Paving the Way: Newfoundland native undertakes Dual J.D. program at law school


by Sheila Pursglove
Legal News

Krissy Slaney’s interest in immigration law began when she lived abroad during undergrad studies in French and Folklore at Memorial University of Newfoundland.

“I saw multiple peoples struggle with immigration systems and saw some of the hardships people faced as immigrants,” she says.

Now a 2L student at Detroit Mercy Law, Slaney works with  Professor Alex Vernon in the Immigration Law Clinic.

“It’s been a terrific experience,” she says. “I think the staff and clients are amazing, and the work I do there is fulfilling.

“Besides allowing me to work closely with people who need my help, and to continue to develop my legal skills, I love that each person that comes to get help at the clinic has a different story to tell. Some of the clientele come to us with such positive attitudes, despite any adversity they may have faced in the past. It’s inspiring! The staff is great, and I’ve felt myself learn and grow as both a soon-to-be lawyer, as well as a human, while working with the clinic.”

Law was not the end goal when Slaney started her higher education, but her experiences abroad, coupled with a strong interest in languages and cultures—she has studied French, Latin, Spanish, Irish Gaelic and Italian—made law seem like a good outlet for helping people.

The Newfoundland native chose to take the Dual J.D. program at Detroit Mercy Law and the University of Windsor Faculty of Law. Living in Windsor, she commutes to Detroit four times a week for classes.

“Each day in the Dual is a new adventure, a new experience,” she says. “It’s amazing that I get to go to a different country so often, and to feel at home in Detroit. As for the dual degree itself, it’s so beneficial to be able to function in two different legal cultures, to study two different systems of law, and to learn and grow in an international environment while being so close to home.    

“I met my boyfriend on the first day of law school, and some of my closest friends—my law school family—through the Dual program, so I will forever be grateful to the Dual program for bringing those people into my life.”

Slaney is the first person from Newfoundland to do the Dual JD program.

“It’s been tough to pave the way,” she says. “There were very little resources for people who wanted to go to law school in my home province, as there is no law school in my province. With that in mind, I took it upon myself to create a mentoring program for those in my home province who wish to go to law school.”

She also gained experience by spending a few summers in undergrad as a legal assistant at Picco and White law firm in Marystown, Newfoundland. She aided in real estate transactions, was exposed to personal injury law, wills, estates, trusts, and family law, and often provided translations for clients.

“I really enjoyed working with clients and co-workers, as I’m a very social person, and speaking French with our French clients,” she says. “The lawyers and legal secretaries were absolutely lovely and taught me so much in my time there.”

Slaney is enjoying her experience at Detroit Mercy Law.

“Life isn’t always easy, so I love that when I smile at people, they smile back,” she says. “I’m a big endorser that a positive attitude gets you a long way in life.”

She also enjoys spending time in the Motor City.

“Coming from a small town in rural Newfoundland, Detroit is an overwhelming but amazing experience,” she says. “I’ll never forget my first time coming over here for school. I’m a huge fan of the Red Hot Chili Peppers, and all I could think was, ‘Oh my god, the Red Hot Chili Peppers sing about this place!’

“The people of Detroit are absolutely amazing, the food is incredible, the history is surreal and the resilience of the city is astounding. I’ll be forever proud to tell people about the city, all it has been through, and how the city is reviving.”

Passionate about animal rights, and sharing her life with her Chihuahua, Evangeline (Eva), Slaney is involved with the Student Animal Legal Defense Fund on both sides of the border. She recently organized a donation drive for the Windsor Essex Humane Society; and has researched for events held on the U.S. side, where the law school’s club is in its infancy.

In her leisure time she enjoys languages, cultures, traditional music from Newfoundland and Ireland, yoga, dance, running, cooking, coffee and craft beer, travelling, and studying with friends.