Class of 1970

When I entered the profession in 1972, women lawyers traditionally handled marital disputes, certain litigation matters, estate planning and residential real estate. It was not accepted either by law firms or their clients that women could sit at board tables with big corporate clients and negotiate major acquisitions or financing arrangements, or otherwise deal effectively with big commercial disputes. Big firms, if they did employ women, did so by relegating them to roles such as research assistants or to non-core practice areas where they played second string to their male counterparts, often much younger and less experienced than they were.

I desperately wanted to practice corporate tax law and with the assistance of Purdy Crawford of Oslers, I got the opportunity to do so at Borden & Elliot where I was the first woman ever to be employed as a student or a lawyer. I gradually built up my credentials and eventually moved to Montreal to Stikeman Elliott where I practiced corporate tax and international law. I was very fortunate to have mentors who believed I could rise to the occasion. In the process I married and had three boys and one girl over a ten year period while becoming a partner in my firm. There were no maternity leaves, harassment policies, part time programs or other accommodations at that time. If you decided to have children you managed as best you could and somehow got through. The main issues surrounding female lawyers related to whether they would be entitled to attend firm poker nights. I was constantly asked by clients to arrange air tickets and to get coffee. I was hit on regularly at conferences where I was often the sole woman in attendance and no one could understand what I was doing there - sometimes not even me. I had to learn to speak in huge public fora mostly to men and to sit at board tables where I was often the only woman in the room - and to make a difference.

Today, I am consistently ranked as one of the top international tax lawyers in the country. I was successful in becoming the first woman to Chair the Tax Section of the International Bar Association and the second or third woman to ever sit on its Council. I am also the first non-US based tax lawyer to have been given the opportunity to serve as an Officer of the Tax Section of the American Bar Association. As the Section's Vice Chair, Professional Services, I have over the past two years coordinated a wonderful and committed group of tax professionals who are responsible for all of the Section's CLE programming other than that which occurs at regular meetings. I have also been fortunate in recently being the first non-US based tax professional to be proposed for membership in the American College of Tax Counsel.

I have truly delighted in the practice of law and the opportunities it has afforded me to grow as a person and to experience life as I never imaged it could be. I believe that there are many women like me all over Canada in the legal profession. We have all had our successes and our failures. Most of us have not been in the limelight. We have chosen to slog it out serving in community charities, taking our kids to school, and keeping our heads down at the office so as to survive and in some cases actually prosper. We have not done it perfectly. But we are each of us unique in that all of us together have changed the Canadian legal landscape. We have changed perceptions of women through daily one-on-one contact with colleagues and clients - not by talking the talk, but by walking the walk.