Take a long-term view of both parenting and practice: LifeLabs CEO Sue Paish

With the 2012 Lexpert Zenith Awards around the corner, our minds are turned towards leadership and change in the legal community. Sue Paish, President & CEO of LifeLabs, was among the trail-blazers who forged a path towards balancing both law career and family. She has three daughters who are in their early 20s.

I was fortunate that during my legal career I worked with a firm that was progressive in many areas, she says, including especially ensuring that the firm, and all those working in the firm, appreciated the value of women lawyers. It was a definitely a difficult issue in the 80s when the prevailing view was that as far as ‘women in law’ was concerned, you chose a career or a family and that those choices were mutually exclusive. I will be forever grateful to partners at (then) Russell & DuMoulin, now Faskens, for having both the foresight and the determination to change that landscape.

Although Paish has been out of the legal world for six years now, her reflections on the progress – and continuing challenges – of the evolving role of women in law are germane to this ongoing discussion.

In the 25 years I was in the legal profession, I saw slow and somewhat stuttering progress in respect of the role of women in the practice of law. In some ways the slow progress was in part due to the strength and pervasiveness of the ‘status quo’, a strength that I think some of us underestimated in the 80s. The slow change is also due in part to some of us women assuming that the environment would change on its own, and not continuing to advocate to both men and women about the benefits of an environment that supports parents.

Finally, I think that we have not done a good job in helping our young women in law appreciate that all decisions have consequences and that balancing career progression expectations during the childbearing years and taking a long-term view of both parenting and practice will help bring about lasting change.

For more of Paish’s thoughts, listen to this interesting panel discussion “Are long maternity leaves a good idea?” on CBC’s The Current.

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