By Karen Kelly
Associate, Engel & Associates Law Firm
Bachelor of Arts, Criminology (’07)
As a fan of crime dramas and documentaries, Elena Davies was intrigued by the idea of a career in criminology. But it was the field placement program that attracted her to Carleton.
“I heard about a student with a placement in a law firm and thought, ‘Hold on. You’re going to court and getting credit for it?’ I’m signing up,” she recalls.
One year later, she was chosen for a field placement at Engel & Associates, a criminal law firm in Ottawa.
“I remember the first time I was sent to court by myself—I even remember what I was wearing. I was so nervous that I brought a script for a very minor appearance,” she recalls with a chuckle. “A lawyer had trusted me to go to court on their behalf and I absolutely loved it. It changed my life.”
Ms. Davies was hired back at the law firm every summer after that. After graduation, she earned her law degree from the University of Ottawa and was called to the bar in 2011, when she officially joined the firm as an associate lawyer.
“Once I had my field placement, I never left. I worked there for seven years before I actually became a lawyer,” she says. “That made me a familiar player in the courthouse: I already knew the judges, the lawyers and the crowns.”
Today, Ms. Davies is an associate who has successfully defended a wide range of criminal cases including everything from sexual assaults, assaults, impaired driving, human trafficking, fraud, assault of a police officer, and many others.
She says she still draws on her coursework in criminology, particularly the psychology and sociology courses.
“We didn’t get any of that in law school,” she says. “Many clients have mental health issues, so there are many days when I’m more of a psychologist than a lawyer, especially with criminal cases.”
She also credits her experience competing on the moot team at Carleton University and in the criminal trial advocacy competition at the University of Ottawa with contributing to her courtroom skills.
After a solid start to her career, Ms. Davies is eager to guide other criminology students in the field placement program. She has mentored 12 Carleton students so far and encourages them to see placement as a pilot test for a potential career.
“Even if it isn’t right for them, it’s beneficial,” she explains. “It gets them out of the classroom and gives them a chance to apply their skills in a new environment. It’s an invaluable opportunity.”