Welcome back to the Women Leading in Law series!
This post profiles health lawyer, legal entrepreneur, and coach, Kate Dewhirst. Kate is a great example of a lawyer who thinks outside the box and has built a practice and career that she truly loves. Read on to learn why Kate feels like she is the luckiest person in the world and how new lawyers can feel this way too:
1. Tell me a little about your practice or business.
My official work is as a health lawyer in Ontario. I advise health care organizations, such as hospitals and family health teams and mental health clinics, and help them understand the laws that apply to them.
Unofficially, I’m an untangler of messes - whether those messes are privacy breaches or complicated human relationships or complaints from patients and families or people behaving badly. I get asked to help people untangle their complicated situations and find a way forward.
I feel like the luckiest person in the world. I really love what I do. I love my clients. I have a great team. I am in a constant creative learning loop – changing up what I do and figuring out new ways to make a positive impact for my clients.
2. Why did you go to law school?
When I was 3 years old, I was given a Harvard Law School sweatshirt. Since that moment, I wanted to go to law school. My father was a police officer. So originally I thought I’d go to law school to become a Crown Attorney. My mum was a nurse and taught nursing – and I was exposed very early on to health care issues and challenges. When I was in undergrad and learned there was such a thing as “health law” – that was it. I knew I found the perfect combination for me.
3. How did you get to where you are today? Design? Chance? Both?
I’m a very intentional person. So while life has inserted all kinds of wonderful and challenging twists and turns for me – for the most part, I am where I am because of design.
I have been a dedicated goal setter my whole life. First, it was informally done on my own. I got serious about goal setting about five or six years ago when I started with Strategic Coach, which is a coaching program for entrepreneurs. That catapulted my career. Through them, I learned how to harness my strengths and leverage my talent by connecting with other people using their talents.
4. What is your most significant achievement? What are you proud of?
I’m proud that I have my own business that reflects who I am. I think that’s super cool. I’m a kid from a small town. Every now and then I look back and measure how far I have come from being little Katie Dewhirst from Bradford, Ontario. Now, I am a successful legal entrepreneur and coach.
I advise and teach the smartest, most compassionate people there are – health care providers and leaders. They find tremendous value in what I have to share with them. That blows my mind. I fly all over Ontario (and sometimes Canada) for my work. I get to train with the best business coaches and advisors in the world to continually up my game. All while being authentically me. I have fun with my team and we are constantly laughing in the office. And most importantly, I feel very connected to my family, friends, team and clients. I invest a great deal of time, energy and creativity in my relationships. Because of that, I am a deeply connected person. There are a lot of people with whom I can joyfully share in life’s successes and vulnerably share in life’s tragedies. I am surrounded by love. I am proudest of that.
5. What are some key challenges and opportunities for women in law?
Law is still gendered. Even today in 2018. I started law school in 1995. I believe mine was the first class with a higher number of women than men. I acknowledge that I have experienced advantages that women who came before me did not have. And yet, a lot of my female contemporaries no longer practice in traditional law firms or hold legal positions. When I go to legal conferences, especially those geared towards solo or small legal practices – it still feels like the majority of legal business owners are men.
I came to motherhood in my 40s. So, the balancing act of family and work came when I had a lot more control over my circumstances than younger parents might experience. Still, it’s hard. I find the pulls of time and attention challenging. I’d love to add an extra day to each week so I could feel like I’ve done a great job at all my competing tasks. And yet – I feel really blessed. Blessed that I have a life of love and family and work that fulfills my creative soul.
6. What advice would you give a woman starting her legal career?
Find a mentor. Get a coach. Expand your definition of success. So many lawyers focus on time and money as the only indicators of their success. But I would wholeheartedly encourage young lawyers to also consider measuring their success by the impact they want to have in the world, their growth, the alignment of their personal and professional values and whether they are having fun.
Thank you so much Kate for agreeing to be profiled in this series. It is encouraging to see lawyers who love, and are passionate about, what they do!
ICYMI: Previous posts profiled Jennifer Taylor, Rebecca Durcan, Atrisha Lewis, Vandana Sood, Kathryn Manning, Kim Hawkins, Kyla Lee, and Eva Chan. Sign up to have these profiles sent directly to your email address and stay tuned for the next post soon!
The "Women Leading in Law" series focuses on good news stories and highlights amazing women succeeding in the legal profession. Each post includes the profiled lawyer's answers to six questions. Prepare to be inspired!
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.