DALA (droit autrement/legal alternative) is a student club at McGill’s Faculty of Law whose activities seek to highlight the evolution of the legal profession and the creative, alternative careers – both legal and non-legal – of  law graduates, including those of Jeanelle Dundas, BCL/LLB’17 and Thomas Hamilton, BCL/LLB’14.

By Caroline Schurman-Grenier, BCL/JD candidate and president of DALA McGill

Jeanelle Dundas, BCL/LLB'17

Jeanelle Dundas, BCL/LLB’17
Thomas Hamilton, BCL/LLB'14

Thomas Hamilton, BCL/LLB’14

Many students enter law school with the dream of practicing law in a full-service law firm. Others arrive still unsure of what their dream job looks like, or even end up pursuing another professional path altogether. That’s where Droit Autrement/Legal Alternative (DALA) comes in. DALA was created in 2016 by a group of McGill law students wanting to explore the potential of a legal education. Through its Lawfully Uncommon interview series, DALA connects with inspiring law graduates who have carved out unconventional careers both in and outside of the legal field.

Take Jeanelle Dundas, BCL/LLB’17, for instance. Jeanelle began her career practicing at a corporate law firm in Montreal, thinking that she had landed her “forever” job. Although she learned an incredible amount during the time that she was there, she questioned whether she wanted to pursue this type of work long-term. She went on to work at the National Judicial Institute in Ottawa and later joined the legal counsel team at Shopify, a multinational e-commerce company. Jeanelle values the time that she spent working at her firm, but enjoyed discovering “a different conception of what a legal career could look like” that led her to where she is today.

And then there’s Thomas Hamilton, BCL/LLB’14, VP of Strategy & Operations at ROSS Intelligence, a legal research software company based in Silicon Valley. An internship at the Bank of Montreal during the 2008 recession gave him the zest to study law “as a way of helping make a fairer society through regulation”. After landing a job at a large law firm in Toronto, he witnessed first-hand the various challenges law firms often face. He knew that in comparison to his fellow McGill alums, “who had aced law school,” he could not compete with their extraordinary legal skills. “I leveraged that experience to become an entrepreneur and build artificial intelligence technology that directly impacts the practice of law,” he notes. Through this experience, Thomas blazed an unconventional career path for himself, where he has a direct impact on the legal profession and can provide quality legal services for affordable prices.

Seeking a diversity of career paths

DALA’s efforts go beyond Lawfully Uncommon; the club has also hosted many events where law alumni have shared their career shifts. DALA has also collaborated with the Career Development Office to organize the Faculty’s first alternative career day, How to Work Your Law Degree, where professionals chat with students and give enlightening talks on the assets that a legal education brings to any career. Be it consulting, entrepreneurship, diplomacy, entertainment, international development, legal tech, or specialized legal practices, DALA’s aim is to highlight the diversity of paths that exist after law school.

A legal education changes the way we think in whatever we choose to do in life. While some may leave the practice of law entirely, they still find themselves thinking “like a lawyer”. Thomas is grateful to be able to interact with the law every day working with AI technology to better legal research. Jeanelle appreciates how her current role allows her to take an everyday, business-oriented, human approach to the law. “I think about relationships, obligations, responsibility, norms and risk all of the time, but I think these questions are incredibly human,” she says. “We’re constantly evaluating these things in our everyday life, in every single interaction that we have, whether we realize it or not.”

After graduating from McGill Law, alums branch out around the world with a variety of career paths to choose from. What is ultimately clear is that a McGill law degree opens up many professional paths for its graduates; it’s the path with twists, turns, dead ends, and new beginnings that DALA aims to showcase.

DALA is always looking for ways to collaborate with McGill Law alumni. If you are interested in being featured or know someone we should interview, email communication.dalamcgill@gmail.com.