Two UVic Law alumna win Distinguished Alumni Awards

From the far reaches of outer space, to the opera houses of Europe, to the intersection of Indigenous science and self-care, the recipients of the 2023 University of Victoria Distinguished Alumni Awards span the globe with their remarkable achievements.

This year, UVic and the UVic Alumni Association recognize 16 individuals in three categories: the Presidents’ Alumni Awards (presented by UVic's President and the President of the UVic Alumni Association), the Indigenous Community Alumni Awards and the Emerging Alumni Awards.

Congratulations to two of our alumni who received Distinguished Alumni awards this week:

Leena Yousefi (JD '10)


  • Category: Presidents’ Alumni Award
  • UVic degree: Bachelor of Arts in Sociology, 2006; Law Juris Doctor, 2010
  • Current hometown: Vancouver, BC      
  • Birthplace: Tehran, Iran

Leena Yousefi is a lawyer, accredited mediator and the founder of YLaw, the largest female-led law firm in Canada. Born in Iran, she and her family immigrated to Canada when she was 13. After graduating with her second UVic degree, she set about re-imagining the practice and business of law.

The mother of a toddler and infant twins opened YLaw in 2013 and structured the firm to support women lawyers with children, people of colour and to advance inclusion in the workplace.

Leena's efforts have landed her on numerous lists, including Top 100 Most Powerful Women in Canada and Business in Vancouver’s Top 40 under 40. Her law firm, which has 5 offices in Vancouver and the Lower Mainland, was also ranked in the Top 400 Fastest Growing Companies in Canada by the Globe and Mail 3 years in a row. 

A sought-after guest speaker and mentor, Leena often shares her insights and experiences to change the workplace and inspire the next generation of legal professionals. In 2017, she established the YLaw Best Lawyering Award for UVic Law students.

Read the rest of Leena's story.

Debra Danco (JD '13) 


  • Category: Emerging Alumni Award
  • UVic degree: Law Juris Doctor, 2013       
  • Current hometown: Winnipeg, MB                                   
  • Birthplace: Mississauga, ON

Debra Danco is a senior associate counsel in the legal department of the Canadian Centre for Child Protection in Winnipeg, MB, where she’s dedicated her legal career to tackling online child sexual exploitation. She joined the Centre as an articling student in 2013, after completing her law studies at UVic.

Prior to law school, Debra obtained a Bachelor of Commerce degree from the University of Alberta. She is active in the Manitoba Bar Association’s Legal Research Section and Women Lawyer’s Forum. She also served as treasurer and chair of Winnipeg-based S.H.A.D.E. (Save Housing and Directed Empowerment), which provides empowering, community-based programming for newcomer women experiencing intimate partner or family violence.

She was also treasurer for the Grace & Nelly Project, which focuses on reducing poverty in rural communities in Zimbabwe through empowering women and girls. In 2021, she was awarded the Premier’s Volunteer Award.

Read the rest of Debra's story.