Osgoode Hall Law School and Toronto-based Davies Ward Phillips & Vineberg LLP have jointly announced the $1.2-million Davies Fellows Award to help break down barriers to legal education.
The new bursary is created with donations from Osgoode alumni at Davies with matching funds from the law school.
At a special event March 1 at Osgoode, Davies senior partner Patricia Olasker ’77 said the initiative reflects Davies’ commitment to creating a more inclusive legal profession by removing barriers that stand in the way of students with exceptional promise.
“We count among our lawyers at Davies individuals who have overcome obstacles to achieve excellence in the profession, and we recognize that we have an opportunity to expand access to a legal education to students from equity-deserving groups,” she said.
“Our commitment to equity, diversity and inclusion is a core value of our firm, and the creation of the Davies Fellows Award is an impactful way for us to turn our values into action.”
Davies partner Chantelle Cseh ’10 shared her own personal story of overcoming challenges to complete her legal education, including financial hardship, losing her family home to fire and the serious illness of a parent. She said that Osgoode’s holistic admissions policy opened the door to opportunity when all others had closed.
“Some of those setbacks really impacted my ability to focus on my studies,” she recalled. “After everybody else rejected me, I remember getting the call that changed my life. Were it not for Osgoode’s support, I wouldn’t be standing here today.”
Osgoode Dean Mary Condon said the creation of the Davies Fellows Award is a transformative contribution to the law school’s No Barriers campaign, which aims to make Osgoode one of the most diverse and inclusive law schools in Canada.
“I am so grateful for the amazing support our Davies alumni have given to this initiative,” she said, “which will see generous alumni donations matched by Osgoode to help reduce systemic barriers to law school for students from all equity-deserving groups, who will in turn change the face of the legal profession.
“As the first Canadian law school to adopt a holistic admissions policy 15 years ago,” she added, “Osgoode has been a leader in making legal education more open, inclusive and diverse.”
Every year, the bursary will help support one first-year student in the law school’s juris doctor (JD) program, who has demonstrated financial need and exceptional promise.
The successful candidate’s personal and professional achievements will include overcoming obstacles related to financial means, racial, cultural, gender inequalities, mental health, and/or physical or learning challenges. The recipient will be known as a Davies Fellow.
The award is renewable for the student’s second and third years in the JD program, provided the student remains in good academic standing and continues to demonstrate financial need and exceptional promise.
Davies managing partner Sarbjit Basra ’94 said the firm hopes the Davies Fellows Award will make a real impact toward creating a more diverse and inclusive legal profession.
“We would not be the firm we are without the contribution of partners such as Chantelle and others,” he said. “Diversity makes us stronger and better.”