The top half of a maple leaf in orange, yellow and brown, with Adinkra visual symbols originating in West Africa

Feb. 8, 2021

'Just go for it,' says Black Law Students' Association volunteer

David Isilebo enriched by experiences and supportive atmosphere at UCalgary Faculty of Law

David Isilebo knows he has lived a blessed life. Born in Oman to Nigerian parents, and a father who worked in the energy industry, Isilebo has had the opportunity to travel the world.

“We tended to move every three or four years,” explains the second-year law student at the University of Calgary. “I’ve lived in Brunei, Australia, Singapore, Nigeria, Scotland and New York. I see myself as fortunate for having moved around so much, to be able to experience so many things while growing up.”

Isilebo’s family eventually settled down in Calgary in 2010. While he calls the city home, he decided to pursue his undergrad at the University of Alberta because he “wanted to leave the house, but not go too far.”

After completing a degree in environmental science, he worked as a research assistant for an archaeology professor, despite no background in the field. With such a broad background, it may be hard to understand how a career in law came into play.

Second-year law student David Isilebo

Second-year law student David Isilebo, right, speaks with a classmate at the annual Blakes 1L Mixer, before the COVID-19 pandemic.

Interest sparked in high school

“I first became interested in a legal career in high school, when a classmate’s mother, a lawyer, gave a talk to our class. She explained what the practice was like, the freedom she experienced being her own boss, and the different people she was able to work with.”

Isilebo remembered that experience and realized that law school was the next step for him. He applied, and was accepted, to law school, and decided to give it a shot.

“As it turns out I really like law school, so I decided to stick it out. I was shocked when I first met real lawyers and realized how normal they actually are,” he says with a chuckle.

Volunteering to make changes

Isilebo will be the first lawyer in his family, and he hopes to practise criminal law when he graduates after good experiences volunteering with Student Legal Assistance. He secured a job with Alberta Crown Prosecution Service for the summer, and hopes to complete his articles there.   

Additionally, he serves as vice-president for the Calgary chapter of the Black Law Students' Association, and is proud of the success the group has seen so far in its short existence. The group meets with law school leadership monthly, and managed to initiate an important change in the law school admissions process for Black applicants.

We’re just getting started. The group started with three members, this year we have six, and maybe we will have 12 next year. Given enough time, the group can continue to grow and have a real impact in the law school.

‘Just go for it’

Isilebo has advice for any Black students who may be considering law school: just go for it.

“It’s possible. I did not think I could get in, and I did not think I would fit in. And I am here. Do not be scared, and do not be scared of lawyers. They want to help you and to see you succeed.”

Find more Black History Month events and stories from UCalgary. 

Black History Month is a time to learn more about the Canadian stories and the many other important contributions of Black Canadians to the settlement, growth and development of Canada, and about the diversity of Black communities.

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