Today we have the pleasure of meeting Patricia Gamliel a lawyer from the Montreal office of Dunton Rainville, Avocats & Notaires. Read on to learn about Patricia's career path and advice for new lawyers:
1. Tell me a little about your practice or business.
Administrative law and Access to information law are my passion. Within the administrative law practice, Citizenship and Immigration law is my daily work. While it is an extremely complex practice, it is very much colored by a humanitarian component that keeps one on one’s toes. It also brings litigation and negotiation and requires knowledge and understanding of labour law, commercial law and real estate law. Unlike it, Access to Information law is developing quietly but surely. Our society requires more and more transparency and accountability from government and corporations and more rights toward access to information, especially personal information detained by these bodies are acquired.
2. Why did you go to law school?
I always wanted to defend peoples’ rights. As a child, I, sometimes, got into trouble defending another student and it might have had an effect on my choice of a profession. It took time, though, because despite attending law school in France, I travelled and finally decided to set up roots in Canada. Within days, I was offered a teaching job on condition to complete a bachelor in Education at night. Two years later, I had completed said B.Ed., had become, in turns, a union representative, a member of the union executive and a collective agreement negotiator. Following a lock-out and strike, I decided to look again at law schools and one had just opened access to a Bachelor of law degree at night. By then I had two children and was pregnant of the third, still teaching full time but I was very happy!
3. How did you get to where you are today? Design? Chance? Both?
Hard work. No, very hard work and constant work to this day.
Above all, passion: My passion for Law never lessened. I am always interested in everything that surrounds the application and interpretation of a law. I started off with a small office, a computer, a server and an email address, rushing to pick up the children, cooking and reviewing homework and, then, spending the night working, which included answering emails at midnight sometimes. One must do the best he/she can because this is the obligation of a lawyer.
4. What is your most significant achievement? What are you proud of?
I am very proud of the help I have been able to provide to so many people along the way, being clients, colleagues, and others. Referrals mean so much to me but to be invited to weddings and other important events in my clients’ lives always surprises me.
As I always say, lawyers work hard, especially women who do not have it, ever, easy, and what keeps many of us going, is, from time to time, to have Justice rendered. That feeling keeps you through the constant stress many lawyers go through. And that, because, often, the rights I acquire for one, extend to others I will never meet but who will enjoy these rights.
For example, when I started my career, it was difficult to be a representative in a client’s immigration file. I had the chance to discuss and resolve the issue, first, with the Quebec government in 1996 and, a few years later with Federal government.
As a woman, it was particularly important to me to fight for a change of view on women standing in their own culture. Our tribunals acquire expertise on various religions and foreign cultures in immigration but, sometimes, do not see the societal shifts that take place. A typical example is the stance that divorced women from India and its region cannot truly get remarried. While it was true for the longest of time, it is not so anymore and I am happy, some women were able to come to Canada or bring in their husband.
With regard to access to information, few people know that, until a few years ago, in the province of Quebec, a narrow interpretation of the applicable law made it quite impossible to access the social services and medical files of an intellectually challenged person. I successfully challenged the interpretation on the basis that our society, now, expect accountability and transparency from the departments involved. Today, the family, the curator and legal caregiver of a challenged person can access these files.
As a community person, I continue to make myself available to help non-profit organizations by sitting on their boards of direction. I am, also, very involved with the Canadian Bar Association, the largest association for jurists in Canada which accomplishes, every year, so much for the Rule of Law and extension of rights.
5. What are some key challenges, and more importantly, opportunities for women in law?
Women in law face numerous challenges and the first one is to live among what is still a man’s world. We are being told that a growing percentage of women attend law schools but not how many complete their degree or how many and how long does it take them to become partners in private practice unless they develop their own firm. I recognize the challenge is organizational for the ones who decide to take their full place as a woman, a mother and a lawyer in our society but women are resilient in nature.
As for opportunities, it requires determination to reach them but also a change of culture. As progressive law firms and corporations realize, more and more, that the angle taken by women in law as well as in business differs, positively, from men’s, not only will women be offered more opportunities but these law firms and corporation will gain so much more in every area of their businesses as proven again an again by statistics.
6. What advice would you give a woman starting her legal career?
Join a network, join an association such as the Canadian Bar Association for example, join a group! Jump into the ocean of law and do not ever think that someone better than you should get the position: You are it!
I love that last line. How many times have we talked ourselves out of applying or putting our hand up because we think someone else is better or we are not "good enough". Let's stop that thinking!
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: 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 litigator, researcher & writer at Cowling Legal Freelance and President and Founder of Flex Legal Network Inc., a network of freelance lawyers.