Ninth Edition: Assist in Your Community

Following from International Women's Day which took place on March 8th we would like to dedicate the ninth edition of the Assist in Your Community newsletter to women in the law. This issue features a guest article written by Patricia Herbert, recipient of the 2014 Women In Law Leadership Award for Leadership in the Community. The WILL Awards are presented annually by the Association of Women Lawyers and The Counsel Network to recognize the female members of the profession who have made outstanding contributions to the community. This issue also addresses mentorship, sponsorship, and how using both can help your career. 

International Women's Day March 8th

International Women’s Day took place on March 8th celebrating the economic, political and social achievements of women past, present and future. The day marks the work of Suffragettes, celebrates women’s success, and reminds us of inequalities still to be addressed. Many events took place globally to celebrate. Click here for more information.

It is often difficult to juggle a heavy workload and ensure you still have time to spend with family and friends. Patricia Herbert: “The key is to keep it at a level that is productive for me, not debilitating. When I feel a bit lost in demands, I try to reboot and focus on making a little change at a time – get more exercise this week, which helps me sleep, for example. Less coffee at the office. Cancel something optional that does not fit the month’s priorities.  Send a file to a colleague when I have burned out on it. For me, I can get re-energized and refocused with a little adjustment and perhaps an unspoken acknowledgement that I cannot be everything to everyone, at least not today. I find little adjustments easier to bear. I have been so fortunate to surround myself with so many friends, mentors and role models.  In my case, they have been almost all women. Women who are leaders in the law, but more importantly they have been good and interesting people. People who care about doing a good job and being good members of their communities and their families. Find those people in your life. Click here to read the full article.

How To Retain Top Female Talent

Adapted from Ann Macaulay How To Retain Top Female Talent, and What Women Should Look For in a Law Firm
In this article Ann Macaulay delves into the issues surrounding why women who work hard and care passionately about practising law leave law firms to work in government, corporations, non-profit organizations or educational institutions-or they leave the profession altogether. She found that some women are dissatisfied with the culture in some law firms and the inability to balance personal life with the hours they are expected to work. She also found that sexual harassment is still an issue in some cases. It may not be executed as openly as it was in the past but it still occurs to a degree.  So what should women look for in a law firm?  Before accepting a position, do you know:
  • How many other women are at the firm?
  • Does the firm have a mentoring program?
  • Is the firm making an effort to be more inclusive?
  • What are the expected annual billable hours?
  • Is there a policy on sexual harassment?
  • What is the policy on holidays?
  • Is there an ability to telecommute?
  • Is there an alumni group?
See here to read the full article.

Mentorship and Sponsorship

There is no doubt that mentorship has played a part, big or small, in the success of many professional careers.  This is apparent in the abundance of successful programs throughout many professions and the legal sector is no exception. Assist, the Association of Women Lawyers and the Canadian Bar Association – Alberta are prime examples that mentorship is not only beneficial, there is demand for it.
Mentorship is understood by many, as an approach where a more experienced and/or knowledgeable person provides guidance to a less experienced person in either personal or professional development. The idea behind mentorship is ancient and is recognized as an important tool in the professional world. A mentor can provide  answers to any questions or listen to concerns. The mentor acts as a source of information to share first-hand experience. This resource can be invaluable as you can learn things from a mentor that would have otherwise only been known through experience. This exchange of information can eliminate some mistakes and provide a new professional a sense of comfort in an unfamiliar environment. Mentorship prepares people to move up while sponsorship makes it happen.  Because sponsorship requires a senior executive to put his or her credibility on the line sponsoring someone is far riskier than mentoring them.  Here are some tips on how to find a sponsor:
5 Tips – Finding a Sponsor
  1. Build on mentoring relationships. Sponsorships can begin from existing relationships or connections. Chances are if you have a mentor, they are either already aware of the direction you want your career to go, or the ability to ask them for what you want can be a lot easier. Using an established relationship can be efficient and create a stronger bond.

    2. Identify high level executives who inspire you. In most cases, you won't have the luxury of choosing a sponsor - they usually choose you. You cannot force an individual to campaign for you. However, you can improve your chances by identifying admirable leaders within an organization and working on getting to know them.

    3. Let a sponsor see you in action - when possible. Keeping an eye out for opportunities to work with "higher-ups" can provide you with a chance to show them what you're capable of doing. They will become familiar with the type of work you do and can feel more comfortable advocating for you in the workplace.

    4. Suggest improvements and ask questions. Many organizations are driven by critical thinkers who are not willing to accept the status quo. In order to show that you have high standards for your work environment, try to challenge what's been done in the past to make things run better. This can get you noticed by a sponsor who may have gotten his/her big break the same way.

    5. Ask. Sometimes the most direct approach can be all that it takes to get what you want. Of course, it is important to use discretion and think strategically before making the request. If you truly believe you deserve an assignment or project and you know who to ask for it, there is no loss in simply asking.

    As adapted from Anne Fisher (CNN Fortune), "Got a Mentor? Good. Now Find a Sponsor."


Balancing Work and Family

1. Be Organized.  Balancing work and family life can be difficult.  Efficiency is key both at work and at home.  Learn to delegate work, prioritize your tasks and focus on billable work.  
2. Have a Plan B. Have a back-up plan in case of emergencies. This means having someone to turn to for support when your child is sick or your heavy workload requires you to work some weekends. Whether it is a spouse, family member or caregiver, there may be times when you need to call on them for support.
3. Make Use of Technology. Technology nowadays is so advanced that almost everything you need to accomplish in work can be done from home thanks to laptops, e-mail and voicemail. Whether you’re at home with a sick child or catching up on work in the evenings make use of the resources available to you.
4. Take Time for Yourself. Juggling work, kids and other commitments with no time for yourself can lead to burnout.  Make sure to take time to relax, exercise or enjoy a favourite hobby. It is important for you to recharge and re-fuel also.
5. Keep Your Expectations Realistic. Having kids will change your priorities.  Work may not be the number one priority anymore but that does not mean you cannot have a full and rewarding career. The key is to balance both and find a lifestyle which is flexible enough to allow you to have time for both.
For more information see Successfully Juggling Work and Family: Tips For Lawyers By Julie Stauffer.


What has Assist been up to?

December 7: A 'Charity Spin Ride,' to raise money and awareness for Assist, took place at the YYC Cycle Spin Studio on 1117B Kensington Road NW.
January 20: Assist spoke at the University of Calgary's "Healthy Habits Lunch" with Dr. Bev Frizzell, Ph.D., R.Psych. 
January 29 - 31: Assist was an exhibitor at the 2015 Alberta Law Conference at the Fairmont Hotel MacDonald in Edmonton. 

February 18: Executive Director, Marian De Souza, Q.C., spoke to the articling students in Nunavut about getting their careers off on the right track.
February 20 - 22: Executive Director, Marian De Souza, Q.C., attended the CBA National Council Meeting in Ottawa. 

February 26: Executive Director, Marian De Souza, Q.C., spoke to the Manitoba Bar via online webinar about stress management and resiliency. 



If you found this content helpful, please consider donating to Assist. 

Upcoming Awareness Events

March 12: Executive Director, Marian De Souza, Q.C., to present at the University of Calgary to 3rd year students.

March 14: Peer Support Volunteer training will be held in Calgary.
March 19: Assist volunteers and Board members will present at the Practice Fundamentals Day for CPLED in Calgary.

March 19 and 24: University of Alberta Professional Responsibility Course presented by Executive Director, Marian De Souza, Q.C., along with Chief Commissioner Philp, Q.C., and Steve Mandziuk, Q.C.  
March 21: Peer Support Volunteer training will be held in Edmonton.
March 26: Assist volunteers and Board members will present at the Practice Fundamentals Day for CPLED in Edmonton.
April 16: Assist's Annual General Meeting will be held on April 16 at Davis LLP in Calgary. For anyone interested in attending, you may do so by video or conference call also.
Assist is looking for volunteers for our Peer Support Program.  For more information please visit our website. If you are interested in participating please fill out an application form, or you can contact Rebecca
at 403 537 5508.
Copyright © 2015 Assist: Alberta Lawyers' Assistance Society, All rights reserved.
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