Convocating law student pivots from social work to family law

For Sheila Raffray, advocating for others has always been a priority

Sarah Kent - 08 June 2020

Sheila Raffray, ‘20 JD, thought she had her life planned out in social work, especially after she landed a senior management position at the non-profit she had been working at for 10 years.

Three months into that position, she was summoned for jury duty in what turned out to be the longest running jury trial in Alberta history, lasting 11 months.

Although Raffray loved her career in social work, she was ready to make a change after performing her civic duty, and the interruption of her career was the push she needed.

“I started getting over my fear of failure,” she said. “I never applied to law school because I was afraid I wouldn’t get in.”

Raffray will be clerking with the Provincial Court of Alberta before completing the remainder of her articles at Bruyer and Mackay, a family law practice in Edmonton.

“I wanted to be a lawyer since I was a child,” said Raffray, whose elementary school teacher told her she would make a good lawyer because she was good at defending and advocating for others.

As a social worker and proud member of the Métis Nation of Alberta, Raffray worked primarily in the area of child protection and assisted numerous Indigenous children, youth and families with navigating the child welfare system.

Her background as a social worker will undoubtedly serve her well for a career in family law as it gives her an intimate “understanding of the complexities of people and systems.”

While at UAlberta Law, Raffray thrived, thanks in part to the community she found as a member of the Indigenous Law Students’ Association.

She is grateful to have found a group of fellow students who understand the push and pull of entering a profession that “has played and continues to play a significant role in the oppression of Indigenous Peoples.”

Raising awareness of issues that impact Indigenous Peoples is important to Raffray, who dedicated her time to writing about Indigenous child welfare as a blogger for UAlberta Law’s ReconciliAction YEG.

In her second year, Raffray was instrumental in organizing ILSA’s 2019 speaker series, which focused on Indigenous child welfare. She was able to use her personal and professional connections to arrange speakers, including Indigenous youth who grew up in care.

Raffray has also reached beyond the university to serve the community with her expertise in social work and family law. She’s dedicated her time to working with the Edmonton Community Legal Centre and has spent the last year assisting the organization with how it can better support child welfare matters.

As a member of the Class of 2020, Raffray joins a prestigious group of Indigenous UAlberta Law graduates and looks forward to her continued pursuit of social justice in her new career.