Speed networking event a hit with young lawyers

  • October 20, 2016
  • Debbie A. Douglas and Raweya Abdulwali

Experienced practitioners paired with young lawyers and law students at WLF event

By Debbie A. Douglas

The CBA Women Lawyers Forum held an outreach event for women lawyers, young lawyers and law students at the end of September in Ottawa, with the aim of bringing young lawyers together with prospective mentors.

The cocktail-hour event was well attended by lawyers from across the country – I met lawyers from Newfoundland and Labrador, Nova Scotia, Ontario, Manitoba, Yukon and Northwest Territories.

The evening started with an informal session, where people had the opportunity to interact, network and exchange business cards.

A heartfelt address by Heidi Schedler, Co-Chair of the WLF, was the highlight of the evening. The focus of her speech was the need for senior practitioners to mentor young lawyers and students entering the legal profession. Schedler spoke about her own experience as a young lawyer feeling overwhelmed with the challenges of the profession. She reached out to senior practitioners who gave her invaluable assistance in the early years of her career and contributed to her success. Consequently, she feels obligated to give back, by reaching out to young lawyers to provide support and mentorship. She encouraged juniors to join the CBA WLF, because of the opportunities it offers for networking and career development.

In my opinion, she came across as someone who is genuinely committed to nurturing young lawyers entering the legal profession. It gives me comfort to know that there are women lawyers of her pedigree who are interested in assisting others.

A speed-networking event followed her speech. She asked senior practitioners to pair up with the young lawyers and law students in groups of four – two seniors and two juniors each. Seniors and juniors were both given questions to ask the other pair during a 10-minute session, after which the seniors passed out their business cards before moving on to the next group to meet up with two new juniors.

This session was very helpful on several levels. First, juniors got to meet many seniors, to share knowledge about the legal profession and exchange business cards.

Second, the group sessions provided an excellent opportunity for juniors to meet with senior practitioners in their areas of interest and in a broad range of specialty areas. For example, one of the students in my group was interested in Aboriginal law and one of the lawyers assigned to our group, Lesley McCullough, Yukon’s Assistant Deputy Minister of Justice, is an expert in that area. McCullough did a good job in explaining to us the concept of Aboriginal law and its historical and political context.

I found the group sessions to be productive and of immeasurable benefit. What struck me most about these women was their openness and willingness to help and/or nurture young lawyers.

Overall, this was a productive and informative networking event and I would like to thank the CBA WLF for hosting it. I strongly urge the organization to hold more events of this nature in the future. 

Debbie A. Douglas is a WLF member

Meeting senior lawyers makes a difference, says new call

By Raweya Abdulwali

I heard about CBA’s Women Lawyers Forum networking event through my law association and decided to sign up for it. I had no expectations except to meet lawyers and learn about their experiences in practice. When I attended the event, I was surprised that the senior lawyers were more interested in speaking about my experiences starting out in the practice of law. I felt engaged from the moment I stepped foot in the room.

It is always intimidating approaching senior lawyers; however, the structure of the event eased my worries. As the evening progressed, one or two junior lawyers and/or students paired up with one senior lawyer to network for several minutes. The two to one ratio made the experience personal and allowed the conversation to flow naturally. During “speed networking,” I had the opportunity to meet with several senior lawyers who shared their experiences with me and I shared mine with them.

I was grateful for the senior lawyers’ candid thoughts about starting out and staying in the practice of law. By the end of speed networking, one lawyer provided me with tips on fine-tuning my resume and provided me with the contact information of a lawyer in the field I want to practice in. As the night went on, the list of lawyers practising in my field of interest grew as other senior lawyers contributed to it.

Since the event and armed with the information I was given by the senior lawyers, I have connected with lawyers in the community and forged new relationships. I encourage law students and junior lawyers to attend similar events. It makes a difference knowing that I have the support and ongoing mentorship of the senior lawyers.

Raweya Abdulwali was called to the Ontario bar in 2016.