When Jeremy Dong was quite young, a family friend shared with him a story of his dad, Barry, acting on their behalf on a pro bono basis to help save their life savings. Barry would never tell such stories himself, but for Jeremy, these stories—where the law was used to make the world a little better—were great motivators for him.
“I am lucky that I had a number of positive factors in my life that motivated me to study law,” shared Jeremy, including his father, and other mentors in the legal profession. “I was influenced most, not by how they would speak of the profession or because they encouraged me to follow them into it, but more so by their actions and how others described them.”
So, after completing his undergraduate degree in international relations at UBC in 2010, Jeremy started his law degree at UBC as well. “After having spent several years with such a positive undergrad experience thanks to many fantastic professors and incredible friends, UBC remained my first choice.”
Jeremy was also among the first students to attend classes in the new Allard Hall building, which opened in 2011. “I have fond memories of attending classes and studying in what was one of the newest and best buildings on campus. Aside from it being a beautiful building to learn and work in, the little details (such as simply having enough electrical outlets so all students could take notes) was a significant change at the time compared to some of the older buildings on campus.”
More importantly than the building, however, Jeremy remembers meeting the people from his small group when reflecting on fond memories from his time at law school. “These were friends that I would spend most of my time with, both inside and outside class, for the next three years. While all of us have gone on to different careers and are living and working across much of Canada, many of us are still good friends to this day.”
Jeremy also remembers some great mentors: too many to list, but cites Dennis Pavlich, his first year property law professor, as one mentor who had a great impact on him. “From the first day of classes, he was always enthusiastic and his passion for the law was contagious. He definitely helped set the tone for our small group’s law school experience over the next three years.”
After law school, Jeremy knew he wanted to specialize in workplace law immediately—again thanks to the guidance of the mentors in his life, who showed him that labour, employment, and human rights law was a people- and relationship-oriented field. Jeremy knew that one of the benefits of the practice area was that lawyers working in it often could work with the same people for long periods of time, leading to working relationships and friendships that can last years, if not decades.
Many current students, or even recent graduates, might not be aware of the breadth of jobs and careers that are open to someone with a JD. Jeremy’s current position is one of them.
Jeremy worked in private practice in workplace law in Vancouver for a number of years, before transitioning in April 2020 to his current position at UBC in Faculty Relations. Although he is grateful for his time in private practice, which he described as a great first step to get some experience and help build a foundation, Jeremy also thinks it is important for students to understand that it is not the only path for a legal career.
“To name a few: if you enjoy working with people and helping them resolve issues, you may be well suited to a role in mediation or facilitation, or as a workplace investigator. Some of my friends have moved from private practice to in-house counsel positions with a much better work-life balance. Even if you have no desire to become a lawyer, a law degree can also complement certain fields, such as if you have a background in business, or want to become an entrepreneur.”
Jeremy pointed out that there are relatively few examples where a law degree would be considered a “wasted education.” “If you go through law school, pass the bar, and only then realize it is not for you, you still have the benefit of not having to serve on jury duty!” he quips.
With regard to his own new position, Jeremy describes it as quite similar to private practice in many ways, as he is still advising the faculties that he works with. “The same kinds of labour, employment, and human rights issues arise in my new position and I am glad to say that it is still very much a relationship-oriented role.”
From the values that Jeremy holds with regard to his career to his pursuit of law in the first place, it is easy to trace the influence of his father, Barry, who passed away recently. “Our father grew up with limited financial means, and was almost unable to attend law school because he could not afford to do so. However, as a result of hard work and dedication, he managed to attend UBC law school and went on to practice for over 40 years.”
The Barry Dong Memorial Fund in Law is an endowment that is in the process of being created in Barry’s memory. “The idea came about through the Carpentry Employers Association of BC (“CEA”), and in particular, its Executive Director, Gregg Sewell. My brother, Taylor, and I have worked closely with Gregg, CEA, and Harris & Company LLP, to create an endowment that would honour our father’s memory.”
“While the final decision on the award and student eligibility will be set in the near future, the ultimate goal is to give back to the community and assist a law student who comes from similar circumstances and background as our father. Thanks to the support of family, friends and colleagues, we are close to reaching our goal for a new memorial award as part of my father’s legacy.”