Angela Chaisson, Lawyer

Angela Chaisson, Lawyer

Angela is a partner at Paradigm Law Group

What is your morning routine?

I don’t have one. My mornings vary so much it’s hard to have a routine. Most mornings I head to court or have an early meeting with a Crown prosecutor. If I’m in a trial, I’m up early reviewing documents or finalizing a cross-examination. Other mornings, I head to the office or to meet with a client or my partners.

I’d like to be someone who wakes up and drinks lemon water and meditates before starting her day. I’m much more of a person who dashes out of the house after drinking a strong coffee while responding to emails. The only constant is that I always have the radio on (yes, I have an actual radio). If I’m getting ready for the day, I’m listening to CBC.

Tell us about your career path.

I didn’t always know I wanted to be a lawyer. I had never met a lawyer before I went to law school. I applied because I wanted tangible skills. I had worked a policy job where we had a lot of meetings about things that never actually materialized or were never put into action. Being a lawyer seemed more like being a plumber: it provides a set of concrete skills you can apply to fix a situation. It’s not abstract; law is in the doing, and I like that.

I started Paradigm Law Group with my two partners, Robin Parker and Emma Rhodes, after being an associate at a criminal and civil firm for four years. We’re an all-female partnership in downtown Toronto, litigating criminal, constitutional and administrative law.

What challenges do you or women in your profession face?

The legal profession doesn’t treat women well. We all have to take responsibility for that, and we all have to do better. More women than men graduate from law school, but female lawyers get paid less and make partner less frequently than their male counterparts. Women aren’t supported appropriately, and so they get pushed out. It’s even more disparate for immigrants, queer women and women of colour. Women leave law and private practice not necessarily because they want to, but because the field is so incredibly inhospitable. It’s a completely unacceptable state of affairs. We must do better.

This inequality is one of the reasons we started Paradigm Law Group. We wanted to have a space where female lawyers could thrive and be celebrated for their successes without apologizing for it.

What advice would you give to women wanting to be the Next you?

Don’t take my advice. Don’t be the next me; be the next you. As Gloria Steinem said, the important thing is that you listen to the wisdom that’s inside yourself. Find your unique, authentic voice. Surround yourself with people you admire, people who support you and people who awe you – but don’t mimic or duplicate them. To be anything or anyone other than yourself simply isn’t worth your time. The façade you put on will exhaust you and you won’t convince anyone, least of all yourself.

How do you separate your work life from your personal life?

Poorly.

What inspires you?

Truth, and the bravery of people who speak it. I’m inspired by people with the courage to use their voices to say what they see and know to be true, regardless of their education, station or position. It might be easier for a powerful person to speak her truth, but for a poor or disenfranchised person to tell her truth to me, to the police, to the court, or even to her partner, that is brave.

Speaking truth to power is no small thing. Silence will not provide protection, and it will not move the needle of equality forward. Speaking our truths helps us create the world in which we want to live.

When you’re off the clock, what are your indulgences?

Good food, good friends, a good book, time in my garden and the occasional good scotch. But I don’t consider these things indulgences, I consider them sanity savers in a world pushing us to be far too busy, far too often.

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