National Volunteer Week is approaching and we would like to celebrate it by highlighting two law student volunteers (and exceptional human beings): Hero Laird (University of Alberta) and Mackenzie Cook (University of Calgary). We interviewed both to learn more about their journey, passions, and perspectives about volunteerism in the law student community.
Hero Laird has been involved as a volunteer in a variety of initiatives contributing to systems change and access to justice. Hero is the founding President of the Digital Law & Innovation Society and an executive member of the Indigenous Law Students’ Association at the University of Alberta. They were also a volunteer with Student Legal Services for a year.
Beyond law, Hero is the President of Volunteer Alberta and advisor of numerous organizations, such as Powered By Data and the Canadian Centre for Nonprofit Digital Resilience. They are also part of an Indigenous-led TRC learning group and like to help out with gardens and childcare in their community.
Hero started our interview by acknowledging that they are privileged to have the ability and time to volunteer, which is one of the many ways each of us can make a contribution to our communities.
When asked about what motivates them to volunteer, they said that “being involved in arts, community organizing, and systems change work is a way to be part of creating the world I want to live in.” Hero said that being in law school is a great privilege and one that they hope students will choose to use kindly: “There’s much to be done to increase access to justice, level the playing field, and meet the aspirations we set for ourselves as a society that benefits all, not just a few.” Hero is happy to have met many passionate people in law school “turning their talents and resources towards a kinder world.”
Mackenzie Cook has been involved with student-led groups and Student Legal Assistance (SLA) since the beginning of law school. She is the incoming Student Director of SLA.
Mackenzie is also an Executive member of both the Criminal Law Society and the Indigenous Law Students Association at the University of Calgary.
Mackenzie holds a Master of Arts in Criminology and Sociolegal Studies. Prior to law school, she worked with criminalized clients in both institutional and community correctional settings. She hopes to practice Criminal Law when she graduates.
Mackenzie said that volunteering in law school allowed her the opportunity to use her “unique position of privilege in accessing a legal education to give back to various communities.” She loves the feeling of working alongside a client to help them achieve their goal.
She also listed many other motivations to volunteer, such as:
• Learning about the kinds of legal problems that are faced by people living in Southern Alberta
• Gaining practical insight and connection to more formal elements of her legal education
• Connecting with both community members and like-minded peers. She has met some of her best friends and most revered colleagues through volunteering during law school!
• Affording the opportunity to network with members of the legal community whose work she admires and takes interest in.
Mackenzie added that law students love to volunteer: “Almost every person I have met during my time in law school is involved with a club or organization that aligns with their interests and values.”