How do you describe your job to your family?
I’m the supervising lawyer at Vancouver’s Rise Women’s Legal Centre, a non-profit community legal centre that provides free and low-cost family law services to self-identified women. I supervise upper-year law students who come to our clinic for a full semester of academic credit.
Where did you go to school and what did you study?
I first went to the University of Calgary where I completed a bachelor of science and masters of science in microbiology. I then worked in science for about 10 years, however, I had always dreamt of a career in which I could help people directly and try to remedy some of the injustices I saw around me. So I took the leap and went back to school to get a law degree at the University of British Columbia.
What would you say has been your most significant setback, career-wise, to date? How did you bounce back?
I was laid off from a biotech job because the company was losing money. This was a big blow, but also a push to pursue what I really wanted to do.
Name one piece of career advice you always give.
Don’t forget why you went to law school in the first place—what was it that drew you to it? The world seeming like an unfair or unjust place? Wanting to change something that you saw happening around you? Focus on that and you will find work you believe in.
What’s the most pressing issue facing women in your industry right now? What would fix it?
The pressure to over-work is huge in the legal industry and it is particularly hard on women who decide to have children. There is pressure not to take their whole maternity leave and when they return, they are hesitant to work “normal” hours that would allow them to spend time with their children, because they might be seen as not working as hard as their male counterparts. Jobs at private law firms are often viewed as the only jobs worth getting, and the private law firm culture is one of over-work. Working at a non-profit usually means working more regular hours, and in some cases these jobs are less stressful, but you make much less money than at a private law firm. A huge shift in the culture of the legal profession towards better work-life balance would help fix this.
Looking to the future, what excites you the most about your career?
Rise is only two and a half years old and we have so many ideas of what we can do as a community legal centre to help self-identified women! Our team is fantastic at both implementing new ideas and refining the work we do. Rise is truly becoming a community hub for many groups including family lawyers, feminist academics and student alumni. On a personal note, I have the opportunity to read and learn more about issues, such as feminism and intersectionality, that will make me a better teacher. Readings from writers such as Audre Lorde, Rebecca Solnit and Roxane Gay have been a revelation and give words and shape to the beliefs and values that I have always held.
What worries you the most about your career?
We are a non-profit legal organization so we are highly dependent on external funding. I love this job and I really want it to continue!
When you’re feeling low about your work, what’s the one thing you always do to bring yourself back up again?
I do yoga, talk to my husband, or read a novel that has nothing to do with the real world!