Detroit Mercy Law student hopes to set up a transnational practice in West Africa and North America
By Sheila Pursglove
Although she originally planned on studying medicine, after her first year of undergrad studies, Vivian Ntiri realized this was not her calling.
“I wanted to focus on problem-solving and not ‘managing’ problems,” she explains.
She set her sights instead on a career in environmental toxicology that would allow her to work with Ghana and other West African countries.
“As a first-generation Canadian with Ghanaian roots, I’ve always been interested in how Ghana’s natural resources are exploited with serious environmental impacts on local communities,” she says.
She earned a bachelor of science, with honors, from McMaster University in Hamilton, Ontario, with a major in Earth and Environmental Science (concentration in aqueous environmental biochemistry) and a minor in Geographical Information Systems (GIS); and completed her thesis on the subsurface biodegradation of toxins.
In her third year, she took a course on environmental law and policy—and was hooked. After speaking with the professor and environmental lawyers, she realized practicing law would allow her to develop and exercise problem-solving and communication skills and eventually move to an international setting.
“I also have a passion for advocacy, and practicing law will give me the great fortune of fitting all my interests and passions into my career,” she says.
She entered the Dual U.S./Canadian J.D. program offered by the University of Windsor Faculty of Law and Detroit Mercy Law School, and commutes to classes in Detroit through the Detroit-Windsor Tunnel from her home in Windsor.
“Two law degrees will expand my work opportunities here and abroad, and I also love the fact that I can take a number of courses on both sides of the border,” she says.
The 3L student particularly enjoys practical courses, such as those offered through the Law Firm Program (LFPs).
“The law school is passionate about making sure its students are prepared for practice in the real world,” she says. “While these types of courses are simulated and structured to be completed in a semester, students walk away with valuable skills and a boost of confidence in their abilities – I certainly did after taking Pre-Trial Litigation.”
A 3-month externship in 2015 in the Labor Group at the City of Detroit Law Department was an invaluable experience.
“I learned so much about how to conduct legal research in practice and professional conduct,” she says. “I most enjoyed working with the lawyers of the Labor Group—they were all extremely intelligent, forward-thinking, and had a great sense of humor.”
Last summer, she worked as a summer law student in the Labor and Employment and General Litigation practice areas at McCarthy Tétrault LLP, a national full-service law firm in her hometown of Toronto.
“I really enjoyed the types of research questions and work assignments I completed because they were challenging and gave me the opportunity to think through creative solutions to certain problems,” she says. “I most enjoyed meeting and working with a number of associates and partners at the firm. They are all unique but committed to excellence in their respective practice areas. I’m really looking forward to returning to the firm as an articling student this year.”
A highlight of her law school experience was competing with the Windsor Law Moot Team in the International Intellectual Property Moot at Oxford University in England, where she received an honorary mention as second-best oralist.
She enjoyed meeting and competing with students from all over the world, and networking with lawyers and professionals with a passion for IP law.
Ntiri also is a Citations Editor for the Windsor Review of Legal & Social Issues, a peer mentor, and the former president of the Windsor Chapter of the Black Law Students Association. She was elected to the National Executive for the BLSA of Canada, and is serving as vice president for the Central Region.
Serving with the BLSA of Canada gives her the chance to assist her peers.
“It also gives me the opportunity to help educate the rest of the legal and local community on the various issues faced by people of color—especially black people—and black legal professionals,” she says. “A lot of our work involves reaching out to the next generation to encourage students of color to enter the legal profession.”
Ntiri’s ultimate career goal is to set up a transnational legal practice in West Africa and North America.
“There is so much good work to be done in the areas of intellectual property law, environmental and mining law, banking, and commercial law, and I would love to be a part of that in some way in the future,” she says. “I think both continents have a lot to learn and offer one another.”
In her leisure time, Ntiri enjoys cooking, reading, writing poetry and short essays, international films, theatre, and playing soccer and volleyball, and serving in her local church in Windsor. When she moves back to Toronto this summer for articling, she plans to volunteer at a nonprofit organization with a focus on youth and literacy.
Ntiri and her two siblings are the family’s first generation to attend university.
“We were raised with the belief that knowledge is power and that having an education is one of the greatest tools to empowerment and improving our community,” she says. “My family encourages me to achieve my goals—they are my biggest supporters and I love them dearly.”