Class of 1978

When I entered law school, it was a great adventure - an opportunity to start a second career.  I taught high school English and loved it, but I wondered how many more times I could teach Lord of the Fliesand still enjoy it.  These were the 70s and women in law were still trailblazers. The principal of the high school where I was teaching reflected that reality: "What do you think you're doing? It's a man's world." 

My experience since then has put the lie to those words.  Over the close to 25 years I've been in practice, there have been only one or two incidents which I found embarrassing or difficult at the time.  One client wanted a male lawyer from the firm - someone who was strong.  Another client asked me to fetch a coffee.  These incidents are insignificant now and were not that difficult to manage at the time.  Perhaps I was just lucky.  Clients and fellow lawyers, then and now know when you are prepared, when you have worked hard, and when you act professionally.  The best lawyers always respond with courtesy when asked for professional guidance. 

After several years in private practice, I became a Claims Examiner at the Errors & Omissions Department of the Law Society.  I was only the second lawyer hired in that position.  As the years went on, and the company morphed into a stand-alone insurance company, I grew with it, and today am the Vice President of Claims at LAWPRO. The path has not been seamless and smooth.  No career path is.  Ten years ago the company was in financial crisis and the lawyers in Ontario were upset and angry.

Today the company is financially sound.  Including our President & CEO, five of the 11 members of our senior management team are women. Our Claims department comprises 20 lawyers who handle almost 3,000 claims and $70 million annually.  The work is complex, intellectually demanding and extremely satisfying. When we 70s graduates began practising, there were many other woman lawyers, but they were of the same generation.  We were friends and colleagues, but not many women were able to be mentors.  The culture of the firms did not emphasize mentorship and the challenges of raising young families and maintaining a busy practice did not leave much time for mentoring.  Much has changed since then, but the challenges of balancing work and "life" have not.  Now, however, women are often on the forefront of mentoring and want to pass on the lessons they have learned.