Local lawyer Riley Gallant honoured for spearheading Faculty of Law scholarship initiative

Gallant was instrumental in the creation of the Family Bar Diversity and Equality Award in Law

Carmen Rojas - 20 July 2022

When the University of Alberta Faculty of Law announced a new scholarship in 2021 that encourages BIPOC students to pursue family law, local lawyer Riley Gallant was at the forefront of the initiative.  

Gallant, who is a lawyer with Latitude Family Law LLP in Edmonton, brought her firm together with eight others to fund the Family Bar Diversity and Equality Award in Law as a way to contribute towards ending systemic inequality.  The scholarship is given annually to law students who identify as Black, Indigenous or a Person of Color and who have a strong commitment to social justice and community engagement. 

Earlier this year, Gallant’s efforts were recognized with a LEAF Edmonton Recognition Award, which is given to groups or individuals who have made significant contributions to substantive equality.  

Gallant says the award was meaningful in part because she deeply respects the work of LEAF (Women’s Legal Education& Action Fund), a national organization that strives to advance gender equality through law. She was also honoured to be nominated by her mentor Deborah Miller, ‘73 BA, ‘78 LLB, who practised family law for 40 years and is a sessional instructor with the Faculty of Law. 

“Deb was my principle when I articled [with Legal Aid Alberta] and I’ve been inspired by her activism, so I was especially honoured that she would think of me for this recognition,” says Gallant. 

Gallant’s role in establishing the scholarship is the latest contribution in a history of involvement with the Faculty of Law that dates back to 2014. Despite having no formal connection to the Faculty at that time — Gallant earned her law degree from the University of Saskatchewan in 2008 — she quickly became an active volunteer and mentor for students. 

Gallant first served as an advising lawyer to the Student Legal Services (SLS) Family Law Project. Encouraged by working with students she recalls as “eager, curious, energetic and dedicated to the program,” Gallant went on to mentor a number of law students through the Canadian Bar Association’s Mentor Program.

Through her firm, Gallant has also been involved with the Pro Bono Students Canada Trans ID Clinic. In this role, she supervises law students as they assist people to fill out the forms required to change their name or gender marker on government identification documents. 

In 2021, Gallant — who was a sessional instructor at the time — had the opportunity to coach the moot team participating in the Western Canada Family Law Negotiation Competition, an experience she considers a highlight. 

“I had awesome students on my team and they all did well in the competition, with one pair taking first place!” she says. 

“Preparing for the competition was fun because I was able to include friends from the family bar to assist as either guest speakers or practice judges. It was a collaborative effort and everyone involved seemed to enjoy the experience.”

For Gallant, the time she spends mentoring the next generation of lawyers is a way to pay forward the mentorship she received at Legal Aid Alberta early in her own career.

"I found law school stressful because I didn’t know where my interests and values would fit into the eventual practice of law,” she says. 

“The most rewarding experience for me when mentoring law students is listening to their worries about a legal career and finding a way to reassure and encourage them.”

Based on her experiences with students involved in SLS, Pro Bono Students Canada and those who have an interest in family law, Gallant is optimistic these young lawyers will find their place and make their own mark on the profession. 

“I have seen a desire to assist vulnerable individuals and a commitment to access to justice,” she says. “I hope these students will hold on to these values throughout their careers.”