Class of 1976

When I was a youngster in 1950s London Ontario, I actually knew a female lawyer. She and her also lawyer husband were friends of my parents. Without meaning to offend, I must say that the only reason I knew she was a lawyer was that she served made-the-night-before mashed potatoes at her annual Christmas gathering and this was a matter of some scorn among her pals. She got NO credit or regard for the fact that she went daily to her law office. She was still practicing when I became a lawyer and recognized what a pioneer she had been.Those who have read Carol Shield's UNLESSwill know the importance of the invitation "tell me about yourself." I respond to this request for not because my story requires publication but because things have changed in 30 years and the record of that change is only partly written without personal accounts.

I was young at law school, straight in after two years of undergrad. I was still in school-girl mode, unlike some of my already accomplished classmates. By my mid twenties I desperately longed for children, but that had to wait. The imperative to build a career coincides precisely with biological yearning. Many are forced to choose one or the other. Later, I often said that the only way I could stay in the game as a lawyer when I bore three children was by being married to a doctor. That was wrong. It excluded. It was a waste. Hiring attitudes have changed somewhat, but not enough I think.

If this personal reflection is occasion to list one's achievements, mine are these: I parented and I was a happy lawyer.

My youngest child was in grade two when I was appointed to the bench. In that wonderful honour, I have been proudest that I entered the judiciary a wife and mother of young children. There were women in the court, but so few mothers. The challenges of balancing family and professional life had too long silenced voices that needed to be heard, that had something to add, that represented a significant wisdom in our society. There were so few who had been given the opportunity and now, happily, there are many.

I hope, for the young women earning their spots in law school, that the profession has looked to the women who first graduated in large numbers in the 70s and thereby become increasingly confident that support for lawyers during their child-bearing years is a wise and worthwhile investment in the future of their organization and the profession.