A passion for speaking out; a passion for the law
Robson Hall Alum Wura Dasylva explains her motivations for completing an LL.M. before practicing law in Canada
The Manitoba Bar Association’s Legal Research section recently co-hosted a panel discussion with Robson Hall Faculty of Law’s Career Development Office to inform students of the value of undertaking a Master of Laws degree. Wuraola (Wura) Dasylva [LL.M./’17] would have been a poster child for this event if she weren’t busy working as an Articling Student at the law firm of Miller Thomson in Regina, SK. With a passion for speaking out and for exploring new ideas, she likes academia as much as she likes practicing law, and greatly values her time spent as a Master of Laws student at Robson Hall.
Dasylva is not new to the practice of law, having already been called to the bar in 2014 in Nigeria, where she practiced corporate/commercial law as a barrister and solicitor at one of Nigeria’s leading national law firms. In Nigeria, she explained, students can obtain a five-year law degree right out of high school, and then attend the Nigerian Law School, a national institution with six campuses across the country. There, students learn legal procedure – and, Dasylva said, “more about the actual practice of law under one year than what we learnt in five years put together.” Even still, she agrees that the five-year law degree did provide her with “a good foundation to understand the practice of law.”
As a child, she leaned towards a legal career early on. “I loved to speak and there was apparently this misconception that you have to be a “talker” to be a lawyer,” she said. “So everyone around me jokingly referred to me as a lawyer and I just went with the flow and started considering law as a profession. At the time, I didn’t or couldn’t think of anything else as a career option.”
At the University of Ibadan in Nigeria where she completed her five-year law degree, she did get exposure to another possible career option – in radio. She was Vice President of the Student Union, but also volunteered for the campus radio station as a duty continuity announcer. “Volunteering at the university radio station was an amazing opportunity for me to unleash my passion to speak,” she recalled. “I loved every opportunity to be out there and to just speak, whether to an audience of one or thousands.”
As an announcer, she did everything from talking on-air, to the nuts and bolts of coordinating and cuing up programs, playing music and casting the news summary. While on air, she was at liberty to develop content and raise controversial but educational topics, and encourage listeners to phone in and take part in the discussion. Dasylva confesses she would do radio again if the opportunity arose. She regrets not having had the opportunity to volunteer for the University of Manitoba campus radio station UMFM, due to major time constraints of finishing her Master’s and writing the qualifying exams to be able to practice law in Canada.
If she were not a lawyer, Dasylva muses perhaps she would be a talk show host. But when it comes to choosing between being a legal academic and being a lawyer, she cannot choose. “They both offer some level of gratification. [for example], when you make headway with a paper and have the opportunity to present at a conference or when you meet or even exceed a client’s expectations on a file. Both fields are also dynamic and offer varieties.”
BARRISTER V SOLICITOR
Time will tell whether or not she prefers academia to practicing, since she feels as-yet inexperienced with only a Master’s degree and two years of practice under her belt. Yet, in the practice of law, this talker defines herself as more of a solicitor than a litigator, given that she has had more exposure to the former type of work than the latter. “As an articling student,” she said, “I currently do a mix of all practice areas and should focus a little more on solicitor’s work when I get called to the bar this summer.”
While returning to school for a PhD is not currently on her radar, it is something she may consider in the near future. “The idea of having the highest educational degree sounds exciting,” she said, “but I know it is very challenging and it entails a lot more. For this reason, I wouldn’t consider it anytime soon until I am able to give it all that it takes and until I have carefully considered the career options that a PhD might offer me. For now, the practice of law is exciting and enticing and I love it.”
Dasylva’s motivation to pursue a graduate degree at the University of Manitoba stems from the fact that it is the oldest university in Western Canada. Her Nigerian alma mater, the University of Ibadan, was the first university to be established in Nigeria, she explained. “I loved the antiques of the library, I loved the oldness and richness of the university,” she said. “When I read that University of Manitoba was the first university in Western Canada and when I looked at pictures of the buildings on the university website, as mundane as that may be, it made me fall in love with the U of M.”
Just as ‘Unibadan’ (as she nicknames it) is acclaimed as the “first and best” university in Nigeria, she felt she wanted to be in another “first and best” or “simply great” university. She also had the good fortune to have an earlier connection with another Nigerian student who was pursing graduate studies at Robson Hall. “He told me nice things about the professors, staff and generally friendly environment and people,” she said, admitting that, “He left out the Winnipeg winter in his praises.”
A final factor in her decision-making process was that she found a professor here at Robson Hall, “whose pedigree revealed similar passion for the same area of law that I was interested in and that just sealed the deal for me.”
Her research area was in the combined fields of mergers and acquisitions (corporate law) and alternative dispute resolution, and her experience studying that area at a graduate level with her advisor, Dr. Jennifer Schulz at Robson Hall was, she felt, a great introduction into Canadian corporate law practice. “As an internationally-trained lawyer,” she said, “it was definitely a good idea to pursue graduate studies before delving into law practice and Robson Hall gave me the requisite foundational knowledge.”
Comparing the U of Ibadan’s Law Faculty to Robson Hall, Dasylva describes her experiences at each as very different. “My primary legal degree at U of Ibadan focused on taking in knowledge and giving it back the same way for the purpose of success in examinations. Robson Hall challenged me to do more. Class discussions were huge learning opportunities and it was amazing how the professors took the back seat sometimes and just allowed students to discuss,” she said. “I also loved that I took courses that required me to write papers rather than writing exams. I think both my U of Ibadan and Robson Hall experiences were uniquely different yet beautifully complimentary.”
Currently, Dasylva is enjoying her working life in Saskatchewan. “Regina is a small, cozy city and you can drive to the other end of the city in about 20 minutes,” she said, “I love the idea of having a work-life balance and I think a reasonably sized city like Regina offers me that kind of lifestyle.”
A WORD FROM THE WISE
As a word of advice to undergraduate law students, she advocates practicing law first before considering graduate studies. “Law practice is an eye-opener,” she said, “and it also brings to life how to apply legal principles and theories to meet clients’ needs. With such exposure, I think it may be easier to make a choice regarding areas of interest for graduate studies.”
“I practiced law in Nigeria for about a year,” she said, “and although this was for a short time, my work experience assisted in defining my goals for graduate studies.”
I knew from infancy that Wuraola would study something related to talking in public. She started public discussion early enough from primary school days. I could recollect she won accolades for her poem at the final year party.
In her secondary school days, she was the senior girl with lots of prizes won. She participated actively in Super Bowl Competition at the University of Ibadan. Her oratory skill won her the elective position of Vice President of Students Union Executive of UI.
She is a wonderful young lady with lot of prospects. She’s a very good orator with future prospects for academics too. I can only wish her better advancement in her field in Canada.
She is my very amiable daughter.I wish her a successful stay in Canada.