Why She’s Top 40: She ensures that vulnerable populations are given fair chances in court.
When Mandy MacLeod was studying theatre during her undergraduate degree, she had to research the first women to study at Harvard Law. That research led her to reading about law school requirements, and she decided to apply – and was accepted to the University of Alberta School of Law. It was during her first moot trial – where her skills learned in theatre came in handy – that she was convinced she wanted to be a litigator.
While volunteering with Zebra Child Protection Centre during law school, MacLeod gained an interest in working with children, having seen the positive effects victim services can have on children going through the criminal justice system. “I saw upfront how the model of support for children in Edmonton is so great, and it was pretty easy to translate that into my career.”
Since 2015, MacLeod has been a Crown Prosecutor for Alberta Justice – one of the youngest in Edmonton – and primarily works with vulnerable populations like children and victims of sexual assault. While her role is ultimately an impartial one, MacLeod works hard to give the people she calls as witnesses a comfortable and informed experience within the court system. This includes going above and beyond the usual types of witness meetings, sometimes spending time with children making crafts and playing games to build rapport.
“I don’t want to see the vulnerabilities that are exploited cause barriers to justice or translate into a bad experience in court,” MacLeod says. “It requires more time and effort in making sure that people understand the process and that they’re given a fair shot.”
MacLeod’s dedication to providing a just court experience has resulted in her being assigned a high volume of serious, violent cases and juried trials, things that are normally reserved for more experienced prosecutors. She attributes her professional success, in court and with vulnerable witnesses, to a balanced approach.
“You can be smart yet approachable, charismatic, lighthearted. You can be courageous and retain compassion, warmth and grace. When I know I’ve made a difference in someone’s experience of the criminal justice system, that’s what keeps me coming back.”