Welcome back to the Women Leading in Law blog series. Today's post features Maneesha Gupta, an IP lawyer and the founder of Mindful Lawyer Canada, Canada's premier mindfulness community for legal professionals. I think at this point in the pandemic we could all use a little more mindfulness in our lives. Read on to learn more about Maneesha's journey and success in law:
1. Tell me a little about your practice or business.
I am an Intellectual Property and Technology lawyer practicing in all aspects of IP, advertising, and technology law. I am currently working at TD Bank. I advise on cybersecurity, privacy, data protection, automation and risk management for AI adoption.
I started Mindful Lawyer Canada to motivate people to lead inspired lives. The idea was born on Bay Street in 2018. I felt drained, powerless, defeated, and lost. Early on in my career, I also saw that a lot of things were broken in the way lawyers talked about self-care and mental health. I put my hobbies on the backburner and remember how hard it was to attend personal appointments due to limited time and a fluctuating work schedule. I had spent hours looking for an easy-to-access group of lawyers seeking wellness, personal development, and peer-to-peer solutions.
Initially, my aim was to create a community meditation space for lawyers. MLC has since expanded beyond that to a suite of corporate wellness programs, weekly mindfulness sessions and events catered to any legal professional. Pursuing mindfulness with peers can be an incredible way to boost our energy, support our physical and mental health, and connect with others. For the law firms, proactive and scalable mindfulness and inclusion helps to retain talent, reduce lawyer burn-out, save money, and improve the health and productivity of employees.
I remember within the first week with a post on it, someone contacted me to run a mindfulness event for hundreds of legal professionals. And then the second big tech event was booked, and how inspiring and encouraging that was. The pandemic has taught us that we need connection and community in our lives now more than ever.
2. Why did you go to law school?
Unlike most people, I wanted a law degree as a stepping stone to the next chapter in my career. I have a long way to go. I come from a large family of established doctors and engineers, so it took a lot to convince them that this was going to be my path. I paid for everything myself in school and worked multiple jobs to make it all fit. At Osgoode Hall Law School, I loved the faculty, took part in a moot, and enjoyed my favourite course called Beyond Bay Street, which confirmed this was the right decision for me.
3. How did you get to where you are today? Design? Chance? Both?
Mostly design. Despite all the science degrees around me, I gravitated towards becoming a lawyer. There was no inflection point – a career in law was my "calling" and I streamlined all my goals with that in mind. I am self-driven and proud to be a first generation lawyer. I also come from a close-knit and exceptionally hard-working family. My parents left India more than 50 years ago and from a young age, they instilled in us the importance of standing on your own two feet, honouring your roots, having integrity, and giving back. My parents and I share a strong bond - they are my closest friends, a huge part of who I am, and how I got to where I am. I am also inspired by other women leading in law. Eva Chan is a trailblazer who leads by example. Eva has taught me so much about being focused, authentic, intentional, purposeful, and supporting others.
4. What is your most significant achievement? What are you proud of?
While there are many things I am proud of (running full marathons, being a dragon-boater, dance), nothing will beat the feeling of passing my bar exams and being called to the bar with my colleagues. All my dreams came true that day, and my sacrifices and hard work had paid off.
5. What are some key challenges, and more importantly, opportunities for women in law?
We have a white-male driven legal profession with significant gender and racial challenges. Consequently, people of colour, persons of disability, women and other gender identities often repeatedly demonstrate their commitment and competence thereby feeling exhausted and demoralized. Earning a law degree in Canada is a privilege – a legal education gives you the opportunity to rise up, influence decision-making and create space for different races, backgrounds, and genders. Don’t waste your time being a passive bystander in your career. No matter what direction you decide to take, invest in your own growth and make it work for you.
6. What advice would you give a woman starting her legal career?
Integrity, reputation, and ethics are paramount to your character and career – start and end with these values in mind. Don’t compare yourself to others. Don’t stay in jobs where you are living an inauthentic life.
Thank you Maneesha for taking the time to participate in this series and I look forward to seeing Mindful Lawyer Canada's continued success!
I started this blog series because I was tired of hearing about women leaving law and wanted to hear about women leading in law. 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!
ICYMI - previous posts profiled the following amazing lawyers: Victoria Perrie, Amee Sandhu, Tanya Walker, Alysia Christiaen, Patricia Gamliel, Megan Cornell, Yola Ventrescu, Hilary Book, Margaret Waddell, Nandi Deterville, Jennifer Quaid, Maryann Besharat, Cynthia Mason, Roots Gadhia, Evelyn Ackah, Carrisa Tanzola, Sarah Leamon, Robin Parker, Lorin MacDonald, Karen Yamamoto, Victoria Crewe-Nelson, Lynne Vicars, Kemi Oduwole, Anne-Marie McElroy, Jennifer Gold, Jordana Goldlist, Megan Keenberg, Yadesha Satheaswaran, France Mahon, Sarah Molyneaux, Richa Sandill, Vivene Salmon, Kim Whaley, Alisia Grenville, Frances Wood, Maggie Wente, Anita Szigeti, Neha Chugh, Christy Allen & Nancy Houle, Suzie Seo, Kim Gale, Alexi Wood, Melissa McBain, Erin Best, Gillian Hnatiw, Melanie Sharman Rowand, Meg Chinelo Egbunonu, Lisa Jean Helps, Nathalie Godbout Q.C., Laurie Livingstone, Renatta Austin, Janis Criger, May Cheng, Nicole Chrolavicius, Charlene Theodore, Dyanoosh Youssefi, Shannon Salter, Bindu Cudjoe, Elliot Spears, Jessica Prince, Anu K. Sandhu, Claire Hatcher, Esi Codjoe, Kate Dewhirst, Jennifer Taylor, Rebecca Durcan, Atrisha Lewis, Vandana Sood, Kathryn Manning, Kim Hawkins, Kyla Lee, and Eva Chan.
Erin C. Cowling is a freelance lawyer, entrepreneur, legal career consultant researcher & writer, and President and Founder of Flex Legal Network Inc., a network of freelance lawyers.