Welcome back to the Women Leading in Law series. After a call out to my "tweeps" on Twitter for amazing women lawyers on the east coast I was introduced to Nathalie Godbout, the next lawyer to be profiled for this series.
1. Tell me a little about your practice or business:
I am a partner and co-founder of Godbout Fawcett, a law firm located in Saint John, NB that specializes in professional malpractice defence and complex litigation. Our boutique firm opened in December 2016. Our focus is on providing the client with a supportive, personalized experience of legal support for whatever challenge they are facing.
2. Why did you go to law school?
I suspect my childhood had everything to do with it! I was the kid in the neighbourhood that wanted everything to be fair, for everyone to be meaningfully heard. I was also the kid that other kids sent in to negotiate on everyone’s behalf. My advocacy work probably started when I was 5 years old and has been developing since then. That passion has never left me.
3. How did you get to where you are today? Design? Chance? Both?
There is a well-recognized saying from Johann Wolfgang von Goethe that is my life’s mantra: “At the moment of commitment, the universe conspires to assist you.” It has always felt to me that the moment I committed to becoming a lawyer was the moment everything started falling into place so that it could happen. My parents have been endlessly supportive. And today, I credit my powerful circle of friendships - my army of women – for holding me to my vision of what a great law firm could look like. I am proud of what we have accomplished here in such a short window of time.
4. What is your most significant achievement? What are you proud of?
I relish the moment that a new client can finally relax and know that our firm has got his/her problem well in hand. There is a look, an elusive resting posture that comes over them; it is very gratifying. More personally, I wrote an article a few years ago entitled “To The Woman In Room 805” that spoke to an incident of intimate partner violence that I had witnessed; it went viral, and helped to trigger an important conversation in both my real and online community about what this experience is and what we can do to change it. I received countless messages from women who told me the article changed their lived experience and, in some cases, gave them the courage to make a plan and leave their abusive relationship.
5. What are some key challenges, and more importantly, opportunities for women in law?
The challenges are known and many, born mostly of societal stereotypes of what we are somehow expected to be: perfect spouse, mother, organizer, empathetic friend, all while practicing our trade in a legal community built on mostly male constructs. Our firm is, at least in part, a temple to what it can look like if you rebuild it from scratch. So we did. The opportunity for us was a chance at showing other lawyers and their families a law firm that empowers its team, is technologically savvy, allows for remote work and shared responsibility in files, with generous time off, incentive-based earning, powerful networking, and constant learning. We are not slaves to the billable hour, and value the outcome far more than the profit. Because when you start focusing on the work product, the satisfaction of your client, and the happiness of your team, the profit and new clients naturally flow. Yes, we are running a business, the humanity is never allowed to get lost in the financial statements.
6. What advice would you give a woman starting her legal career?
Years ago, when I started my family in my late 30s, my husband and I had to reinvent the way this was traditionally done. Ultimately, my husband stayed home with our newborn and I went back to work 3 weeks later. He brought her to my office every day so I could nurse her. It was chaotic and non-traditional and perfect for us. My advice is: don’t let the world tell you how you are supposed to do this. You can and should design your practice and your life to be a reflection of your goals and your core values. At times, I was surrounded by people that clearly thought I was letting my baby down, that my husband had somehow been tricked into trading off on his manhood, and that my clients would not understand any of it. They were so very wrong. We have magical memories of those years when our daughters were young. They waved joyfully (most days) to me as I left to go be a strong advocate for my clients. They were happy because I was happy.
Don’t give in to the archaic constructs of this amazing profession of ours. We can and will change it; in fact, it’s already happening.
Thanks Nathalie for participating in this series and I love how you have a built a career and practice that suits you and your core values. Congratulations.
ICYMI: Previous posts profiled 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. Sign up to have these profiles sent directly to your email address and stay tuned for the next post soon!
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! The series will continue until December 2018.
Erin C. Cowling is a freelance litigator, researcher & writer at Cowling Legal Freelance and President and Founder of FLEX LEGAL, a network of freelance lawyers.