Victoria Winter is the Managing Partner at Beard Winter LLP. Victoria is a partner in the firm’s Trusts and Estate Planning Group and a Trust and Estate Practitioner (TEP) as designated by the Society of Trust and Estate Practitioners (STEP).
Victoria practises in the areas of estate planning and succession including the preparation of Wills, Powers of Attorney and Trusts (domestic, international, Henson), corporate reorganizations, business succession planning, advising clients on methods in which to minimize income tax and estate administration tax (i.e. probate fees) on death, estate administration, and establishing private charitable foundations.
Victoria’s clients include financial institutions, corporate trustees, financial planning firms, accounting firms, owner managers, family businesses, charitable organizations, family foundations, and Canadian and international private clients. She is a trusted advisor who provides practical advice in a timely and cost effective manner.
Victoria joined the firm on March 1, 2005, after practising in the Trusts and Estates Group of a Toronto based national law firm since her call to the Bar in 1995. She is a member of the Law Society of Upper Canada, the Canadian Bar Association, the Canadian Tax Foundation, and the Society of Trusts and Estates Practitioners.
Victoria, a double Pan American medallist in the equestrian sport of dressage, is past Chair of the Canadian Olympic Committee’s Athletes’ Council and was a member of the Toronto 2015 Pan Am and Parapan Am Organizing Committee Board of Directors. She is the current Chair of the Dressage Committee of Equestrian Canada and is also a board member of Beautiful World Canada Foundation, a charitable organization promoting access to secondary education in developing countries.
1. How did you get involved in your current area of practice?
I knew I was interested in trusts and estate planning right out of law school but I took a winding road to end up fully in the practice area. As an articling student with a large firm I had an opportunity to do a rotation with the estates group. I was fortunate to be hired back in that area but shortly after starting it became clear that there was not enough work at that time to fully utilize a junior. I then moved into the corporate group of the same firm. This was during the era of securitizations and I became involved in that practice and eventually left the firm to go in house in the same practice area at a corporate trust group with a Canadian bank. After two years in that role my previous firm contacted me to say that they were looking for someone to take on a part time role in the estates group. I accepted the position and for five years I worked three days a week at the firm and the other four days a week I coached and trained riders and horses in the equestrian sport of dressage. I was a member of the Canadian Equestrian Team at the time, competing internationally for Canada, and had always wondered if I could find a way to make a career out of my passion for the sport. It was an interesting experience but I quickly learned that I preferred the practice of law. In 2005 I was contacted by Beard Winter LLP to see if I would be interested in joining the firm. My father was a partner of the firm and, although we practised in similar areas, we had always had the understanding that we would not work together. I am grateful that we did not hold firm to that position as Beard Winter has given me a great platform in which to grow my trusts and estates practice.
2. What qualities and/or skills are important for leaders?
I think the most important skills in a leader are empathy and the ability to listen. A leader also needs to be confident while also having humility.
3. What qualities and/or skills do you look for in a junior?
Reliability, common sense and time management skills are all incredibly important. A young lawyer will be successful both with lawyers and clients if they are responsive, commit to achievable timelines and keep parties informed if anticipated timelines change. It is really all about communication. And, of course, they should be personable and professional – someone who can comfortably interact with your clients.
4. What advice would you give a young woman starting her practice?
Try to get involved as soon as possible in practice network groups both within your firm and within the Bar as a whole. These groups can provide a lot of support, information and great networking to help develop your career.
5. What advice would you give a mid-level junior looking to advance her career?
Try to find mentors both in your firm or outside who can give advice and suggestions based on their experiences. Don’t be afraid to speak up. You know more than you think you do. Don’t be afraid to be vocal about your successes. In general women tend to be less willing to share their victories but if you don’t no one will.
6. What can we do to address the continued attrition of women in law?
Sadly, this continues to be a real issue. We need to build collegial environments where all lawyers feel supported and connected. At our firm we have created a Women’s Network for our female lawyers with regular events across practice areas ranging from social evenings to instructor led sessions on topics such as building healthy habits and skill building. We also need to develop work arrangements where it is acceptable to work remotely to permit lawyers to build their practice around their lives. Law involves long hours and high stress but the trade-off should be flexibility in how you manage your practice so that it fits within your life.
7. If you could give yourself one piece of advice when you were starting out in law, what would it be?
You will make mistakes, but you will survive.
8. Is there anything else (advice, an interesting experience, tips, etc.) that you would like to share with our members?
Find something you enjoy outside of the law and make time to do it regularly. It is easy to get completely immersed in daily practice and that will quickly lead to burn out and stress. Block off time in your calendar for other interests. You will return to your practice refreshed and often with a better perspective.
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.