top of page
  • Writer's pictureRidhey Gill

Shanelle Dover

Tell us about yourself.

I’m from Ajax. I went to UofT where I double majored in Psychology and Criminology and Socio-Legal Studies. I’ve always known I wanted to be a lawyer but I've always really been interested in the way that people think as well, so the opportunity to do both at the same time, to think about the law theoretically and then start to think about the humanity behind from the psychological perspective as well, was really exciting for me. So my undergrad re-confirmed that I wanted to go to law school, but law school is expensive! I knew that I could not afford it. So what I did instead was I finished my LSAT prep course and then started a one year Paralegal (Accelerated) program at Seneca and received my Paralegal license. So I thought “Okay, I have my foot in the door of the legal community. This is an opportunity to start helping right away”, but I had a rude awakening shortly after getting my license in realizing that people didn’t look like me in the legal community, which was uncomfortable. I’m someone who’s okay with being uncomfortable. I'm used to it, unfortunately. Part of the problem is that I’m used to being “the only”. At the time I was fresh out of my undergrad so I was young, I’m Black, I’m a woman… and these three things did not work in my favour in the beginning... but it also lit a fire under me to try to get into law school faster.

What area of law would you like to practice?

I bounce between civil and criminal law. I have always had an affinity for criminal law because I think that the criminal justice system is so embarrassingly unjust that it breaks my heart. It’s been tough looking at the criminal justice system and wanting to be a part of something that is so fundamentally flawed when there seems to be no moves towards correcting or adjusting the injustices that exist. Accountability and access to justice are really huge for me. I can see myself in court because advocacy is also something I’m very big on. As a Paralegal I took on a lot of cases with people who were wronged and didn’t have the access to get the help they needed. I’ve always pictured myself in court because of how much I value advocacy, not for the sake of argument, but because we should always be doing right by each other just as human beings.

Why did you choose Ryerson Law?

When I looked at law schools it felt like they were created in a way that never considered someone that like me to be there. There was a personal aspect for me of having to get over the fact that I would have to put myself in situations that would be uncomfortable and not in the way that would help me grow. So it was one day when I was walking into work that I saw the big poster for Ryerson Law launching in 2020 and I thought to myself, “Okay, I should apply to law school now”, and when I started to actually look in to what Ryerson was doing and how they were doing it I was really excited. Especially about the fact that there’s no articling -- that’s a year of your life back! But it was really the explanation for why Ryerson decided to implement practicals within the program as opposed to having articling that really showed me how truly innovative Ryerson was going to be. The message I got from them was “This isn’t really working anymore. This is what we’re going to do instead” which I really liked. Watching the faculty hires was also really exciting. Dean Young was an exciting hire for me. Consistently Ryerson has shown that they are a place that values diversity and inclusion, and not just values but also respects and prioritizes it. It was really important to me to go to a school that looked like the world I existed in. I am not willing to enter rooms where I am “the only” anymore and I am not willing to put myself in situations where I have to be vulnerable to better everyone else around me and I’m just kind of left to deal with whatever. I’m happy to teach anyone who’s genuinely easy to learn and I’m happy to help anyone in need of help. That being said, we’re at a point now where people need to take responsibility for themselves and for their own betterment and education. A place that prioritizes innovation in the face of any sort of adversity is exactly where I want to be and Ryerson has made it very clear that our law school will have a different way of doing things.

What do you hope to accomplish with your J.D.?

When I receive my J.D. I want to help the legal community evolve. I want to use my J.D. to make sure justice is as accessible as it should be and as it sometimes pretends to be. A lot of times in law it’s sort of like “Yeah just try this or try that” but I think about the process of me just applying to go to law school and it was kind of difficult. There are so many barriers that I think are unnecessary and I want to use my J.D. to eliminate those barriers. It shouldn’t be as difficult as it is.

As a part of the inaugural cohort of Ryerson Law, what are you most looking forward to?

Working with like-minded people. It has been so clear to me that when it comes to our cohort, we are so committed to making sure everyone succeeds. We do have different priorities, different perspectives, different goals, but we have evolved beyond the traditional lawyer mindset and are looking for better and will do better. I feel supported by our faculty when I look at everyone who has been hired, it feels like Ryerson Law is saying “We’ve got you” and is really trying to build a sense of community. I’m also really looking forward to founding chapters for The Black Law Students Association (BLSA) and for The Innocence Project at Ryerson Law to get started in some really meaningful work while I continue my studies. I’ve already been in touch with so many of our future classmates who share the same passions so look forward to big things from our class.


bottom of page