toronto Law School. She joined the university’s in-house counsel team in 2005 and moved into the associate general counsel role in 2008, providing legal advice to senior management, faculty and staff in virtually all areas of university operations.

She began her legal career at an Edmonton firm where she practised general litigation with a focus on construction law, insurance and surety, personal injury, privacy law and environmental law. She also spent more than 12 years at the Alberta Securities Commission, specializing in securities enforcement and board governance.

Houle has additional training in conflict management, administrative law adjudication, and completed the university’s ULead leadership program. She was recently recognized by the Law Society of Alberta for 30 years at the bar.

Being a role model for other lawyers and ambassador for the profession

“To receive this honour alongside so many qualified colleagues makes the Queen's Counsel designation all the more meaningful,” said Houle.

“Being a lawyer is a privilege and, with that, comes responsibility — and great opportunity — for giving back to one’s profession and community. I’ve been fortunate to work in many different legal environments, but none more challenging and rewarding than here at the university.

"I take pride in making the law real and accessible for all my university colleagues, and I hope to be a role model for other lawyers and an ambassador for my profession," she says.

Houle is heavily involved in her local community over the years, including coaching ringette, managing minor hockey, fundraising for charities and volunteering at the Bethany Care Centre. She also volunteers with the Legal Education Society of Alberta, conducting training and evaluation of law students, articling students and lawyers. She is currently a member of the Conduct Committee of the Law Society of Alberta.

“We are thrilled that one of our team members is being recognized for her outstanding commitment to the legal profession and her contributions to public life,” says Karen Jackson, general counsel for the university. “Lise’s extensive experience, leadership and community spirit are an inspiration to the many people who work with her, and this appointment as Queen’s Counsel is well-deserved.”

Alumni designated 2016 Queen's Counsel

  • Robert Armstrong, LLB'98
  • Rhoda Dobler, LLB'92
  • Gregory Francis, LLB'90
  • Jean Munn, LLB'88
  • Valerie Prather, LLB'88
  • Sean Smyth, LLB'93

For more background on Queen’s Counsel, visit the website.