I started this series with the intention of including as many diverse voices as possible, which also meant not focusing solely on women lawyers who have established and long-standing careers. I'm excited that for this profile we have the pleasure of hearing from a leading articling student / almost lawyer (yay!), Yadesha Satheaswaran:
1. Tell me a little about your practice or business.
I am currently an articling student, so I don’t have a business or practice that I can speak of. However, I hope to become a litigator one day and I am fortunate to have gotten a breadth of experience at my firm, Paliare Roland Rosenberg Rothstein LLP. Paliare Roland deals with a wide variety of civil litigation matters, including bankruptcy/insolvency law, corporate/commercial law, labour/employment law, and administrative/constitutional law.
2. Why did you go to law school?
I decided to attend law school because of my family’s experiences with domestic violence. Growing up, I saw my mother – a newly single parent and a refugee to this country – try to navigate the criminal, family and immigration law systems concurrently. She had a lot of difficulties, and I knew that she could not have been the only one. I wanted to become an advocate for survivors like her who are often caught in a matrix of multiple legal issues.
3. How did you get to where you are today? Design? Chance? Both?
I would say “both”. I applied to law school with the expectation that I would work in the social justice sector, helping the most vulnerable and marginalized. I was able to do just that in my second year when I was employed for eight months at Parkdale Community Legal Services (“PCLS”). I loved the clients at PCLS, but I learned that (due to some unresolved trauma) I currently do not have the emotional capacity or mental wherewithal to make criminal, family or immigration law my entire practice.
Interestingly, I had a very litigious case load while I was at PCLS, and I appeared in front of the Social Benefits Tribunal and the Criminal Injuries Compensation Board on numerous occasions. I realized that I enjoyed both the oral and written advocacy associated with litigation so I broadened the scope of my interest during the 2L Recruit. That’s how I ended up summering and articling at Paliare Roland.
I continue to engage in more radical, community-based activism via my extra-curriculars.
4. What is your most significant achievement? What are you proud of?
Near the end of my 3L, I was one of 12 students to receive the Dean’s Golden Key Award. The Dean’s Golden Key Award is given to graduating students at Osgoode Hall who have made outstanding contributions to law school life. I was honoured to have been recognized, and to have shared the moment with my best friends.
5. What are some key challenges, and more importantly, opportunities for women in law?
I think a persistent challenge for women in law is to be treated equitably – i.e. to receive the same pay as men, to not be asked unsolicited questions about potential motherhood, to be better represented amongst the partnership, etc. This can all be exacerbated by intersections with race, sexuality, disability, religion/creed, class, and/or age.
That being said, I think women are uniquely positioned to drive the legal profession forward. We can push for inclusive models of practice, bring differently-situated insights to our clients’ problems, and even develop new areas of law. In so doing, we can dismantle the vestiges of archaic male-centric thinking and make the legal profession our own. Maybe I am a little too optimistic, but I believe that the law can be an oyster of opportunity for women.
6. What advice would you give a woman starting her legal career?
Take advantage of every opportunity that comes your way, and do not be afraid to explore!
Thank you Yadesha for participating and all the best in your legal career!
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: 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, a network of freelance lawyers.