Brenda Christen is the Managing Partner at Christen Seaton Burrison Hudani LLP. A founding partner of Wilson Christen LLP, and now Christen Seaton Burrison Hudani LLP, Brenda approaches family law with an emphasis on smart, practical solutions. Clients appreciate Brenda’s direct, and approachable manner while opponents respect her skill, experience and track record.
Brenda has acted successfully on leading cases at both the trial and appellate levels, and secured the highest child support award in Canada. Brenda prefers a constructive resolution to litigation and now focuses her efforts exclusively on her mediation practice.
Selected by the National Post as one of Canada's best family law lawyers and ranked in the Canadian Legal Expert Directory, Brenda served as a Dispute Resolution Officer for the Ontario Superior Court of Justice. Brenda has been consistently listed in the Best Lawyersguide for family law since its inception in 2006. This publication, based on peer review, is considered 'the most credible and definitive guide to legal excellence in Canada'.
Brenda's experience as a mediator is founded upon over 30 years of experience as an advocate for her clients. She has comprehensive knowledge of the court process, having appeared before all levels of court in Ontario. She understands the limitations of the court process and the inherent pressures that such a process places on families. Brenda brings the skills and insights learned in over three decades of experience to the table in her mediation practice. She focuses on pragmatic solutions and is able to simplify complex issues, creating clarity and offering practical solutions.
1. How did you get involved in your current area of practice?
I got involved somewhat by happenstance. I was working at a general practice firm and was not very happy. One of my closest friends had taken the bar admissions course at the same time as me. She reached out to say her family law instructor had an ad in the Ontario Reports looking for an associate. So I reached out, met with him and was hired immediately. A year and a half later he left the respected boutique firm we were with and asked me to join him. We became Wilson Christen Family Lawyers when I was a first year associate. 30 years later we have experienced tremendous success in two areas that we never would have predicted, real estate investment and a class action law suit against the Federal Government. Definitely didn’t see that coming when we started our little firm.
2. What qualities and/or skills are important for leaders?
Patience, a sense of humour and most importantly a lack of self involvement. In order to lead you need to believe that others should have the same opportunities to succeed that you would like to have. Finding the people and giving them that opportunity can be the trickier part.
3. What qualities and/or skills do you look for in a junior?
Judgment and common sense. You can’t really teach those things.
4. What advice would you give a young woman starting her practice?
Play the long game. Don’t believe that everything needs to be accomplished immediately or that your life should proceed on a fixed timeline, i.e. graduate at age 24, marry at age 27, partner at age 35. Things don’t always happen on your schedule and that is often a good thing.
5. What advice would you give a mid-level junior looking to advance her career?
Don’t be afraid to branch out and try something different. Law gives you a lot of opportunity to do different things. Develop other interests and be open to different paths. After litigating for so many years I decided to become a mediator. Similar components but a much different perspective and I find the work more satisfying. Building resolutions instead of working to impose them is a nice change and, in my view, more suited to family issues.
6. What can we do to address the continued attrition of women in law?
All of the above. Readjust expectations that the only way to be successful in law is to be a partner in a Bay Street firm or the seven siblings or whatever the people that think those things are important call them. There is lots of opportunity out there if you are willing to let go of those expectations. For example you can be part of something smaller and grow.
7. If you could give yourself one piece of advice when you were starting out in law, what would it be?
Go to med school.
8. Is there anything else (advice, an interesting experience, tips, etc.) that you would like to share with our members?
Don’t let men push you around. Call ******** when you see it and stick up for other women in your profession and everywhere else.
This post is part of YWL's Managing Partner Series. This series features Q&A-style blog posts where women managing partners from small, mid-sized and large law firms answer questions about their path to success and share their advice for young women in law.