A legal tool kit, assembled with compassion


- Mitch Wright

Amber Dawn Hieb’s volunteer experiences after graduating high school in Ladysmith proved crucial in helping focus her interest on social advocacy and finding a path to law school at UVic.

Hieb graduates with a Juris Doctor this fall and is now articling with a law firm in Nanaimo, where she earned an undergraduate degree and was valedictorian in business administration from Vancouver Island University in 2009. She was drawn to the up-island program through her volunteer work with the Georgia Strait Alliance and Radio Malaspina, the campus-community station in Nanaimo.

“I soon discovered I have a knack for organizing and leading volunteers, researching and teaching,” Hieb says. When she decided she was ready for university at 24, she canvassed her contacts in the not-for-profit sector about what they’d look for in new hires, hoping to “build a tool kit” of skills for work in the field.

In fourth year at VIU, Heib took a class on government policy and business taught by UVic Law alumna Dana Collette, who provided inspiration and got Hieb “thinking about law and policy development as potential tools in my tool kit.” With Collette’s encouragement, Hieb applied to UVic Law, which impressed her with its progressive approach to legal studies.

Despite the challenges of attending law school as a single parent—she came to Victoria with nine-year-old son Grayson—Hieb thrived at UVic, for which she credits the level of support from her peers, faculty and staff. “It really is the people that make the place what it is,” she says. “I could go on and on and probably not name everyone who played an important part in my success there. Having a supportive community made all the difference.”

Along with a number of bursary awards, Hieb was co-winner of the Law Students’ Society’s 2012 Unsung Hero award, presented to a student or students who worked tirelessly to better the law school community.

Hieb says UVic Law’s annual Equity Townhall Meeting—which focuses on issues of equity, oppression and discrimination at the societal, institutional and personal level—further shaped her path, after attending in her first year. The experience inspired her to join the Equity and Diversity Committee in her second year.  She also worked in the Business Law Clinic and was involved with last year’s production, by students in Gillian Calder’s Sexuality and the Law class, of the play 8, about Proposition 8, the referendum to ban gay marriage in California.

Hieb is reconnecting with the organizations with which she previously volunteered and hopes to be called to the bar next September. She hopes to work in traditional family law practice, where she can draw on the various tools she’s added to her toolkit to help resolve conflicts.

“I think the piece that has remained through my not-for-profit work and throughout law school is about creating space for connection, compassion and community,” she says. “That is what inspires me and that is what I hope to share in my legal career.”


In this story

Keywords: law

People: Amber Dawn Hieb, Dana Collette

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