Today's post features a true leader, Vivene Salmon the current President of the Canadian Bar Association and Vice-President, Country Compliance Manager, Global Banking and Markets Compliance at Bank of America Merrill Lynch.
1. Tell me a little about your practice or business.
The Canadian Bar Association (CBA) represents 36,000 lawyers, judges, notaries, law teachers and law students from across Canada and is considered the voice of Canada’s legal community.
The CBA is actively engaged with the Canadian legal community and provides quality legal information and training to its members. The CBA partners with leading thinkers and innovators within the legal profession, and disseminates knowledge about global and national trends about the justice system. The CBA is dedicated to supporting the rule of law and improving the administration of justice in Canada.
2. Why did you go to law school?
From an early age I knew I wanted a career in law and/or journalism. I loved reading and I have a natural aptitude for writing. I can remember from a very early age sitting around the family dinner table listening to CBC radio and talking about the issues of the day with my parents and their friends. I was, and still am, passionate about public policy issues – to me being a lawyer has always been a calling not a job.
3. How did you get to where you are today? Design? Chance? Both?
I think most professional opportunities in life blossom at the juncture of hard work meeting opportunity. If you don’t put in the hard work in advance; it’s pretty hard to get opportunities to come your way and then leverage those opportunities into new experiences.
4. What is your most significant achievement? What are you proud of?
My most personal experience that I am proud of us is learning how to swim as an adult – once a week swim lessons and two times a week swim practice for two years. It was worth it! My most significant professional experience is becoming the first racialized person, first female in-house counsel and ninth woman to lead the Canadian Bar Association.
5. What are some key challenges, and more importantly, opportunities for women in law?
Unfortunately, it seems sometimes not much has changed to advance women in the legal profession since the release of the CBA’s iconic Touchstone Report in 1993. For racialized women, our trajectory in the legal profession can seem even more discouraging and disheartening. While women lawyer’s compensation is on average lower than their male counterparts – racialized women lawyers earn about 60% of what white men lawyers earn. It appears things are equal starting out in law school, but they are certainly not equal in the long haul. Or in other words, some are more equal than others.
Despite the challenges and barriers still to be broken, I think progress is being made; but a lot more still needs to be done.
6. What advice would you give a woman starting her legal career?
I think it’s important to have confidence that you’re as smart as anyone else. Everyone brings something unique to the table. As much as possible, know what you want; but don’t be afraid to deviate off the path well-trodden and take some risks in your career.
Thank you Vivene for taking the time out of your busy schedule to answer these questions. Vivene also has a great podcast series with the CBA called The Every Lawyer: Conversations with the President. I was fortunate to recently be her guest, along with Kimberly Gale, and we discussed starting a solo practice. This podcast has featured several interesting guests, including Omar Ha-Redeye, Ian Holloway, Camille Cameron, Jordan Furlong and Ronit Dinovitzer.
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: 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, a network of freelance lawyers.