Mentorship, hands-on experience for Indigenous law students

Legal Aid Alberta’s Indigenous Summer Students Program “a great way to give back,” says University of Calgary law student Tayla Basawa

Communications and Public Relations
September 28, 2022

It started with the Hollywood glamour of the legal profession for Tayla Basawa—watching shows like Legally Blonde and Suits, Tayla found inspiration in the hearts of characters like Elle Woods and Mike Ross to pursue her career as a lawyer. Since the age of 13, Tayla enjoyed debating about topics she cared about and her solution-oriented personality pushed her to pursue the legal profession.

Tayla recently completed Legal Aid Alberta’s (LAA) Indigenous Summer Students Program and is in her second year of law school at the University of Calgary. Part of the Whitefish River First Nation, located on the northern shore of Lake Huron in Ontario, Tayla felt that joining LAA “was a great way to give back to [her] Indigenous community.”

A disproportionate number of people requiring legal services are Indigenous, and Tayla wanted to “make a change and show that their lives are not based on past traumas or intergenerational traumas…you can carve your own path.”

Role models and mentorships

Tayla describes her experience with LAA as an opportunity to be mentored and get hands-on experience with the Alberta’s justice system. “I sat in on a sexual assault trial with LAA lawyer, Sarah Dover from the Criminal Trial Group. Seeing her in action and witnessing the connection with her clients, I felt that I was part of the process and played an integral role in this case.”

Tayla emphasizes the integral role of mentors throughout her time at LAA. “Kathleen Reyes, Megan Hanson, and Nathaniel Schmidt, were willing to answer questions, gave meaningful feedback and practical advice about my legal career, articling and law school.”

A message to future Indigenous students

“It can seem overwhelming in the beginning, but it’s important to trust the process and trust yourself…people will recognize the effort you put in,” says Tayla. “Whether it’s another lawyer, family member or someone who has connections in the legal system, find someone who can shed light on certain issues and perspectives to help you navigate through your career.”

Learn more about LAA’s student opportunities.

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