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  • The YWL Blog provides a forum for writing and discussion on various topics of interest to young women in law. Click on the dark grey icons below to read more or leave a comment. Use the hashtag #YWLBlog and share your thoughts on social media!

    • YWL is now accepting submissions for blog posts. Send your submissions to info@youngwomeninlaw. 

      Please note that the views expressed in individual blog posts are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the position of YWL.

        • 21 Jul 2020 10:16 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

          Just as there have been significant changes to the way we work in recent months, companies have also had to change the way they recruit in order to continue to connect with candidates remotely. While we have previously blogged about tips for conducting successful video interviews,  a new challenge has emerged for candidates – how do you go about assessing a company’s culture in a remote interview?

          The new normal means that you may have to make decisions about the fit of a role and a company without having the opportunity to visit the office in “normal” conditions. You will not be able to observe how the office is organized, how employees interact with one another, or any of the many other contextual clues you might have previously relied on to gauge company culture. In the absence of these sources, it is important to consider and prepare questions in order to gather the information you need to make an informed decision.

          We would suggest considering the following questions:

          1. Ask them to describe the office set up – is it open plan, shared or private offices? Where does the team sit in relation to each other and how do they interact with other business units?

          2. What IT is in place to support remote workers? This may include hardware (laptops, headsets), as well as any subsidies to set up a home office (perhaps you need to buy an ergonomic chair, etc).

          3. Have they onboarded candidates remotely in recent months? If so, what did that look like? If not, how do they envision this taking place? The size of a company will have an impact on the amount of experience a company has with remote onboarding; however, what is key is knowing that they have a concrete plan in place to achieve the necessary training and integration.

          4. What systems do teams use to communicate during the day? Is there a heavy reliance on emails (and will you go most of the day without verbally interacting with others) or are there collaboration tools, such as Microsoft Teams, in place?

          5. Have there been any social activities organized remotely? I have heard examples of teams organizing quizzes, virtual cooking classes, and book clubs. These may be especially important to you as you work to develop new relationships in the early months of a new role.

          6. Have working hours shifted during the remote working period? You may have childcare or other obligations that mean a strict 9 to 5 schedule is not achievable for you and you will want to figure out how the company manages this.

          7. What challenges have they encountered with remote working? What feedback have they received from employees since the start of remote working and what changes have been implemented? First, and importantly, this will show you if they have sought employee feedback. Next, it will help you gauge where the shortcomings are so you can decide how you feel about those.

          There are no right or wrong answers to these questions. What is important is for you to be prepared to collect this information and then assess how the answers align with your own priorities and needs. Just like the interviewer will want you to provide concrete examples of instances where you have demonstrated skills, you need to make sure you are getting the same from them. Push to get specific examples of initiatives that are in place and challenges they have faced rather than high level statements about the value of collaboration and connectivity. This article provides even further examples of questions you may want to put to your interviews to suss out the culture.

          Some hiring processes are moving faster than others and, depending on the company’s timeline, you may have the opportunity to have a “distanced” in-person meeting with the team but you will certainly not be able to replicate the full office experience that would have taken place pre-COVID. Thinking through what you value in a company’s culture and preparing questions will be key to ensuring you get the information you need to make an informed decision.


          Author: Jennifer Mitchell 

          Jennifer is a Recruitment Consultant with The Heller Group. She is actively involved in the recruitment and placement of lawyers into law firms and corporations. In her spare time, Jennifer enjoys hiking with her two dachshunds.

        • 22 May 2020 11:42 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

          This time last year, I was getting ready to graduate from law school. I had started my final year at Dalhousie Law without an articling position lined up. In fact, I was actually in Los Angeles for an exchange semester at Southwestern Law School. Conventional wisdom told me that if I was looking for a position in Canada, maybe moving to sunny California for five months wasn’t the way to get one.

          My law school career didn’t exactly follow conventional wisdom. After all, if conventional wisdom had its way, I wouldn’t have been preparing for a move to Toronto this time last year so I could begin my articling position in the city.

          Amid the COVID-19 pandemic, much of the world is realizing that conventional wisdom, or the way things have always been done, isn’t working. In these past few months we’ve been turning to creativity – using the tools we already had in a new way. For a profession that has so often resisted change, this is a big deal.

          Like many of my classmates, I went into law school under the impression that the OCI (On-Campus Interview) was the way to get a job. And why wouldn’t I? Schools put a – perhaps outsized – emphasis on OCIs. The path from law student to summer student to student-at-law seems pretty cut-and-dry.

          Unfortunately, it’s a path that leaves little room for nuance. And when I was dealing with unforeseen health issues in my first year that affected my final grades, the path quickly narrowed.

          In second year, I realized I would have to make my own path. I’d have to rely on creativity. When I learned that my school had an exchange program with Southwestern, I decided to take advantage of it and study entertainment law in the world’s entertainment capital. While I grew my practical skills that summer at a non-profit, I also researched small to mid-size firms in Toronto. I had an end-of-summer trip to the city planned – why not extend it by a few days and pitch myself to a few firms?

          I made up a cold email and sent it to my list of firms – as a journalism graduate, I learned that a cold email can be your best first step. Sometimes I received a “no.” Sometimes I got no response at all. But a handful said “yes.” Days after my trip to Toronto, I was off to LA to start the semester; I kept in touch. The tools for communication were already there – time zones and borders don’t matter as much when you have internet.

          By this time last year, my creativity had paid off. That April, I was offered a job at a small commercial law firm in Toronto. Thanks to one of my meetings that previous summer, I was set to be the firm’s first articling student. I had successfully bucked conventional wisdom.

          As my articling term comes to a close and the world learns to adapt to a new normal, I think about how creativity can keep working for me in this unprecedented time. While times have rapidly changed from one year to the next, I’ll keep channeling that spirit as I look to my next move.


          Author: Emma Chapple

          Emma Chapple is a J.D. graduate of the Schulich School of Law at Dalhousie University. She is scheduled to be called to the Ontario Bar in May 2020. Emma articled at a small commercial law firm in Toronto, where she worked in litigation, contract drafting and business advisory.

        • 13 Apr 2020 10:53 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

          There’s a lot happening in the world right now.

          And if you’re like me, you’re feeling anxious and uncertain amidst all of the chaos of the crisis, and all of the quiet of the self-isolationparticularly if you're self-isolating solo. 

          It feels uncomfortable, and it’s so easy to want to numb these feelings with Netflix and a nice, healthy glass of Cab Sauv—and sometimes that’s okay! I get it, and I was right there with you a couple of days ago!

          But here’s the thing:

          We are being given the opportunity to stay home and take a deep breath. To pause. To reflect. And to reconnect with what is truly important to us, whatever that may look like to you.

          Ask yourself this (and be honest): before all of the coronavirus chaos, how often would you think: “if only I had a bit more time, then I would be able to ________". Fill in the blank with whatever passion project, favourite activity, or loved one you used to wish you had more time for. 

          Now ask yourself: how would it feel if you chose to use this time of self-isolation to do the things that you never seem to have time for? Why wouldn’t you choose to use this time productively?

          I’m not suggesting that you have to be living every minute to the fullest or that you should never watch Netflix (I recommend Workin' Moms if you're looking for a new show). I’m simply suggesting that you be aware of how you choose to spend your time. 

          How amazing and satisfying would it feel if you choose to use this time to reconnect with your core values and your passions, to do something for yourself, something that feels expansive and uplifting!

          Maybe you want to learn a new language or reconnect with your artistic side. Maybe you want to start meditating or take some time to plan the next chapter of your life.

          At a time when so much seems like it is out of our control, it is comforting to know that we always have the ability to choose where we direct our focus. 

          How would it feel if you choose to focus on opportunity amidst the uncertainty? If you choose to focus on reconnecting with yourself amidst the self-isolation?

          So if you’re finding yourself with a little extra alone time, I challenge you to think about where you want to place your focus. Do you want to spend all of your time watching Tiger King and eating your quarantine snacks or do you want to use this opportunity to do something that will feel rewarding and fulfilling? There is no right or wrong answer, it’s simply a choice that you have to make for yourself!


          PS: If you’re interested in using this time to focus on what you want for the next chapter of your life, here are my top 5 favourite journal prompts to get you started: 

          1.       Who is your ideal self? How does she act? How does she show up? What does she believe about herself and her world? What does she believe is possible for her?

          2.       What are you most passionate about? What lights you up?  What makes you feel most rewarded?

          3.       What does your ideal day look like? What are you doing? Who are you with? How do you feel?

          4.       How do your ideal self and your ideal day differ from your current reality (maybe think pre-quarantine)?

          5.       What needs to change so that you can start being your ideal self and living your ideal life? Be honest with yourself. What 3 things can you do today to start embodying your ideal self and start acting as if you are already her?


          Author: Elizabeth Mountford

          Elizabeth Mountford is a certified Mindset Coach & Accountability Expert. She specializes in helping young lawyers beat burnout and build unshakeable confidence so that they can grow their dream careers with intention and ease. Prior to coaching, Elizabeth obtained her B.C.L./LL.B. from McGill University and practiced family law at one of Toronto’s top family law firms. Now she uses her experience of landing and leaving what she thought was her dream job as a family lawyer, along with her passion for subconscious reprogramming, to help ambitious young lawyers get clear on their career goals and start taking real action to turn their day-dreams into their reality.

        • 29 Mar 2020 1:15 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

          Keep yourself entertained at home with this list of five great books, podcasts and documentaries. Each choice is a different genre, meant to pull you out of your comfort zone and engage you in new and interesting material!


          My Lovely Wife in the Psych Ward, Mark Lukach (2017): This raw, heart-wrenching and refreshingly hopeful memoir follows author Mark Lukach and his family as they navigate his wife Guilia’s struggle with mental illness. Lukach provides an unflinching look at the mental health care system in the United States, the profound impact of mental illness on their family and friends, and the unwavering love between them. I particularly enjoyed how thoughtfully Lukach portrays his wife’s fight to maintain her dignity, independence and sense of self throughout. Bring Kleenex.

          The Hate U Give, Angie Thomas (2017): Sixteen-year-old Starr is straddling two worlds: the low-income, predominantly African-American neighbourhood where she grew up and the upscale suburban prep school that she attends with her siblings. The story follows Starr’s changing understanding of the world after she witnesses the shooting of her childhood friend, Khalil, by a police officer. A masterful look at race, poverty and adolescence, this book lives up to its accolades. I was especially drawn to the story of Starr’s older brother, Seven, as he navigates his complicated family dynamics.

          The Girl with All the Gifts, M. R. Carey (2014): Set in a post-apocalyptic schoolroom, Melanie and her classmates learn about nature, literature and science. Through Melanie’s eyes, we learn about her favourite teacher (Miss Justineau), her favourite subject (math), and the strange, militarized world that she lives in. As the story unfolds, the world outside the classroom walls comes into increasingly sharp focus. Simply put, this is one the best sci-fi books I have read in years.

          Talking to Strangers, Malcolm Gladwell (2019): Using a series of real-life examples – including how Fidel Castro stayed two steps ahead of the CIA and the TV sitcom Friends – author Malcom Gladwell explores how and why humans misunderstand each other. Gladwell uses science and social science to meticulously unpack and explain complicated human interactions. His thesis? We have no idea how to talk to strangers.

          The Silent Patient, Alex Michaelides (2019): This psychological thriller tells the story of Alicia Berenson, a gifted artist who murdered her beloved husband seemingly without warning, and Theo Faber, her psychotherapist. Theo is determined to unravel the mystery of Alicia’s crimes, but his patient refuses to speak. Author Alex Michaelides keeps you on your toes with a series of unpredictable twists and turns. While my tolerance for spooky is admittedly low, you’ll want to read this one with the lights on.


          Ear Hustle (2017-present): Recorded inside the San Quentin State Prison in California, this Radiotopia podcast explores the daily life of inmates. Hosts Nigel Poor (a Bay Area artist) and Earlonne Woods (an inmate incarcerated at – and later released from – San Quentin) explore the daily realities of prison life. Episodes cover serious and humorous topics alike, including solitary confinement, pets, life sentences, music, death row and more. This podcast is currently in its fifth season, so there are plenty of episodes to keep you hooked.   

          The Daily (2017-present): The Daily is (as you may guessed) a daily news podcast from The New York Times. Every weekday morning, host Michael Barbaro takes twenty minutes to break down one news story. He explains the history of the story, explores the impact, and hears from various individuals with different takes. The content is fairly American-focused, but occasionally veers into the wider world (including a top-notch spinoff series called Caliphate where reporter Rukmini Callimachi reports on the Islamic State and the fall of Mosul). The genius behind this podcast is that it allows you to develop an actual understanding of important news stories without leading to news fatigue. “This. Is The Daily.”  

          2 Dope Queens (2016-2019): Hosted by comics Jessica Williams and Pheobe Robinson, this WNYC Studios comedy podcast will have you in stitches. Each episode begins with the hosts’ hilarious musings on life and pop culture, ranging from debates about Harry Potter to bits about long-term relationships. The hosts then introduce a series of comics who perform quick and dirty stand-up routines to keep you laughing. I especially appreciate the show’s focus on providing a platform for female comics of colour. In 2018, the show moved to HBO and into the realm of paid-programming, but the original podcast series is still available on most podcast platforms.

          The History Chicks (2011-present): The concept of this Wondery podcast is simple. Women’s history is under-told. Let’s change that. Hosts Beckett Graham and Susan Vollenwider record fascinating deep-dives on women in history. The subjects hail from various historical periods – you can learn about anyone from Julie Child to Joan of Arc. My personal favourite episodes are Zelda Fitzgerald, Harriet Tubman and Annie Oakley. This podcast is a history nerd’s delight, complete with an accompanying website with pictures, reading recommendations and links to outside sources.

          The Office Ladies (2020-present): If you loved NBC’s The Office, this is the podcast for you. Jenna Fischer and Angela Kinsey, the actors who brought you the lovable secretary-turned saleswoman Pam Beesly and ice queen accountant Angela Martin, host this hilarious re-watch podcast from Earwolf. Fischer and Kinsey walk listeners through each episode of The Office, breaking down iconic scenes and providing behind-the-scenes trivia. Special guests include Creed Bratton, Rainn Wilson and many of the other talented people who made The Office a hit.


          Twinsters (2015): This film follows American actress and filmmaker Samantha Futerman and Parisian fashion designer Anais Bordier as they get to know one another after discovering that they are identical twins. The women, who were separately adopted at birth, reunite after Anais sees Samantha in a YouTube video and decides to reach out. Together they travel to each other's countries and then to the place of their birth. Written and directed by Samantha, Twinsters is a truly touching story of sisterly love.

          She’s Beautiful When She’s Angry (2014): This documentary explores the second wave feminist movement and the women who made it happen. Not only does this film show the birth of the women's liberation movement and the issues that they fought for (equal pay, child care, education, contraception, abortion), it captures the determination and humour with which they did it. This documentary is a great way to learn about the women whose tenacity shaped the world that we live in today. The message is clear. You can change the world.

          Kanehsatake: 270 Years of Resistance (1993): This poignant film documents the 1990 Oka Crisis, a violent standoff between the Kanien’kéhaka (Mohawk) nation and the Canadian army that catapulted the issue of Canadian indigenous land rights onto the world stage. The situation escalated after the mayor of Oka announced plans to expand a golf course and build condominiums on land with a long-standing Kanien’kéhaka claim. Director Alanis Obomsawin and her crew spent 78 days behind the Kanien’kéhaka lines filming the standoff and its devastating effects. This documentary is available for free on the Canadian National Film Board website.

          Tiger King (2020): This seven-episode Netflix documentary explores the crazier-than-reality world of private “big cat” zoos in America and the eccentric people that own them. The documentary follows Joe Exotic, the owner of a tiger park and breeding facility in Oklahoma, and his decades-long feud with breeder-turned-activist Carole Baskin. Tiger King has it all – big cats, cult leaders, drug lords, magic shows, mysterious disappearances and at least one murder plot. This documentary is Blackfish meets The Sopranos meets Us Weekly. You will not be disappointed.

          The Hunting Ground (2015): This haunting documentary shines a light on sexual assault on American college campuses. It explores the complex network of college administrations, athletic departments, faculty, law enforcement and fraternities that prevented campus sexual assault from being properly reported and addressed. The film follows survivor-activists Annie Clark and Andrea Pino as they lead the wave of student-led activism that finally brought campus sexual assault to the top of the national agenda. Both the film and its soundtrack are critically-acclaimed. The Hunting Ground is hard to watch and something that everyone should to see.


          Author: Anastasia-Maria Hountalas

          Anastasia-Maria Hountalas is an associate at Steinecke Maciura LeBlanc, where she advises and represents clients in all aspects of professional regulation. Prior to joining the firm, Anastasia-Maria summered and articled in the litigation department of a leading national law firm, with a focus on health law. Anastasia-Maria completed a Bachelor of Arts (Honours) in History at McGill University and obtained her law degree from Queen’s University. During law school, Anastasia-Maria was actively involved in the Queen’s Law community, participating in the Prison Law Clinic and several study abroad programs. Anastasia-Maria Hountalas serves on the YWL Board of Directors as the Director of Marketing & Communications.

        • 21 Mar 2020 11:33 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

          With social distancing in full effect, a lot of us will be working from home for the foreseeable future. Whether you’re living alone or with others, in a large house or a tiny condo, it can be challenging to stay focused and motivated throughout the day. Here is some advice to help you get situated and build a foundation to thrive in your new working environment.

          Create a Designated Workspace

          If you don’t already have one, now is a good time to create a designated workspace in your home. Avoid working where you sleep or eat if possible. Natural light can be very helpful, as long as there is no glare on your computer screen. Be mindful of storing confidential files or other physical materials in a safe place. Most importantly, remember to distance yourself from that space when you’re taking breaks and, most importantly, once you’re done working for the day.

          Maintain a Routine and Make a To-Do List

          It’s easy to roll out of bed and work from home in your pajamas. However, try to stick with elements of your normal workday routine, including maintaining a regular bedtime, setting an alarm to wake up, getting dressed for work, having lunch, and taking breaks during the day. I’ve opted for a comfy alternative to pajamas (hello, Roots sweatpants!), but others suggest changing into office attire. Maintaining a routine is a small step that can make a big difference in your productivity for the day.

          Writing a daily to-do list is helping me stay organized and focused while working from home. I’m already losing track of what day it is and I’m sleeping, eating, exercising, and working under one roof, so everything is blending together. To-do lists keep me on track to attaining my goals during the work day and checking items off the list is very satisfying.

          Stay in Touch

          Many of us are used to daily social interaction at the office with colleagues and/or clients, so working from home can feel very lonely and isolating (even with kids or significant others at home with you). Consider alternatives to e-mail to keep in touch. Pick up the phone for a quick call or arrange a video conference meeting. It can also be helpful to allocate time to check-in with the people that you work with, not only to discuss work, but their well-being.

          Leverage the “Extra” Time in Your Day

          How are you going to spend the time in your day that would otherwise be dedicated to commuting to and from the office? The possibilities are endless. You could read for pleasure, start a new show on Netflix, try a new recipe, write a blog post, do a puzzle, reconnect with someone in your network or make a new connection, listen to an uplifting podcast, learn a new skill or language, or maybe just enjoy a little extra sleep.

          Practice Self-Care

          We have been inundated with news updates over the past couple of weeks and it can be stressful and overwhelming at times. Remain focused on your physical, emotional and mental well being. There’s no better time to turn inward and focus on what your body needs right now. Self-care can take many forms, and these are some of my favourites: avoiding excessive media coverage, facetiming with family members and friends, meditating, doing yoga, going for a run, and getting fresh air. I’ve also turned to Instagram Live for a lot of interactive content in recent days, including workout classes, impromptu concerts from my favourite artists, and even a daily 5PM dance party with 3,000 of my closest friends (all from the comfort of my home, of course).


          Working from home can be challenging, frustrating, and isolating; however, it can also be flexible, productive, and cozy. Ultimately, the ability to work from home means that we are fortunate enough to have jobs that allow us to do so. Let’s be patient with the situation and support each other as we navigate this time of uncertainty. We will get through this together!


          Authors: Ellen Dalicandro, Stikeman Elliott LLP

          Ellen Dalicandro obtained her J.D. and Honours Bachelor of Commerce from the University of Ottawa in 2016 and 2013, respectively. Ellen is the Assistant Director of Talent Management at Stikeman Elliott LLP. Prior to her current role, Ellen was an associate in the corporate group at Stikeman Elliott where she practiced securities, corporate finance, mergers and acquisitions and general corporate law. Ellen is a member of the Sponsorship Committee of Young Women in Law and Vice President of Mentorship of the Toronto Telfer Alumni Network.   
        • 19 Dec 2019 12:37 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

          As young professionals, we are increasingly aware of the highs and lows of “adulting” – life insurance, property taxes, and the endlessly gripping fixed vs variable rate debate. We also know that we should have a will to protect our house and financial assets, and our young families. But what other assets should we plan to protect? As more facets of our lives are being lived online, it is more important than ever to ensure that our digital assets are included in our estate planning, not just to maximize their value, but also to ensure that our data ends up in the right hands.

          Digital Assets by the Numbers

          Digital assets include emails, social media accounts, blogs, digital photos, electronic folders, funds held in accounts such as iTunes and PayPal, online subscriptions, Air Miles or other rewards points, and cryptocurrencies such as Bitcoin or other altcoins.

          • A report from the Social Media Lab(1) found that 94% of adult Canadian Internet users have at least one social media account.
          • A recent study by Bond Brand Loyalty shows that the average Canadian participates in 12.2 loyalty programs(2).
          • The same Bond Brand Loyalty study shows that Canadians are sitting on $16 billion of unused reward points.
          • And, 55% of collectors don’t know how many points they have, 41% are unaware of the value of their points, and 25% have never redeemed any of their points for rewards.

          If you want to make sure that your social media accounts, including dating apps, are deleted on your death, include instructions in your estate planning. You may have uploaded photos to apps like Instagram or Facebook that your loved ones will want. Similarly, provide for the posthumous management of your digital files and folders, such as content stored on iCloud. This is particularly important if you store any sensitive material in digital files, or if you store any intellectual property, such as a draft of a novel, or an unreleased recording of a new song.

          Loyalty and rewards points can be more complicated, and the requirements for transferring “points” are usually found in the terms and conditions unique to each company. For example, one company may permit your loved ones to transfer your loyalty points free of charge simply on request, while another may require a death certificate, a letter from the estate trustee, and a specific bequest in a valid legal will.

          Cryptocurrency is taxed in Canada like any other investment. Any gains on cryptocurrency should be reported as capital gains, which are added to your income and taxed at your marginal tax rate. If you are leaving cryptocurrency to loved ones in your will, you should consider the tax implications of such a gift, and plan accordingly.

          If you are a social media influencer or content creator, your digital assets can be particularly valuable. According to a recent study by Izea(3):

          • Influencer and content marketing is now among the top 4 most effective marketing approaches measured in Canada, far more effective than traditional print and radio marketing.
          • 1 in 4 marketers recently surveyed said that they dedicate more than $1 million per year for influencer marketing.
          • 3 out of 4 marketers surveyed have stand-alone budgets for content and/or influencer marketing.

          For example, Lilly Singh is a Toronto Youtube sensation with 14.9 million subscribers. Her social media presence is so strong that she has recently landed her own late night television show on NBC, called A Little Late. Engagement at that level translates to valuable sponsorships and partnerships, and it is a prime example of a digital asset that should be protected with comprehensive estate planning.

          Start-up companies, no matter how big or small, should plan for the future by including their online presence in an estate plan. darsbars is a Toronto company that makes handmade, organic, natural skincare products. The business currently has 709 followers on Instagram (and steadily growing), and a website, darsbars.com. As darsbars continues to grow, its social media accounts and website domain will also become more valuable.

          If you do not have a will, or have not updated your will in some time, you should consult a reputable estates lawyer to discuss what qualifies as a digital asset, why it is worth including in an estate plan at all, and what, if any, tax implications may arise.

          (1) The State of Social Media in Canada 2017, Gruzd, A.; Jacobson, J.; Mai, P.; Dubois, E.; Social Media Lab, 2018

          (2) Love & Loyalty: The Loyalty Report 2017, Bond Brand Loyalty

          (3) 2018 Canadian State of the Creator Economy, IZEA, 2018


          Authors: Sheila Morris, Minden Gross LLP

          Sheila Morris is a wills and estates litigator at Minden Gross LLP. Prior to joining Minden Gross, Sheila gained a breadth of civil experience, from insurance litigation to commercial litigation, at two boutique firms in Toronto. Sheila is a member of the OBA’s Elder Law Executive, and regularly writes and speaks on estates and elder law issues. Sheila is a proud young woman in the law, with a mandate to refer to women, mentor women, and advocate for women’s issues. 

        • 06 Dec 2019 8:41 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

          Whether it is storing cord blood after giving birth or freezing embryos in anticipation of pregnancy, more and more young women are banking their genetic material. There are all kinds of reasons for a comprehensive estate plan that go beyond effective tax planning and providing for loved ones after death: ensuring the safety of your banked genetic material is one of them.

          Cord Blood

          In Canada, women who give birth have the option of storing their cord blood stem cells, which can later be used to treat certain genetic diseases and blood disorders. In fact, the practice has become so common that July is “Cord Blood Awareness Month.” There are three types of cord blood banks in Canada: public banks, which store blood for transplants into patients who are not the donor; private for-profit banks, which store blood for the donor’s child(ren) or family; and biobanks, which store stem cells for research and potential drug manufacturing. The blood in private registries belongs to the donor, though certain registries will allow the donor to list an additional owner. However, there is no uniform policy that applies to all banks. You should ensure that your estate plan makes provisions for your cord blood, including arrangements for storage payments after your death and granting access to a second owner or an estate trustee so he or she can access the material should the need arise.

          Embryos, Ova, and Sperm

          As we wait longer to have children, and since IVF has become more accessible, it has become increasingly popular to store embryos, ova, and sperm. While a recent family law case treated an embryo (fertilized egg) as “property” to be dealt with in accordance with the principles of contract law,[1] sperm and eggs receive different treatment under the Assisted Human Reproduction Act, which requires the donor’s express written approval before the material can be used in creating an embryo.

          For this reason, it is critical to consider how a will, or the absence of a will, will impact where your genetic material ultimately ends up. This is particularly important for common law couples. For example, if common law partners store embryos for later use, but one partner dies unexpectedly without a will, it is possible that the surviving common law partner could be left without any rights to the embryo at all.


          Even with a valid will and without a dispute, a surviving spouse or partner may not have the information, or the legal right, to access banked genetic material in the event of the owner’s death. The law on genetic material is nuanced, and it can be complicated. Taking appropriate steps now can prevent confusion, heartache, and litigation down the road.


          Authors: Sheila Morris, Minden Gross LLP

          Sheila Morris is a wills and estates litigator at Minden Gross LLP. Prior to joining Minden Gross, Sheila gained a breadth of civil experience, from insurance litigation to commercial litigation, at two boutique firms in Toronto. Sheila is a member of the OBA’s Elder Law Executive, and regularly writes and speaks on estates and elder law issues. Sheila is a proud young woman in the law, with a mandate to refer to women, mentor women, and advocate for women’s issues. 

        • 21 Nov 2019 7:51 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

          Career wise, you have come a long way on a journey marked with milestones of achievement. Having survived law school and long hours articling, you’ve passed the bar. Before there is time to take a breath and compute the debt from your student loan, you have landed a full-time job as an associate. As a highly qualified young associate, your life is set … or is it?

          It’s surprising that even the most diligent lawyers sometimes pay insufficient attention to the interconnection between two fundamental areas that require planning: career and finances. In this article, we highlight the importance of taking a proactive approach to balancing the interconnections between your career and finances to build the future you desire.

          Designing your career path

          A lawyer’s career is a long-term endeavour involving years of education, training and developing technical expertise. A career plan is crucial to ensure you make the most of your long-term investment.

          As recruiters who specialize in the legal sector, The Counsel Network has noticed a cyclical progression experienced by lawyers as their knowledge, expertise and comfort zone within the profession develop. We have identified four phases of the cycle, each with a unique impact on the lawyer’s life, family and future. There is no set timeline for one to travel through the four phases – in fact, a lawyer might experience the cycle or portions of it several times throughout their career.

          1. Educational
            Like anything that’s new, you face a steep learning curve. The work is challenging and there is excitement in your new role. You may feel overwhelmed, but you are taking it all in.
          2. Engagement
            You’ve got some time on the docket, so to speak. You’ve learned the ropes, feel confident and are motivated. You are achieving targets and making a valuable contribution.
          3. Cruising
            You’ve established your place, so your foot eases off the gas. You’ve hit a plateau. You begin to experience boredom and declining motivation. Your mind wanders to thinking the grass might be greener on the other side.
          4. Disengagement
            You’re feeling frustrated and unhappy. You start seeing a lot of negatives in things that did not bother you before and may be heading for burnout.

          An effective career plan must take these developmental phases into consideration. It is not just about developing a rigid, step-by-step blueprint for your path to partnership. Rather, it’s about proactively seeking out learning opportunities that combine your talents, values and aspirations as you navigate the four developmental phases. Critically, this means recognizing the tell-tale signs and laying the groundwork for new learning opportunities before you hit the cruising phase – or worse, slip into disengagement. A misstep here could trip up the long-term health of your career and your life outside of work.

          Building your financial future

          While career planning can help you achieve your professional aspirations, financial planning can help you protect and provide for you and your loved ones – both now and in the future. A good financial plan is much more than simply a tool for maximizing wealth. Instead, it involves taking a holistic view of your life and goals and customizing strategies aligned with the future you envision for your family.

          For some associates, choosing the legal profession is at least in part motivated by a desire for financial independence. And it is true that lawyers can build a profitable career – especially when they manage their finances well and start early.

          For newly appointed associates, there are specific needs to consider within a financial plan. For example, while you probably have disability insurance through your firm’s group coverage, it is likely insufficient to meet your needs should you ever be unable to work. With an individual top-up, you can easily obtain supplementary coverage to close the income replacement gap that likely exists under your group plan.

          As an associate early in your career, you may be feeling invincible. Unfortunately, the unexpected can happen to anyone. The reality is that young associates face countless hours and the mounting pressure of delivering in their new role, making burnout a possibility along with the risk of other disabilities and illnesses. You would no doubt face significant financial challenges if you were suddenly forced to drop out of your associate program due to a long-term disability. However, you can mitigate this risk with a disability insurance top-up of approximately $100–200 per month, keeping mind that the premiums will be higher the older you are when you start.

          Of course, financial planning is not a one-time effort, and it is never too soon to start on the right financial foot. You may be an associate today, but your financial needs, priorities and opportunities will evolve over time as you progress on your path to partnership. Adjustments will be necessary along the way to ensure the best outcomes. Everyone’s situation is unique, but the following are examples of the key considerations to address in your financial plan as a newly minted associate and as you ascend to become a senior associate:

          • While you earn a guaranteed base salary as an associate, do you understand your cash flow and are you living within those means to ensure a healthy financial future?
          • Are you making regular contributions to registered investment accounts like a tax-free savings account (TFSA) or registered retirement savings plan (RRSP) to use time and tax advantages to help your money grow?
          • If your firm offers a match of your RRSP contributions, have you signed up to take full advantage of the maximum available?
          •  Do you have a strategy for paying off any student loans or credit card debt, if applicable?
          • Are you making smart decisions now to put you on track for buying your first home, or perhaps upsizing from a condo to a house?
          • If you have a child, are you investing in their education with a registered education savings plan (RESP), within which your contributions can grow tax free?
          • If you are in your first year of practice, are you taking advantage of the discounts in insurance premiums offered to new associates?
          • Ultimately, financial planning is about optimizing your financial resources to build the life that you desire while ensuring the flexibility needed to accommodate any personal, family and career changes that emerge along the way.

          Optimizing your outcomes

          While planning your career path and your financial future are distinct, they are intertwined and complementary processes. As an associate, it is advisable to develop plans for both to proactively create the life you want for yourself and a family, if that too is in your future.

          An experienced mentor or trusted advisor can help. Career planning and financial planning are both highly personal, so there is great value in working with trusted individuals who can act as a sounding board and guide you toward choices fully aligned with your needs. And while it’s beneficial to start developing both plans as early as possible, it’s never too late to begin tackling these important issues.

          In your legal work and more broadly in life, there will always be a degree of uncertainty. But with sound planning and the same hard work that has gotten you this far, you can stay on track toward a bright professional and personal future.


          Authors: Dal Bhathal and Elke Rubach

          Dal Bhathal is Managing Partner at The Counsel Network a Canadian legal recruitment firm specializing in legal talent management strategies covering all levels of lawyers and practices for both corporate legal departments and law firms. Dal can be reached at dal@thecounselnetwork.com or 416.364.6654.

          Elke Rubach is a former lawyer and President of Rubach Wealth , a Toronto-based firm that supports lawyers with tax-efficient wealth, retirement and estate planning so they can focus on developing their careers. Contact Elke at 647.349.7070 or by email at elke@rubachwealth.com.

        • 15 Aug 2019 3:52 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

          You haven’t billed your 7.5 hours today and you still have to go home to get ready for your friend's birthday (and you’re already late). But it can’t be a late night because you have so much work to do. You may work all weekend and miss your husband’s soccer game.

          Above = me last year. Then I started blogging and advocating for international students and then I had an epiphany….should I just start my own firm?

          Just the thought scared me half to death.

          The unknown was terrifying – would I fail miserably? Would I make money? Would I get clients?

          Here are my 7 top reasons why starting my own firm was the best decision I ever made.

          1. Flexibility

          Having my own schedule is the number one reason I love being the boss. My husband works shift work and now I have the ability to clear my schedule to take a day off (during the week) to hang out with him.

          I’ll admit - it is not common that I can do this. As I’ll get to later, being on your own means you work many (many) hours. But I try to take time off when I can and it is always an option. I’ve been sick and headed straight home from the office to lie down. No need to ask for permission.

          2. Hard Work Doesn’t Scare You

          Work. It’s a four letter word but when everything falls on your shoulders, it can be crippling. Suddenly you are the: Office Manager, Admin Assistant, IT Support, Bookkeeper, Accounts Payable/Receivable, Marketing Manager….oh and Lawyer.

          There is a paradox between saving costs and saving yourself from having a stress-related heart attack. Working 24/7 is exhausting and in my second month I was already overwhelmed. At the beginning, if you start with 0 clients (like me), the last thing you want to do is add to your overhead.

          There are really cool programs offered by the legal community to help. One is the Osgoode Internship Program, which offers a free law student for two months in the summer. Another is a career coach offered by the Law Society. Also, my group, NCA Network, is always open to volunteer opportunities available for students.

          The most important person you want to “add to your payroll” is a bookkeeper – as you must reconcile your books by the 25th of the prior month and the Law Society audits all new lawyers within the first year.

          Probably the first thing I realized was that I needed help. I have the most fantastic bookkeeper, receptionist, and law student. They are lifesavers.

          3. Willing to Learn

          I’m not just talking about the law. There is so much to learn about running your own practice. How to do your accounting, how to manage your time, how to keep track of potential clients.

          Then of course, there’s the law, which includes making sure you are taking the right steps in a file.

          All of it is hard, rewarding, and fun! You won’t know everything, and you aren’t expected to. I recommend picking a specialty and staying in it. I practice estate litigation and I truly enjoy it. Estate litigation is when someone passes away or loses capacity and issues arise. For example, I have worked on will challenges, claims of a common law spouse when their partner passes or executor/estate trustee removals. Plus, I want to delve deeper in this practice area to become an expert. Is there one area that speaks to you?

          4. Entrepreneurial

          Hands down you have to hustle. There is nothing handed to you on a silver platter. This brings me into my next point…

          5. Love for Networking

          Coffee meetings, lunch, events…even if you hate coffee (I only drink decaf coffee and herbal tea) – socializing is important. People want to know YOU. Business relationships are built on trust. Can I trust you? Do I like you? If you don’t put yourself out there, it is hard to develop strong relationships.

          Get out there and meet with lawyers in your practice area. Maybe they’ll have a conflict or a file that is too small for them. Meet lawyers in other practice areas. Maybe you can cross-refer work to each other.

          6.  Ride the Highs and Lows

          Oh there are days when you want to throw in the towel and move to Tahiti. Other days, like when I won a case in court a few weeks back, I was on Cloud 9.

          The roller coaster of emotions and the unstable income can get really old really quick. What keeps you up at night? Some of us sleep better with a steady income and work routine. Some of us sleep better building something to call our own.

          7. Being you

          My favourite part of having my own firm is running a file how I want to run it. I instill my own personality and honesty into my practice. I can be my true authentic self and I keep learning more about who I am.

          I like explaining the law to my clients in a way they can understand. I only do things on a file to save them costs. I tell my clients the truth - even if it’s not what they want to hear. What is your style? How would you run your file if you had true autonomy?

          I think the hard knocks truth is to look deep within yourself. We are all built differently and we all want different things. Not a fan of the billable hours? Maybe you would want to work in-house. Think you’re ready to take the plunge? It’s never too late to start your own firm!


          Author: Kim Gale  

          Kim Gale is an estate litigation lawyer and principal of Gale Law, an estate litigation firm in Toronto. She can be reached at 416-868-3263 or kgale@galelaw.ca. She is the author and creator of the blog Law for Millennials — The Complete Beginners Guide to Law and is co-founder of diversity and inclusion group NCA Network.
        • 08 Aug 2019 5:11 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

          Jennifer Mathers McHenry is the Managing Partner of Mathers McHenry & Co.

          Jennifer obtained her LL.B. from the University of Windsor in 2003 and her LL.M. from the University of Toronto in 2004.  She has since practiced in the areas of employment and commercial litigation at two premier litigation firms in Toronto. She founded Mathers McHenry & Co., a boutique firm focused on executive employment and workplace law, in 2019.

          Jennifer regularly advises both executive and other senior employees and employers about employment law and with respect to all aspects of the employee/employer relationship, including: offers of employment, human rights obligations, changes of control, mergers and acquisitions, executive compensation, resignations, termination of employment, constructive dismissals, and post-employment fiduciary and contractual obligations.  Jennifer also frequently helps senior executives navigate investigations and interpersonal and other complexities that regularly present themselves in the context of the employment relationship, all with an eye on their legal rights and options.  Her litigation practice encompasses a wide range of complex employment and workplace-related commercial and appellate litigation, including actions involving wrongful and constructive dismissal, breaches of human rights legislation, breach of contract, professional negligence, breach of confidence, unfair competition, negligent misrepresentation, partnership disputes, and shareholder disputes.

          Jennifer was a founding member of the Advocate’s Society’s Employment and Labour Law Practice Group, and is a regular speaker in schools, for continuing education programs, and in the media on matters pertaining to employment and executive employment law. This winter term Jennifer will be teaching as an Adjunct Professor at the University of Toronto Faculty of Law in its “Law of Leadership” LLM program. 

          1. How did you get involved in your current area of practice? 

          I didn’t quite fall into employment/workplace law, but I didn’t set out to do it either. I started out as a commercial litigator and I loved it, but didn’t love the fact it is very hard to build a self-sustaining practice in that area of law.  So when I started looking for a new role I wanted something that would be just as engaging but would let me be a bit more entrepreneurial and take the lead both on practice building and on files a lot earlier in my career.  Employment law with an executive focus ticked all those boxes. 

          2. What qualities and/or skills are important for leaders?  

          First, real leaders are not abusive. As a profession I think we let powerful rainmakers get away with a lot and that needs to stop. Once we get past that very low threshold, I think a good leader provides not only support but sponsorship designed to make those she works with not just profit centers but future leaders themselves; she will let those around her shine and help them do it; and she will give credit to those under her who earn their success (we all had help getting started, whether it was a referral of clients or hours of factum editing, and it is important to remember that).

          3. What qualities and/or skills do you look for in a junior? 

          Smart is the entry level criteria so that almost goes without saying, but it is too important not to say. I also look for people who I want to spend time around. That doesn’t mean they need to be someone I’d be friends with outside the office (though obviously that’s nice), but does mean they have to be someone I like, trust, and know has values about the profession and practice that are not in conflict with mine. I want to work with people who are successful because they care deeply about the work they do and the clients we serve such that they will insist on excellence from themselves, who practice with integrity, and who are frank and direct, both with me and in their communication with clients and other counsel. I also want someone who more often than not makes my life easier instead of harder.

          4. What advice would you give a young woman starting her practice? 

          1) Learn as much as you can and remember that no one knows what they are doing when they first start out. 2) Don’t be afraid to ask questions but only ask questions you can’t answer yourself. 3) Network and more importantly remember the world is small but our profession is a whole lot smaller. The person on the other side of a file may be someone you encounter repeatedly, or he or she may be someone from whom you someday get a reference or a referral. Advocate for your clients and beat the other side, yes, but don’t do it by being sharp or even needlessly difficult. I truly don’t believe that serves the clients well and it definitely doesn’t serve you well in the long term. 4) As a junior your role is to treat the partners or your bosses as your clients – the easier you make their lives the more indispensable you become as a colleague (as it happens, this also applies to judges – make their life easier by colour coding, being organized, thinking ahead about what they need to have in front of them, etc).

          5. What advice would you give a mid-level junior looking to advance her career? 

          1) Be strategic and pro-active about where your career is going and what skills and other assets you need to get where you want to go and to have options available to you. Don’t be passive about getting what and where you need to be and carve out the time to figure out what those things are! 2) Find sponsors and mentors. This profession can be tough but it is filled with fantastic people who are willing to help each other out. Access that. 3) Remember that there are always options. You are never truly stuck.

          6. What can we do to address the continued attrition of women in law?  

          First, we can ensure people recognize that their options are not binary. I think many people look at it as stay in a firm I’m unhappy in or leave law (private practice, especially), stay in a model I’m unhappy in or leave law, stay in abusive environment or leave law, stay in the status quo or leave the area of practice, stay and work 90+ hour weeks or accept less interesting work, stay on Bay or leave the area you work in. I no longer think that is our reality. Lots of firms are out there doing things differently. Lawyers often negotiate for a living yet when it comes to negotiating a structure for themselves feel hemmed in by the “way it’s done”. Lawyers, toss that thinking (and firms, let them!). 

          Second, and I don’t mean to imply this is pervasive or the key reason we’re losing women, but we as a profession can stop tolerating terrible behaviour and that will help – personally I will not seek to work with or refer work to anyone I know to be abusive to those he or she works with. That should not be revolutionary, but if it were the norm I think law firms would become better places to work because the rainmakers who are abusive (and we all know they exist) only have power while they make rain.  

          7. If you could give yourself one piece of advice when you were starting out in law, what would it be? 

          This may sound arrogant but honestly I’m happy with my trajectory so I would not suggest I do anything differently. I think I would tell my younger self to relax a bit when things were not going as planned – I really do believe there are many paths to a successful and satisfying career. In another life I’d have been a very happy M&A lawyer or gone into business.  Leaning into the idea there is no one way to be happy in law is freeing.

          8. Is there anything else (advice, an interesting experience, tips, etc.) that you would like to share with our members? 

          Succeed with positivity. Lift people up. Do it every opportunity you have.  Help students behind you. Send referrals to colleagues you know are good.  Tell the reporter who calls you that you can’t answer their question but give them someone who can. Decline work you are not able to do well and give it to someone who can. Give your colleagues credit for their wins and their contributions to yours. Appreciate the people who work with and for you and make sure they know it.  As Lizzo says “If I’m shinin’, everybody gonna shine.” I love that and consider it my unofficial firm motto.

          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.  

        Young Women in Law (YWL) is a not for profit organization for women lawyers in their early stages of practice.

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