Making a Career from My Lifelong Passion for Animal Rights
I sometimes (half) joke about how my career in animal law started when I was 13, growing up as an animal rights activist in Montreal.
The included picture is me, at 13, featured in the front section of the Montreal Gazette, holding a dead duck with a bullet wound in his chest. I was presenting an argument to various city counsel to ban duck hunting in the suburbs while gathering hundreds of signatures for this ban.
It’s no secret that I love animals, but “love” may be the wrong word. People have fought for the rights of women, African Americans, and human rights generally. Those advocates did not usually say they fought for these rights because they “love” women or African Americans. They fought for these rights because to deny these groups rights was simply wrong. Similarly, I have always argued for the rights and protection of animals. Not necessarily because I “love” animals (even though I do!), but because it is simply wrong to continue treating and using animals in a way that denies their inherent right to be free from harm caused by humans.
Defending animals is what drives me every day. In the early 2000s when I was in law school, I was told that lawyers should separate their personal passions from their clients’ cases to maintain an objective perspective. I was also told that I was idealistic and that once I enter the “real world,” my passion for animal rights and welfare will be subdued by the realities of the legal profession. I have been told similar things since I was a little girl. I remember a time in high school, when I delivered a speech to my English class about the reasons it is wrong to wear fur coats. The next day, my teacher walked into the classroom with her mink fur coat, which she had not done before, and she gave me a snarky look. She later told me I will grow out of “this phase.”
I am about to turn 45 years old. This is either an extremely long phase, or I have not grown out my burning, deep-to-my-core, passion to fight for and protect animals in any way I can. In fact, it is only getting stronger.
As a child, I organized protests for animal rights in the streets, and started student clubs that fought for animals and the environment. In the 1990s, when I was in my late teens, I realized that I wanted to go to law school to use my fighting skills in the courtroom to defend animals. I whole heartedly disagree with those professors and students who told me that I cannot be passionate about my legal work. As lawyers, having a passion can drive us to be more effective, while maintaining our objectivity and intelligence in the strategies we use to pursue our clients’ cases.
Having incorporated animal law in my practice at a respectable full-service downtown Vancouver law firm for over a decade, I decided to start my own law firm in December, 2016. I wanted to do so for a long time, but the timing never seemed right. Then, in the summer of 2016, my father, with whom I was extremely close, passed away. On his death bed, he encouraged me to finally start my own Animal Law firm. And with those words and the encouragement of my mother and husband, who have always been my biggest supporters, I did.
I am grateful to have founded the first exclusive animal law firm in Western Canada. All of this confirms that you can indeed pursue your passions in law and be successful. Success can be measured in diverse ways — such as making a career out of one’s lifelong passion. For me, this means fighting for animal rights in our judicial system.
Published June 2022