2022 William McIntyre Medalist: Nyssa Lessingham


By Ivan Watson

After three years full of memorable moments, hard work and cultivating friendships that will last a lifetime, Nyssa Lessingham is excited to graduate from the Juris Doctor (JD) program this June with her law degree. While she won’t be able to attend convocation in person, she will be watching the ceremony live from afar, and plans to cheer on her peers as they cross the stage to receive their degrees, while enjoying the special moment when UVic’s Chancellor recognises her as this year’s recipient of the William McIntyre medal for demonstrating the highest qualities of community service, student leadership and academic excellence over the course of her degree.

“It’s an honour,” says Lessingham. “I think you go into law school knowing that you’re going to be among top performers in academia and in their careers. To be identified for the work that I put in is really fulfilling and it’s definitely something that I am really proud of.”

During her JD degree, she was an active member of the law school and university community. She served on the executive of UVic's Chapter of the Canadian Association of Refugee Lawyers and the UVic Labour Law club, participated in the Indigenous Perspectives Camp, volunteered through Pro Bono Students Canada, mentored first year law students, and still found time to play on UVic Law’s soccer and futsal teams.

“Nyssa embodies the values of community service, a passion for learning, and selfless dedication to others,” says Interim Dean Val Napoleon. “During her JD degree, she was an active member of the law school and university community where she excelled both academically and through her many leadership roles. We’re pleased to award her this medal which recognises the scope and depth of her accomplishments.”

Lessingham was awarded six entrance scholarships in 2019, the Harper Grey scholarship in 2020 and the Law Foundation/David Strong leadership in Legal studies award in 2021.  Additionally, she completed a summer placement at Moore Edgar Lyster LLP, secured a clerkship at the BC Supreme Court, and competed in the Gale Cup Moot.

Prior to law school, Nyssa worked at the MS Society helping clients navigate employment and human rights issues related to their disabilities. “Before then I had never considered law,” she says. “I knew leaving high school that I wanted to do the type of work that would serve people or serve the community and the advocacy role at the MS Society really helped me realise that I could see myself in a career in law doing public interest and human rights work.”

Nyssa has since developed particular interests and expertise in labour, refugee and human rights law and completed a clinical term at the Law Centre where she could connect with others and give back to the community through work on pro bono files.

“I wanted to go to UVic specifically because the university in general has a very progressive focus and the law school offers co-op opportunities,” she says. “Working at the Law Centre clinic was a wonderful experience, it was an opportunity work closely with peers and to work on really meaningful files where you’re taking what you’ve learned and using your skills on an important cause that you know will have an impact on a person’s life. It can be a lot of work but it’s very motivating.”

As she prepares to graduate, she has some advice to future law students. “There’s so many opportunities to connect with and learn from the people you’re there with, as well as to learn outside the classroom and to push yourself to try things that may be outside your comfort zone,” she says. “This can help you develop skills and shape your path, and you never know where it will lead you.”

The William McIntyre Medal is presented annually to a member of the graduating class who, in the opinion of the Faculty, has exhibited the highest qualities of community service, student leadership and academic excellence over the course of the Juris Doctor program. The medal recognizes the very special relationship that the Faculty of Law enjoyed with the Hon. William R. McIntyre, former Justice of the Supreme Court of Canada.

Media contact:

Ivan Watson
UVic Law Communications