For Women in Law By Women in Law

Guest Blogger, Cheryl D’Sa shares insight on how maintaining professional relationships and friendships are effective strategies for building a personally fulfilling career.

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I am very pleased to share my insights on how maintaining professional relationships and friendships are effective strategies for building a personally fulfilling career and hope that you find my thoughts helpful.

We often hear the phrase it takes a village in relation to raising a child. I also think it takes a village to have a happy career in law. And I am using the word happy as opposed to successful because I don’t believe that success guarantees happiness. We often talk about mentors and champions, which you need. But very often, your mentors and champions tend to be more senior than you are. Mentors and champions have made a huge difference for me, but just as important, if not more, have been my friends in law.

You start to build your village in law school. For those in law school this year, obviously events and get togethers won’t happen in the same way. But make the effort to do zoom coffees or even phone calls with your classmates and get to know them. It will make the law school experience more enjoyable and I guarantee some lifelong friendships will come out of it. I am still good friends with people from my law school small group whom I met 16 years ago, and that’s also where I met my spouse. I did a zoom night with a few friends from law school during the pandemic. It was great to see them and catch up, but also to reminisce and laugh at old jokes, often shared on the green leather couches in the old law school building at UBC. It brought comfort during these uncertain times.

These law school friendships are so crucial in articling and during the first few years of practice, when you may not feel comfortable going to senior mentors and lawyers in your firm to discuss how you’re coping with the giant shift that happens between school and practice. You need your friends in law who are going through the same challenges to provide support and remind you that you’re not going through this alone. This support is so critical to your overall wellness and happiness in the profession.

A legal career can span many decades, and during that time you will have many clients and files, but you will also have big life changes – health issues, relationships, growing families, aging parents, home ownership. The rewards of practicing law are enormous, but so are the pressures. It’s difficult when the stressful life moments coincide with the stressful work moments. And yes, you absolutely need mentors to keep you focused on your career and growing and challenging yourself. But you also need your peers. You need people who will call or email you to see if you need a coffee, or dinner, or a break.

If you don’t end up practicing in the same city that you went to law school, there is definitely more involved in cultivating these friendships. You may be at a firm with many lawyers where you just need to walk next door to strike up a conversation. But for many who are sole practitioners or in smaller firms, it will take a bit of effort to meet people and maintain those friendships. Make an effort during the pandemic to virtually attend legal events and encourage even one friend to do so with you. When opportunities arise for leadership or getting involved in the profession, throw your name in the hat, and encourage your friends to do so too. Getting involved in the profession, among many other benefits, will expand your network of friends.

It is my friends in law who I have attended countless events with, who have encouraged me to put my name forward and then supported me in those roles by campaigning for me, or by attending events I was hosting. Having been fortunate to hold leadership positions in law, I know that the first vote of confidence has come from these friends.

*All views expressed in this blog are the view of the author and not of the LSBC.

About the Author

Cheryl D’Sa is the managing partner of Narwal Litigation LLP in downtown Vancouver, an elected Bencher of the Law Society of British Columbia, Past President of the Vancouver Bar Association and recipient of Business in Vancouver’s Top Forty under 40 award. She received both her B.A. and LL.B. from the University of British Columbia and was called to the Bar in 2008. As well as leading the plaintiff personal injury practice of the firm, Narwal Litigation LLP, has an extensive criminal, securities and professional discipline practice.

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