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‘The key reason I made it where I am today is because of the mentors I had at Concordia’

Alumnus Lawrence David, Founder of Concordia Pre-Law Student Society, now at Canada’s Department of Justice
July 8, 2019
By Maeve Haldane

Lawrence David, BA 10 Lawrence David, BA 10

As a lawyer for Canada’s Department of Justice in Ottawa, Lawrence David, BA 10, defends the Government of Canada as part of the team of lawyers representing the Attorney General of Canada.

A first-generation Canadian in a single-parent household, David was the first in his family to attend university, but had an inauspicious start as a four-F drop out.

Yet Concordia gave him a chance — and he earned a degree in political science with a minor in law and society. He formed the Concordia Pre-Law Student Society, to encourage students to pursue law.

His success at Concordia opened the door to a McGill law degree, a master’s in law from Harvard Law School, clerking at the Supreme Court of Canada under Justice Rosalie Abella, and becoming a dedicated public servant.

Concordia: Tell us about your bumpy start at Concordia.

David: I started in 2004, but dropped out after one semester because I was chasing my adolescent dreams to make music. I dropped out after the withdrawal date, resulting in all Fs on my transcript. Three years later, I decided to go back. The first step was to convince Concordia to let me resume my education despite those glaring Fs.

I took a few classes to demonstrate that I was able to pass. I took a class in communications, one in real estate, one in mass communications and one in Quebec Civil Law.

This class, Quebec Civil Law, changed my life. The professor was Pierre Frégeau and something in my mind just like, “Wow!” Because he was so passionate, the way he explained it, it just connected with me. Then there was Criminal Law with Marcel Danis, BA 65, who used to be in Parliament, and that was my first A plus.

Once I found that path, I was really motivated. The problem was I needed to go to law school — which requires a high GPA, but I still had that stain on my transcript.

Lawrence David with Justice Rosalie Abella Lawrence David with Justice Rosalie Abella (Supreme Court of Canada), taken at Harvard Law School, October 2017 | Photo: courtesy of David Lawrence

I essentially retook the classes to neutralize the effect on my GPA, these introductory classes to political science, to international relations. They were great! What’s funny is I still have all my transcripts from every semester and you see the progression in GPA from zero to 0.7, 1.5, 2.2…

How did you choose the public service branch of law?

David: After I graduated in 2010, I was really lucky to get a job on Parliament Hill. I became fascinated with the role lawyers played in the whole parliamentary process. I realized that a lot of the debates had a legal component that I was not able to follow because I didn’t have legal training. It spawned in me the interest in lawyering in the public service and government.

Tell us why you now teach criminal law and procedure at the University of Ottawa.

David: The key reason I made it where I am today is because of the mentors I had at Concordia. Mentors encourage people to follow their dreams and passions. If I can have a similar impact on even one student, I will have advanced the ethic of giving back and promoting education, the values I learned at Concordia.

What are the benefits of an education in law?

David: Legal education enables individuals to empower themselves and also to empower others and their communities. Yeah, we always think about suits, or the corporate side of law, but for me it’s always been about the social dimension and empowering others. Law is a tool of social progress. Law is a tool of combating inequality and discrimination. Law is a tool of reconciliation with indigenous peoples. That’s the perspective I view it from.

Law is good as a general education. That’s why I took that first law class at Concordia. I thought, I’m Canadian, I’m 25, I know nothing about the law. Maybe it’s time I started learning about the laws that apply to me! As a citizen  in a democracy, I should probably know that. Little did I know the adventure my training at Concordia would soon make possible for me.


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