Calgary Black-owned law firm becomes largest in Alberta, one of largest in Canada
Calgary law firm Osusji and Smith Lawyers is now one of Canada’s largest Black-owned law firms, and it hopes to create opportunities for diverse lawyers and clientele.
The credit comes as the law firm opened its second location in Calgary, also making it the largest Black-owned firm in Alberta.
Osuji and Smith Lawyers employ people from diverse backgrounds and have lawyers who are locally and internationally trained and speak over 10 languages altogether.
Charles Osuji is the CEO and managing owner of the firm and started his career in his home country of Nigeria. He’s owned Osuji and Smith Lawyers since 2017, and Osuji says his journey wasn’t easy.
But to help open doors for others like him, Osuji is launching its “foot-in-the-door program” which will provide information and opportunities to international lawyers and students beginning in Canada.
“I didn’t know a lot of people. I didn’t have a professional network, and I didn’t have people vouching for me because my last name wasn’t familiar,” Osuji said.
“Fortunately, I met someone — who knows someone — who knows someone — who knows Mr. Smith, and that was how I got my foot in the door. I want to make the journey easier for people who come after me.”
James Smith started the firm as Smith Law Office in 1980, what is now Osuji and Smith Lawyers. He is now retired, and he is still highlighted on the Osuji and Smith website.
In a 2021 review of Canada’s criminal justice system, the federal government concluded that it disproportionately targeted Black and Indigenous people.
Previous studies have found there is an over-representation of these groups in the prison system.
“People that look like me tend not to be at the decision-making table and it is a privilege for me to be here and I’m paying that forward by giving other people who look like me an opportunity to get ahead in their professional journey,” Osuji said.
“In this space, there’ll be room for more people, especially people who look like me.”
Osuji says a firm like his, with a diverse group of lawyers, can make parts of the system a less daunting place.
“They feel comfortable, they feel they will be understood, they feel their unique situation will be appreciated by the person across from the table,” Osuji said.