Not far removed from her student days, Brittany Williams, BCL/LLB’19, says she aims to increase accessibility and diversity in her new role as Acting Assistant Dean (Admissions and Recruitment). Williams tells Focus online why she wants to broaden the Faculty’s outreach efforts, and how she hopes to show potential applicants the expansive possibilities that come with a McGill Law degree.
In class, in 2017.
“I applied to one or two other law schools, but McGill was number one, because I love my city. I also knew this program would bring me more than just courses.”
On the front lawn, in 2016.
“It would be interesting, given that my relationship with McGill started with the high school outreach program, to look at the LEX program now and see where we could do more… I want to reach out further, cast a wider net.”
What is your vision in your new role on the Admissions team?
At the end of the day, it is about accessibility and creating space for students to empower themselves to do things with the law. I don’t know if I would have thrown my hat in the ring for the role had I not had an experience with admissions peripherally when I was in high school with the outreach program (now called LEX). I understood the vast impacts that the position could have — it’s not only about creating future McGill cohorts, but it’s also about shaping the future of the legal profession, and shaping the future of what people will do with their law degrees.
I think we’re at a very important place right now, at the university and globally, where we’re talking more about systemic barriers to so many different things. As the world and different countries continue to become diversified, we have to, especially at this level, be proactive instead of reactive in making space for people who have experienced those systemic barriers to being able to consider this kind of endeavour, to consider a law degree. It feels very big and very important. I’m excited at the idea of being able to open that up.
What made you want to study law at McGill?
When I was in high school, my class took part in McGill Law’s LEX outreach program, which introduced me to McGill University. It wasn’t on my radar before that, really. I’m an extremely outspoken person – sometimes to my own detriment – and throughout my life, the idea of me being a lawyer kept being floated.
I did an undergrad in Human Relations at Concordia University, where I learned about people and how they work. That really helped inform what kind of law I wanted to practice, but also how I wanted to use my degree. I applied to one or two other law schools, but McGill was number one, because I love my city. I also knew this program would bring me more than just courses.
During my undergrad, I did an internship with Batshaw Youth and Family Centres, which is the child protection service for English-speaking Montreal. These kids come from a wide range of circumstances, but they all need the skills to be able to go out in the world and be okay. I loved engaging with them. A key piece of working in that system is being able to relate; being real. I enjoyed the access to justice, information-sharing part of my internship. I said, “I want to do something like this, with law.” We interact with the law on a daily basis, but many people don’t know how to advocate for themselves, and I knew I wanted to help create access.
What are your outreach priorities?
It would be interesting, given that my relationship with McGill started with the high school outreach program, to look at the LEX program now. Obviously, it’s different now because we’re all working remotely, and some high schools are online.
I want to reach out further, cast a wider net. I want to increase our francophone representation, since we live in Montreal and are located in Quebec. We have the luck of a dual language system.
I would like to go further outside of the Montreal core. Looking at Montreal North, out in the West, and the South Shore, there are folks who are intrigued by the BCL/JD program. Since we are operating largely online, we have the capacity to expand our outreach efforts.
Will your personal experiences impact your role?
As a Black, queer, Christian woman, there are many times where I don’t see myself represented in the spaces that I inhabit. I want to make sure to honour those parts of myself and be able to approach this job intersectionally. Seeing things with an intersectional lens can be so valuable. That is already built into the holistic admissions process at McGill, where it’s not just about grades, but who people are as a whole.
I want to be able to apply that lens in creating McGill’s future cohort. I want to take all those intersections that potential candidates live in and break the mold of what we imagine a McGill student ought to be. Early on in my law school life, I recognized people are coming from vastly different spaces. I had peers who were doctors, some who were parents, and others who had lived what seemed like whole other lives before coming here.
If, in my role, I can further that, and bring new people and perspectives into the conversation, it would an honour.