Power play: Hockey-playing siblings study in Dual J.D. Program


By Sheila Pursglove
Legal News

Canadian siblings Parker and Sydney Mckibbon have a cousin who made a career in the NHL, and another cousin who played in European pro leagues and now coaches at Cornell University.
So it’s no surprise the sibs, both students in the Dual J.D. Program offered by the Detroit Mercy and University of Windsor law schools, practically grew up on ice.

“Growing up, we learned many lessons through the game of hockey such as teamwork, work-ethic and determination as we were heavily involved from a young age,” Parker says. “I’ve been able to use these skills to achieve my goals from succeeding in law school to being able to get a legal position outside of law school.”

Sydney, who has played hockey for 15 years, played Division 1 hockey in undergrad with a scholarship at the University of Wisconsin.

“Hockey has definitely instilled in me the importance of teamwork,” she says, “I learned from a young age that no one player can win a hockey game for the whole team and it takes everyone on the team. This translates to business and being a lawyer because you’re always going to have to work with people and be able to collaborate with others. Everyone has strengths and weaknesses and being a good teammate and leader is about harnessing those strengths and making other people around you better.”

With a father in the business side of the construction industry in Canada, both offspring were attracted to the business field.

 Sydney earned her undergrad degree in finance, investments and banking before working at a boutique investment firm in Calgary, Alberta. “I enjoyed the pace of investment banking and how every day was different,” she says. “I also enjoyed the research side of banking and understanding financial statements and different valuations for companies.”

Her attraction to the law, however, was not to be denied, and she joined her brother in the Dual J.D. Program.

“After just one semester of law school I know I made the right decision because I’m really enjoying my studies and the different classes I’m taking,” she says.

Parker, who in childhood was a fan of the TV show, “Law and Order,” especially the courtroom scenes, earned a commerce degree at Queen’s University in Kingston, Ontario.

“Once I began university and started working in construction and oil and gas for Aecon Group, I thought a role in construction or energy law would be a great fit, and decided to apply to law schools,” he says. “Looking back it was definitely the right decision.”

Parker praises the opportunities within the program, including the externship, moot court, and hands-on legal courses.

“They’ve enabled me to try a lot of different areas of law and get very strong legal training for my career,” he says. “The program also differentiates students from other programs in Canada and the U.S., making students much more marketable in their professional careers.

“Some of the friendships I’ve made will last for the rest of my life, and the program is built for students to work together in order to achieve success in their academics, extra-curriculars and job hunting.”

 He recently worked in the Detroit Mercy Law Veterans Law Clinic.

“I really enjoyed making a difference in veterans lives and getting hands on legal experience,” he says. “A highlight was participating in a hearing regarding a veteran’s benefits, where I was able to lead the proceedings.”

He terms his 3-month externship in 2017 with Third Judicial Circuit Judge Edward Ewell in Detroit the best experience of his time in law school.

“I was able to draft a variety of memos, an opinion and sit in on court proceedings. This ended up being excellent training for my role the past summer with a firm in Calgary, Alberta and it was very exciting to be able to experience the legal system first-hand.

“Judge Ewell was a great mentor for my legal career, and is one of the best in his trade, so it was very interesting to get his input on different legal issues or cases we were working on.”

Sydney, who hopes to land a summer externship with a judge in Michigan and will be participating in a Detroit Mercy Law Clinic in her 2L year, is considering corporate law or sports & entertainment law.

“Sports plays a huge role in my life considering I played hockey competitively for over 15 years,” she says. “I would love to be able to combine my two passions and have a career in law that is also focused on sports.”

 She enjoys the comparative learning between the U.S. and Canada, and the possibility of working in both countries in the future.

 “I really enjoy how much experience we’re able to gain before graduating from Detroit Mercy Law,” she says. “Whether it’s moot competitions or visiting the courts or completing an externship with a judge in Michigan, the school provides a lot of real-life opportunities to experience what it’s like to be a lawyer.”

The two hail from Oakville, west of Toronto, and where Sydney still makes her home; while Parker is planning to move to Calgary, Alberta, to work as an articled law clerk after his May graduation.
 “I’m hoping to work in the corporate side of energy or construction law. I naturally was drawn toward these areas of lawdue to my past experience as a construction and pipeline laborer in Burlington, Ontario and Northern Alberta, combined with my undergrad degree in Commerce,” he says.

For the first time in their hockey-playing lives, the siblings are playing on the same team—the Windsor Law Hockey team, co-captained by Parker, that plays different law schools throughout Canada in exhibition games, and a tournament at Queen’s University.

“It was really exciting to play with Sydney as we were always multiple years apart playing hockey growing up,” Parker says.

 Sydney also was a 1L representative in the Windsor Law Golf Classic committee that Parker co-chaired this year; the duo is also on the executive for the Windsor Fashion Law Society, and Parker is the commissioner of the LUG hockey league in Windsor that Sydney participates in, a sport league and club that create intramural style sports.   

To the best of their knowledge, the Mckibbons are the only siblings currently in the two law schools.

“It’s definitely a unique experience to be able to go to law school with your brother for a year,” Sydney says. “I’m very fortunate to have Parker here because he was able to prepare me for what to expect in law school and has helped me a lot with my studies.”