Separated into five different time periods, Soloway and Costante profile 50 women lawyers starting with the “Trailblazers: Leading the Way” and Clara Brett Martin, Canada’s first female lawyer. The remaining chapters work through the following decades up to the “Millennium: Juggling It All” and a final note on “Looking Ahead: Lessons for Our Daughters”.
What I enjoyed most about the book were the personal stories, trials and tribulations, and triumphs of these remarkable Canadian women. One notable story was how Marguerite Ritchie’s mother was so committed to her daughter’s future that in the 1930s she hitchhiked with her from Edmonton to Halifax so Marguerite could use the scholarship she earned from Dalhousie University. Also of note was the story of Annie Langstaff, a single mother, who became the first female law student in Quebec but was stopped from becoming a member of the Barreau du Quebec because she was a woman. Her multiple appeals of this decision were unsuccessful and eventually she worked as a paralegal for nearly 60 years. Several years after her death she was posthumously admitted to the Barreau du Quebec and was awarded the Medaille du Barreau de Montreal. (Too little, too late - in my opinion).
Other lawyers profiled include: Kim Campbell, Louise Arbour, Mayo Moran, Constance Backhouse and Marie Henein, just to name a few. Interestingly, the authors noted that there are three common traits among these 50 women: 1) they are supported (encouraged by family, communities or mentors); 2) they are risk-takers; and 3) they are resilient.
My only criticism is that sometimes I felt like I was reading the curriculum vitae or resume of these women (listings of awards, distinctions, positions held). I think the real draw of the book is in their stories, including the glimpses into their personalities, flaws and all. Also valuable and enlightening were the accounts of how these women bounced back or forged ahead after a misstep or set-back.
A copy of the book can be purchased here. Please note that I am not affiliated with this book or the publisher. I am just one of many female lawyers interested in the women who paved the way for our current successes.
Now that I am responsible for my own expenses I’ve taken a hard look at that number: $2,108.58. And this does not include my insurance premiums to LawPRO (the base premium being $3,350.00 per lawyer, for a total of $5,458.58 in fees and premiums).
How is the LSUC spending the revenue from our annual fees? What are our fees used for? Why do we pay so much? Are we paying more or less than lawyers in other provinces in Canada?
I decided to start digging. (You may be thinking that I must have lots of spare time on my hands. I don’t. I am just an extremely curious person and I like to know where my money is going). I sat down with a hot coffee and snacks, prepared for a lengthy investigation. This was short lived. One simple Google search produced the most recent LSUC Annual Report (2014), including 30 pages of financial statements . . . and down the rabbit hole I went. . . Here are a few highlights of what I learned:
How do our fees compare to fees in other provinces?
According to a handy chart compiled by the Law Society of British Columbia, we pay the second highest combination of law society fees and insurance premiums in Canada. Only Alberta beats us at a whopping $7,011.00. Saskatchewan is the most affordable province for practicing lawyers where fees and premiums total $3,273.00.
Perhaps I am one of only a few lawyers who wonder about this stuff, but after reading this, are you content with the amount we are paying and where our money is going? Do you read the Annual Report and financial statements? Or, are you at a firm that pays your fees and you really don’t care?
Aside from the financial stuff, the Annual Report also includes an overview of the priorities set by the LSUC: addressing access to justice issues; competence and professional standards; equity, diversity and retention; professional regulation; business structures; and tribunal issues. The Report also has some interesting statistics on the make-up of the profession. (Ever wonder what percentage of lawyers in Ontario are women? It’s 41.9%.)
If you are curious like me, the full Annual Report can be found here.
Erin C. Cowling is a freelance litigator, researcher & writer at Cowling Legal Freelance and President and Founder of Flex Legal Network Inc., a network of freelance lawyers.