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Setting Precedents: Three law students receive 2022 Emerging Leader Awards

June 24, 2022 — 

No less than three law students have been named recipients of the University of Manitoba’s 2022 Emerging Leader Awards. These remarkable students include Class of 2022’s Michael Badejo, President of the Manitoba Law Students’ Association (2021-2022), Shawn Singh, an active member of the MLSA and participant in the Presidents’ Student Leadership Program cohort (2021), and Class of 2023’s Adam Kowal, who served as co-president of the Manitoba Indigenous Law Students’ Association during his second year of law.

University of Manitoba Emerging Leader Awards are given annually students who support the University’s educational mission by contributing to the social, cultural or economic well-being of communities on or off campus; encourage cross-cultural understanding, and demonstrate sustained leadership and initiative worthy of recognition. Law’s three recipients for 2022 more than meet these requirements.

Dr. Richard Jochelson, Dean of Law, has worked with all three of these students in some capacity throughout their law school careers. “We are extremely proud that our students have received this prestigious recognition for their leadership,” he said. “Each of these three individuals has demonstrated their outstanding leadership skills and made major contributions to the law faculty, the legal community, and to the broader community.”

The Faculty of Law asked each student what drove them to study law, what they accomplished in law school and what lies ahead for them. We also discussed what leadership means to them and what it took for them to step forward and take on leadership roles.

Michael Badejo, Class of 2022, MLSA President, articling at Fillmore Riley LLP

Headshot of Michael Badejo

Michael Badejo

Michael Badejo had thought of going to law school since high school. He just took a few detours to get there, including a short stint of pre-med at the University of Manitoba, and a joint degree/diploma from the University of Winnipeg and Red River College in Creative Communications.

He finally arrived at Robson Hall after a career in media relations and strategic, corporate communications with experience as both a self-employed contractor and full-time employee as a strategic advisor and communications specialist with numerous major local organizations like the Winnipeg Airports Authority, the Chartered Professional Accountants of Manitoba and Deer Lodge Centre Foundation.

“These roles deepened my understanding of our community, while also helping to shape my approach in law school – particularly in how the law manifests practically for everyday people,” he reflected. “It really made me try to approach every fact set, every scenario, every hypothetical legal conflict in a manner that puts both pragmatism as well as “how will this work in real life” front and centre.”

Badejo made an effort to tie his skill in leadership and getting parties on the same page with the brand-new skillset he was honing in law. It was a vital element of his approach to making law and successful partnerships more accessible both in his capacity as an individual learning a new profession, and as the head of an organization that, in the midst and initial aftermath of the pandemic, needed to renew its goals of ensuring the best possible experience for the students of Robson Hall.

“I’ve always had an interest in using critical thinking, strategic messaging, and good old fashioned common sense to help those around me,” Badejo said. “Coming from a career in strategic communications, this seemed like the natural evolution to accomplish that goal on a bigger scale and with the ability to make a positive impact in our shared community by giving back. Law school has provided me the opportunity to do that and more, so I’m glad to report that the multitude of experiences that compose law school lived up to those aspirations and then some.”

“Leadership to me is about recognizing where you came from – that you are who you are because of a shared community – and the notion that if you have the ability to make a positive impact, you have that responsibility.” – Michael Badejo, Class of 2022

Among major highlights this year for Badejo was leading the MLSA as they safely reinvented many of their traditional social and professional development events for the new normal, rebuilding the interpersonal connections that were somewhat blunted by the pandemic. He is most proud, however, of his executive team’s work with the Dean, signing an historic memorandum of understanding with the Faculty of Law to renovate student-facing spaces with Law Student Endowment Funds worth more than $700,000. This first-of-its-kind agreement also facilitates the immediate construction of a gender-inclusive washroom in the Faculty’s Common Room. “This agreement not only bolsters the entirety of the place that law students call home in Manitoba,” said Badejo, “but also reinforces the notion that dignity and acceptance of everyone is top of mind at Robson Hall.”

For all of the recognition and goals that he and his team were able to garner and accomplish this year, there was a consistent thread for Badejo from day one.  “We all have individual spheres of influence big and small,” he said, adding, “I believe that we should all do what we can to give back to our community, and work together in pushing the needle forward for those who come after us.”

Shawn Singh, Class of 2022, PSLP participant, articling at Manitoba Prosecution Service

photo of law student Shawn Singh

Shawn Singh

Shawn Singh came to Robson Hall prepared with a Bachelor of Arts (Honours) degree in Criminology. Having already spent his undergraduate years studying theories of anti-social behaviour and how to encourage people to work together as a community, he already had a strong foundation for his current articling position with the Manitoba Prosecution Service.

“I was first inspired to pursue law because of my parent’s journey to Canada,” he explained. “They came here from Guyana, where guerilla violence was rampant and citizens could not trust the government. From early days, they taught me that Canada is one of the safest places in the world because we have strong institutions and people who care about each other. Because of their experience, I wanted to be part of the justice system to continue our tradition of keeping people safe and protecting the values that we all share.”

Singh worked as a research assistant for several law professors and published research prolifically. He found many ways to apply what he learned in Criminology about structural discrimination, the disadvantages that marginalized groups face, and the role of EDI initiatives in terms of making a meaningful difference. He worked for Assistant Professor Brandon Trask during the summer of 2021 and throughout his third year of law, and was also a research assistant for Marc Kruse, Indigenous Legal Studies Coordinator. Singh helped Trask publish a suite of articles regarding access to justice during the pandemic and supported Kruse as he developed Robson Hall’s new Indigenous legal clinic and the school’s Indigenous legal literature database. Before working with Trask and Kruse, Singh worked with Dean Richard Jochelson and Associate Professor David Ireland as their student editor. Together, the team worked to produce a chapter in Canada’s first book on digital privacy law in the modern era. In total, he published five articles and three book chapters between his 2L and 3L years and intends to revise two term papers into three more publications with the Manitoba Law Journal.

A major highlight of Singh’s law school career was being selected to take part in the annual President’s Student Leadership Program. Outside of the PSLP, he took on many leadership roles at Robson Hall. He served as class representative for the MLSA during 2L, was a member of the Academic Committee in 3L, and was Thomson Reuters Representative in both 2L and 3L, where he worked with liaison librarian Matthew Renaud to organize training sessions, liaise with students, and improve student knowledge about Westlaw Edge and the brand more generally. 

Singh’s contributions to the Robson Hall community were recognized when he was selected as the law school’s Outstanding Student for 2022. He was chosen to participate in the Centre for the Advancement of Teaching and Learning’s Student Teacher Recognition Reception, where he recognized Assistant Professor Brandon Trask as his law school mentor, as well as his high school mentor, Mr. Adriano Magnifico.

Singh could be counted on as a willing and dedicated volunteer to represent Robson Hall. He was an ambassador at two UM Virtual Open Houses, and spoke with high school students in Winnipeg about pursuing a law degree at the Louis Riel School Division’s Arts and Technology Centre’s post-secondary career fair. While the pandemic was keeping students at home, Singh also joined Mr. Magnifico on his podcast, “Adventures in Careerland” for episode 28 of season 3 to share his story with LRSD students while they learned remotely

Aside from being an ambassador for Robson Hall, Singh engaged heavily in the Faculty’s student groups. He co-chaired the Robson Hall Chapter of the Canadian Association of Refugee Lawyers (CARL)with Samantha Harvey in 3L, volunteered with Pro Bono Students Canada at the Manitoba Law Reform Commission, volunteered with the Law Library Hub and with the Manitoba Interfaith Immigration Council’s Welcome Place, and invigilated with several law school competitions.

“I am excited to see where things go from here, but am grateful that I have the chance to work in Manitoba’s largest law firm to learn about the practice of law and where my skills fit best in the mix.” – Shawn Singh, Class of 2022

Currently articling with Manitoba Prosecution Service, Singh intends to continue along a career path of criminal law. “Many of my publications were focused on the Charter implications of the pandemic and the technologies that our systems now depend on.  I hope to make my research a key part of my work, regardless of where I end up,” he said. “In addition to these rights and implications, I also hope to support the shift towards Truth and Reconciliation with Indigenous Peoples, which has been a key part of my work so far. Either way, I am excited to start the next part of my journey here in Manitoba – and am sure that I will be back at Robson Hall to give back to new law students and help them find their path.”

Adam Kowal, Class of 2023, outgoing Co-President, Manitoba Indigenous Law Students’ Association

Adam Kowal

Adam Kowal

It is easy to assume Adam Kowal was part of this year’s graduating class, although he still has one more year to go. Serving as co-president of the Manitoba Indigenous Law Students’ Association in his second year of Law, Kowal has already achieved a lot, and as such, is ready to pass the torch to incoming 2L students as he takes on other challenges in his third and final year – not the least of which is completing his Juris Doctor degree.

Kowal arrived at Robson Hall by way of a route more scenic than most. Out of high school, he completed a Bachelor of Arts in philosophy at UM, studied medicine for three years, started a Masters in philosophy, but left that shortly before completion. With student loans mounting, he worked full time in hospitality, then air traffic control recruitment training until the pandemic hit. By then, the small-town-raised he had got accepted into law school, and started his first year at a virtual Robson Hall.

“I got interested in law school while I was in medicine,” Kowal explained. “While I was in medicine, I noticed that we were successful at pulling a lot of people out of the river, but we weren’t really successful at going further upstream to figure out why they were falling in or to help prevent that.”

Upon discovering that it wasn’t front-facing members of the medical community who were making important policy decisions, Kowal wanted to know more about who these decision-makers of public health policy were. A lot of them, he learned, had “these things called JDs.”

Fast-forward a few years, and Kowal found himself working on major leadership projects with his award-winning colleagues while in the midst of working towards obtaining his own JD. “It’s really nice to see that Shawn and Michael were both edified by winning the [Emerging Leadership] award as well,” he said. “And it’s very fitting because Michael and Shawn and I all work sort of in triangle fashion on a variety of projects together. So it’s unsurprising and well deserved.”

Together with fellow MILSA co-president Dustin Seguin, Kowal and Singh worked together on helping the Associate Dean’s office develop the Indigenous Externship clinic that will be available for 3L students to take, starting in the fall of 2022. As the front-facing member of MILSA, Kowal worked with Badejo, the MLSA President, on various projects throughout the past year.

Kowal served on the Indigenous scholar hiring committee and the committee that hired Marc Kruse for the Indigenous Legal Studies Coordinator along with Dr. Richard Jochelson, Dean of Law, and other faculty members. He served on the Indigenous law student admissions panel with some Indigenous practicing professionals, and worked with University of Manitoba’s Donor Relations staff in Major Gifts and the Faculty of Law Class of 1980 to help develop a bursary for incoming Indigenous students. On top of all this, he also somehow got through his second year of law school.

A key words Kowal used to describe the extra-curricular work he took on was ‘service.’ “I think that leadership is, at the end of the day, a service role,” he said. “It’s an answer to stand in the gap on behalf of others, or when others can’t for themselves. And I think a large part of that is being graciously accountable to either the team that you take a leadership role with or the project you take a leadership role with.”

“You have to be accountable for the group or the project you inherit at whatever state you inherited it in – that is now yours. You don’t blame anyone else. You don’t look at anyone else to explain why things are aren’t a certain way – that’s yours. And then you’re accountable for what you pass on and leave for others as well.” – Adam Kowal, Class of 2023

“I think the best leaders make themselves redundant at the end of the day, whether that’s team growth, or project growth or project completion,” Kowal reflected. “I think at the end of the day, all the best leaders invariably have to move on because their job is finished or they’re no longer required in that role.”

Upon learning of his and his fellow law students’ selections as Emerging Leader award recipients, Kowal realized that all three of them, Badejo, Singh and himself, all served their communities where there was a need, taking on things that were not necessarily their problems, and leaving things better when they left them. “That’s inspiring to see in students, right, like, it’s tough to be a student, full stop. And then it’s tough to be a student leader on top of that, and prioritize your time and manage things,” Kowal said. “I am so very impressed with both those gentlemen.”

Kowal decided not to stay in a leadership role with MILSA for his third year, thinking that it would be a good chance for other law students starting their second years to have the same opportunities he had. Rather, he will remain in an advisory capacity, and is willing to help out as needed. “I think it would be selfish for me to stay on because I was able to make wonderful relationships with faculty and staff and be involved in wonderful projects that are worth more than just putting on the CV,” he said. “I think it’d be selfish to hold on to that, because others can greatly benefit from that. And not just for their CVs – they can grow as people surprisingly quickly during their last year of law school tenure ship.”

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