Murray Sholty came to TRU as a law student in 2011. Last month, he returned to campus, this time as an instructor. Sholty brings experience, passion, and dedication to his teaching and to his career. He talked to us about the value of his legal education and how his past experiences have contributed to his ongoing success.
As a past student and now sessional instructor, tell us about your journey back to TRU Law.
My present relationship with TRU Law came from my past, dating back before my time at law school and then dovetailed into some post-TRU life events. I used to work in the natural resource sector, first as a tree planter, then running my own silviculture crews, and eventually owning and managing a timber harvesting company. I was also a world champion martial arts athlete and coached champions in the mixed martial arts sector, operating my own training gym.
My coaching then extended to post-secondary education, as a mentor for MBA candidates and other students. After attaining my juris doctor in Kamloops, I went on to obtain two follow-up degrees from Osgoode Hall Law School: an LLM in business law and another in energy and infrastructure.
My current work is focused on all those industries in which I was once employed. My previous experience combined with the immense skills I’ve gained from my studies at TRU and the ensuing programs is invaluable to the work I do today. I am honoured to return to TRU Law and use my circuitous life path to help new law students get closer to their potential at TRU where so many transformative things happened for me.
Although not practicing law, you are using your legal education every day. How has your education enabled you to do the work that you do?
It’s true in a literal sense that I don’t practice law, but I still put my law degrees to ample use every day in my very interesting and rewarding career. Since graduating from TRU Law, I have been able to combine my experience, my MBA, and my JD by founding a consulting company focused on First Nations economic and governance development.
I get to play a role in how client First Nations set up their chief and council structures, human resource and administration policies, economic development and business planning, organizational assessments, emergency management planning, team building and communications planning, among many other areas.
As an Indigenous person, I have always been engaged with First Nations issues and activities. From my martial arts endeavours, business experience and law studies, there was a natural progression to providing professional services to First Nations. The work can be very challenging, but it is also inspiring.
What was the biggest takeaway from your education at TRU Law?
Many people might think that a TRU Law degree is only appropriate for a career in law. In fact, you will gain skills that can be applied to pursuits and professions beyond being a lawyer. One of the most valuable gains for me was developing negotiation skills. So many industries and endeavours benefit from the immersion in skills that are built into TRU Law’s curriculum: problem-solving, critical thinking, innovation, situational creativity and even just appreciating how to open your mind to understand a wide range of subjects.
Is there something exciting/notable that you are working on right now that you can share with us?
Two current projects are drawing my focused attention.
One, I’m working on a nation-building opportunity for a group of First Nations in British Columbia to support their self-determination activities within a tribal council arrangement. The project is intended to improve each individual First Nation and also their collective. We are building their institutional and governance capacities while strengthening self-determination. I’m excited because this project could create some fantastic research papers which could aid legal, academic and practitioner interests in Aboriginal law.
The second project is a review and examination of the potential business case for buying a preexisting civil works company to acquire First Nations opportunities across various natural resource sectors. The review includes everything from the form of the business organization, financial analysis, contracts and preferred procurement opportunities, financing options, tax considerations and numerous other key deal points. The major constraints are access to skilled labour, financing options and interest rate sensitivity, along with the scalability of a highly capital-intensive business.
Along with these two projects, a lot of policy work is being completed.
What advice do you have for students and alumni who may be considering JD advantage careers?
Most of the students and alumni will use their JD by becoming lawyers.
However, students and alumni should always keep in mind that the knowledge and skills acquired at TRU Law will allow them to be more than legal advisors — they can also be strategic advisors. This will allow them to advance not only in the legal profession, but also to become leaders in business, politics and not-for-profit organizations.
A legal education also enables us to contribute to our communities and society at large. For example, I held a few board positions prior to my TRU Law education. I found that I’ve really improved in these roles since attending law school. It’s yet another advantage I have been gifted thanks to TRU Law.
Looking so far at what you have achieved in your career, what do you think is your next challenge?
First and foremost, I’m very grateful to have an amazing partner and family. My wife and I have four boys which keeps us super busy but also focused on family. My wife was a lawyer in Mexico City. I believe her background allows me the comfort of pursuing further legal education and teaching, along with other business opportunities, with 100 per cent support and understanding of the sacrifices that are sometimes needed to succeed.
I think the next big challenge is to improve my teaching abilities. I want to always be progressing as a teacher and always be student focused. How can I get better at engaging with students so that their learning experience is exceptional?
What are the biggest changes that you’ve seen now as a sessional compared to your time as a TRU Law student?
The biggest changes include implementing the Truth and Reconciliation Commission recommendations which called for a curriculum that prepares law students for assuming leadership in the reconciliation process and prepares those in legal professions for meeting Indigenous clients and their claims in a position of knowledge, respect and compassion. When I was a student, there was an Aboriginal law class and the Kawaskimhon National Aboriginal Rights Moot. But now, there are more First Nations focused course offerings, along with new Aboriginal law content embedded within existing TRU Law School offerings.
I feel that TRU Law’s larger efforts to include First Nations dimensions in its programs, and continued relationship-building with the Secwépemc Nation and neighbouring First Nations peoples, can serve as a positive example to other organizations in the region and throughout British Columbia.