Lawyer, Leader, Advocate: Success Comes Early for Koren Lightning-Earle

Lightning-Earle recognized with an Alumni Horizon Award for her contributions to the legal profession and advocacy work for Canada's Indigenous peoples.

Law Communications - 28 September 2016

The University of Alberta Alumni Awards recognize the professional achievements, community service and innovation of graduates around the globe - people who uphold the promise to use their education "for the public good." This year, 27 people were honoured at an evening ceremony at the Jubilee Auditorium on September 22, 2016. Four of these award recipients - including Koren Lightning-Earle - are Faculty of Law alumni. Ms. Lightning-Earle was recognized with the Alumni Horizon Award, which honours the outstanding achievements of University of Alberta alumni early in their careers.

A triple-graduate of the University of Alberta, with degrees in recreation and leisure (2000), arts (2004), and law (2007), Koren Lightning-Earle is a lawyer, leader, mentor, and advocate for Indigenous peoples in Canada. As the founder of Thunderbird Law, the focus of Ms. Lightning-Earle's law practice is governance and working with First Nations to create their own constitutions. During law school, Ms. Lightning-Earle was president of the Aboriginal Law Students' Association, a role she says drove her commitment to working with Indigenous peoples. Between 2011-2014, Ms. Lightning-Earle was an elected council member for the Samson Cree Nation, and she is also the co-founder of HUB, a community mobilization program that combines police, social services, education, and health resources in an effort to help reduce crime.

In addition to her law practice and responsibilities as president of the Indigenous Bar Association, Ms. Lightning-Earle spends a considerable amount of time on advocacy work and volunteering in her community. She is vice-president of the Kasohkowew Child Wellness Society, co-chair of the First Nations Women's Economic Security Council, and a member of the Federal Court Aboriginal Bar Liaison Committee. Ms. Lightning-Earle has also volunteered as a board member for the Alberta Restorative Justice Association and a member of the Law Society of Alberta's Access to Justice Committee. Closer to home, she is a leader with the Leduc Girl Guides and Brownies where she mentors young children.

When she's not busy with her legal practice or advocacy work - which she balances with being a parent to two young girls - Ms. Lightning-Earle is also a sessional instructor in the areas of business law, Native Studies, and organizational management at Maskwacis Cultural College, a post-secondary school within the Four Nations of Maskwacis, Alberta. Ms. Lightning-Earle is also a sought-after public speaker, and has presented at the Canadian Bar Association's National Aboriginal Law Conference, the BC Aboriginal Lawyers Forum Christmas Banquet, the Indigenous Bar Association Fall Conference and the Indigenous Public Safety and Policing Forum.

"Koren Lightning-Earle is a lawyer with a strong sense of responsibility to give back to her clients and community," said Dean Paul Paton. "In a few short years, she has demonstrated a substantial commitment to the legal profession through her leadership of the Indigenous Bar Association and to public service through her advocacy work for Indigenous peoples in Canada, especially women and children."

At a lunchtime reception at the Law Centre on September 22 for the four Faculty of Law recipients of 2016 University of Alberta Alumni Awards, Ms. Lightning-Earle remarked that this was her fourth visit to the Law Centre in two weeks, including a visit on September 13 to co-facilitate the KAIROS blanket exercise to all first-year law students as part of their Foundations of Law course. Ms. Lightning-Earle also noted that law school allowed her to see that she was capable of making change in the world.

"Law school changed who I was - and that's what it's supposed to do," she told the assembled crowd, adding that co-facilitating the KAIROS blanket exercise was a "career highlight."

What's next for Koren Lightning-Earle?

"Ms. Lightning-Earle is a tremendous ambassador for the Faculty of Law, and if her track record to date is any indication, I look forward to seeing what she will accomplish next," said Dean Paton.

More change-making, one suspects.