BIPOC students encouraged to pursue family law with new scholarship

Family Bar Diversity and Equality Award in Law offers financial support and mentorship opportunities

Sarah Kent - 22 April 2021

Law students who identify as Black, Indigenous or a Person of Colour will be rewarded for their commitments to social justice and community engagement thanks to a new scholarship at the University of Alberta that encourages them to pursue family law.

The Family Bar Diversity and Equality Award in Law will be awarded annually to a BIPOC student who meets the award’s criteria. Preference will go to a student who has demonstrated interest in family law.

The scholarship was spearheaded by Riley Gallant, a lawyer with Latitude Family Law LLP in Edmonton, who sees a growing need to diversify the practice of family law.

“The idea of creating a financial award for a BIPOC law student came about in the summer of 2020,” said Gallant.

Gallant and her colleagues at Latitude Family Law were observing the issues of racial injustice emerging from the Black Lives Matter movement and felt compelled to do something within the legal community.

“The Latitude Family Law partnership ... especially considered the responsibility we have as individuals with privilege to work to end systemic inequality,” said Gallant. “We landed on the idea of creating a scholarship or award for a BIPOC law student, as it seemed like a practical and meaningful action that we could take right away.”

Funding the award has been a collective effort, said Gallant. “Once Latitude Family Law decided to move forward with creating an award, we decided to approach other firms to see if we could increase the value of the award.”

In addition to Latitude Family Law, the award is annually funded by five other firms, including Tina Huizinga Professional Corporation and Michelle C. Di Toppa Professional Corporation, Frohlich Rollins Schwab, Lawrence & Tkachuk, Merak Law and Bruyer & MacKay LLP.

“(This) was also a unique opportunity for law firms to work together. This builds relationships and promotes collegiality amongst members of the bar.”

Family Law

Inspiring BIPOC students to pursue family law in particular is another goal of the award. The award offers mentorship opportunities with family lawyers at the participating firms. Gallant hopes that this relationship-building will help the recipient as they transition from law school to practising law.

Family law often touches on larger social issues and requires lawyers to assist with clients’ deeply personal and unique circumstances at particularly vulnerable times, said Gallant.

“A diverse family bar is better able to meet the needs of diverse family members,” said Gallant. “Family lawyers have significant and lasting impacts on the families we work with, and it is important to attract dedicated and passionate lawyers to this practice area.

“A diverse bar is a stronger bar.”

Gallant has hopes that this scholarship will also have ripple effects. “It would be wonderful if this award inspired law firms in other practice areas to create similar awards in their practice areas,” she said.