Russell Nesbitt: Finding Your Future

June 6, 2024 4 min read

Ask Russell Nesbitt (‘15), and he’ll tell you that his day-to-day work life isn’t what you see on Suits or Law and Order. He recently became a lawyer after a long post-secondary journey.

Conducting legal research for a living, he would have seen himself in a different position in his Calgary Academy days. His teachers, however, aren’t surprised at all.

Now, two years after graduating from university, Russell looks back at his time at Calgary Academy and how far he has come—especially considering he’s only at the beginning of his career.

The Impact a Teacher Can Have

Russell attended Calgary Academy from Grades 7–12, graduating in 2015. He has a treasure trove of fond memories from his time at the school, including trips to Vancouver and acting in the school play. Out of all these memories, Russell appreciates his teachers the most.

Originally coming to the school for struggles with reading and writing, Russell always worked hard to improve, staying after class for extra support. Crediting his teachers as crucial for his growth and learning, their support and validation elevated his confidence in his final high school years.

Russell remembers when his Grade 12 chemistry teacher, Kim Petersen, discussed a conference she had attended. Russell stayed after class for support, listening to her conversation as she discussed her pride in her students’ work.

While teaching is a job, Russell appreciated seeing Ms. Petersen stand by her beliefs in class—that academic struggles don’t mean you can’t succeed. Years later, after his post-secondary journey, it’s a comforting memory.

“The way she talked about how proud she was of her students… That was a really important memory to me. I still think of that quite often. I would not be here without the support of my teachers.” – Russell

Finding Flexibility in a Law Degree

Given how lawyers are portrayed in movies and television, it’s easy to assume that Russell spends his days standing in a courtroom, but a career in law is much broader than passionate opening statements and plea bargains.

Russell didn’t know whether to pursue law at first. He remembers when a friend encouraged him to consider it as a career while he was in the final years of his undergraduate degree in psychology. With the degree almost completed, he was still figuring out what he wanted to do.

Law school had been a thought in Russell’s mind before (it was one of the top recommended careers for him on personality tests). Flexibility was essential when he thought about what he wanted in life. After some research, he discovered he didn’t need to expect a single career path if he went to law school.

“One of the biggest things for me that’s important is feeling free… I had a lot of conversations with lawyers who weren’t even doing law and working at banks or working for the university or other neat organizations. That was really appealing to me to know that I wouldn’t be stuck in a certain field.”

Now working as a legal researcher in Indigenous law, Russell completes research papers, using his skills to uncover legal theories and analyze information. He jokes that his younger self wouldn’t ever think he would be a lawyer.

“I think my inner child would be very surprised… I think it’s a big accomplishment. I’m very grateful, for all the people and myself for getting me here.” – Russell

While Russell isn’t giving legal advice at the moment, he can always step into the traditional courtroom setting if he wants or find whatever suits his interests.

He’s happy he’s found the career that feels right for his heart and encourages any student (or anyone thinking about making a change) to pursue what they’re most passionate about. Russell feels no one should get stuck assuming they need to follow a specific path.

“Even if you get into a career and do that career for 10 years… one thing to remember is you can always change. You can always go back to school and have so much time to use that degree.”