Peter A Allard School of Law

New student award honours the remarkable mentorship of two notable figures at Allard Law

Jun 26, 2024

Elaine Borthwick & Allen Soroka
Elaine Borthwick and Allen Soroka


Awards valued at $1,750 have been established by an anonymous donor in honour of two former law school staff members who have left an indelible mark on the Peter A. Allard School of Law: Elaine Borthwick, former Director of Admissions, and Allen “Al” Soroka, former Law Librarian.

The Elaine Borthwick and Allen Soroka Award in Law was established to support one student entering second or third year over the age of 30 who demonstrates barriers to accessing a legal education. The first award will be available in the 2024/2025 Winter session. Eligible students are invited to apply for the new award this spring.

Elaine and Allen’s unwavering commitment to the legal community and exceptional ability to develop supportive and enduring relationships with students have been recognized by many students.

Elaine’s involvement at the UBC Faculty of Law, as it was then known, extended over many years. She served on the Admissions Committee and eventually took on the role of Director of Admissions. For over three decades, Elaine reviewed thousands of law school applications and was warmly regarded by the students she interacted with. A previous student explains that Elaine “was often students’ first contact at the law school, and her kindness set the tone for their positive experiences that followed, not only at UBC, but in the legal community at large.” Elaine also took the time to assist applicants who were denied admission to law school on their first attempt. She encouraged them to reapply and advised them how to strengthen a future successful application. She loved her job and making a difference in students’ lives.  

Allen’s background spanned both legal practice and eventually academia when he joined the law school as a law librarian in 1969. Former students say they are grateful to Allen for his mentorship and his efforts to support them through their legal education, whether he was “showing them methods in legal research, lending an ear during exam time, or helping them consider their legal futures, and even [starting] a fly-fishing tying course at the law school,” as one former student put it. Allen also contributed to student learning as an adjunct professor, teaching an upper-year course in American law during his last years at the law school. 

Mature students, and discretionary applicants especially, face a variety of hardships. That’s why this award is so important.

Elaine Borthwick

Allen and Elaine's careers varied, but shared a common theme of fostering community and seeking opportunity. Elaine, who grew up in Castlegar, BC, witnessed many of her peers move to Vancouver. She began working as a paralegal for Peter Allard, coincidentally, before beginning a long career at the law school where she spent a majority of her tenure working in Admissions. Elaine’s contributions extended well beyond UBC: she spent time serving as Chair of The Canadian Law School Admissions Committee and was one of the first Canadian Admissions Professionals to be appointed to the Board of Trustees of the Law School Admissions Council. In 2019, she received the President’s Service Award for Excellence in recognition of her outstanding contributions to UBC.

Allen, originally from New York City, found himself drawn to the lush nature of British Columbia, after realizing the limitations of raising a family in his city apartment. Allen found his passion for public service after a role at the Federal Reserve of New York left him looking for a new challenge. This led him to The Legal Aid Society of New York's Criminal Courts Branch, where he worked for five years as a public defender. It was at this time that Allen also decided to return to school to pursue a master’s in Library Information Science at Columbia University, taking night classes and experiencing the academic environment as a mature student.

Allen eventually found his way to the UBC law library as the school’s law librarian, where he was just a few years older than most students. 

Both Elaine and Allen see the importance of supporting mature students and discretionary applicants — an admissions category for those who do not fully meet the requirements of the general law admissions category but have other relevant achievements and experiences, given their membership in a historically disadvantaged group or other personal factors. They’re hopeful that the awards will help alleviate the pressures faced by students, particularly those with additional responsibilities such as childcare or the need to work part-time to cover expenses, and that it will enable them to fully engage with their legal education without undue financial burden.

Elaine's role in admissions allowed her to recognize that diverse life experiences often served as invaluable preparation for law school, even when they may not be directly related to the legal field. As Elaine explains, “Mature students, and discretionary applicants especially, face a variety of hardships, and that’s why this award is so important.” 

Allen is similarly proud that the awards may help support “someone who is in dire straits, who needs a boost to get them to the next level and to relieve the pressure on them.”

Elaine and Allen both say they were a bit overwhelmed and overcome with a variety of emotions when they learned they were being honoured through this award. “I got watery eyes, as my daughter calls it,” says Elaine. “And I mean, it was really touching.”

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