Scholarships for law students with disabilities awarded

One year after it was launched, eight law students from across Canada have been chosen to each receive a $3,000 scholarship from the Legal Leaders for Diversity trust fund for the upcoming academic year.

The scholarships will provide financial assistance to students with physical, mental, intellectual or sensory impairments for undergraduate or graduate studies at Canadian law faculties.

Last fall, the deans of the law faculties were contacted by the trustees of the program — members of Legal Leaders for Diversity — inviting them to submit a list of candidates. The only requirement for consideration was that the students have a disability and be in need of financial help. While the deans encouraged certain students to apply, it was up to the students themselves to submit applications.

Bombardier Inc. senior vice president and general counsel Daniel Desjardins was the Legal Leaders for Diversity member who spearheaded the program.

“Our goal is to also support them and mentor them through articling positions into law firms or into legal departments,” says Desjardins.

In the context of diversity, he says there is often reference to gender and sexual orientation but rarely to people with disabilities.

“I wrote to the deans of all the law faculties across Canada. I sent the letter but I didn’t chase them after that. We still got 19 applications across Canada,” he says.

He says one student told him: “This scholarship provides me with substantive assistance and encouragement on my rigorous and exciting academic legal path. It is initiatives like this that help enable the success of diversity in the legal profession.”

After launching the program last year, more than 50 general counsel and managing partners from Canadian law firms have stepped up to donate $5,000 each to the trust fund. Desjardins hopes to further grow the fund and double the number of donors.

“My goal now is to have 100 sponsors to create a half million-dollar fund,” he says. “Our role, as legal leaders is to help those young students in law faculties across Canada because it costs them more. It’s a challenge for them to study in all sorts of ways.”

All scholarship cheques have been received by the designated trustees who will be the main point of contact for events to take place in various cities across Canada over the next few weeks to award the monies to scholarship recipients.

There are 10 trustees across Canada who are either managing partners or general counsel. “The LLD trust was established to provide funding to students with disabilities in order to provide a more level playing field in law school,” says Ken Fredeen, general counsel of Deloitte and a member of Legal Leaders for Diversity. “Our long-term goal is to grow the trust and provide a greater number of scholarships and also to provide mentoring and opportunities for jobs. We know that for this to be successful, it needs to be a holistic approach.”

Scholarships will be awarded to students attending the following schools:

• University of British Columbia
• University of Calgary
• University of Alberta
• University of Saskatchewan
• Queen’s University
• University of Montreal
• Dalhousie University

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