SABA Spotlight Series – Arun Krishnamurti

SABA Spotlight Series – Arun Krishnamurti

 

Arun Krishnamurti is an experienced technology lawyer with a track record of practical, business-oriented legal advice. After having worked at a leading law firm, and now in-house at Google Canada, Arun’s well versed in analyzing and responding to complex (and frequently cross-border) legal issues, including product launches, cloud services and other outsourcing agreements, consumer protection and many other commercial and regulatory topics. In addition to SABA, Arun currently sits on the board of Can Tech, and remains actively involved in his communities, taking active roles in mentoring, as well as supporting diversity and equity seeking groups. 

Arun has been named to Lexpert Rising Stars: Leading Lawyers Under 40 and as a Rising Star by the South Asian Bar Association of North America.

  1. What drew you to become a technology lawyer? Did you imagine doing anything else? 

It was something I sort of fell into.  I have always been interested in technology, and when I was an articling student I found myself involved in a couple of deals where I just loved the work. Being involved in ambitious, interesting projects with lofty goals and cutting edge technology really sparked something in me.

  1. What do you enjoy about being part of the SABA board? 

It’s a group of such talented people. Lots of passionate, dedicated folks involved.  I loved making these connections, and finding a community of folks I could relate to. For me it was a lot about getting involved with and helping build this community (both the organization, and the broader South Asian bar).

  1. What’s your favourite South Asian snack? 

I will forever love gulab jamun.  If I had to go savoury, then murukku.

  1. What do you like to do during your down time to relax?  It’s mostly family-focused right now.  Spending time with my kids and friends.  Wherever I can fit in a trip (especially pre-pandemic), travel was always one of my favourite ways to spend free time.

  2. What’s something unique you have learned about the practice of law that you can share with other lawyers?

Much of your legal career is based around exposure.  You have to put yourself in as many places as possible to get that “right place, right time” moment.  It can be uncomfortable, but it’s the best way to find your path.

SABA Spotlight Series – Anisha Bhardwaj

SABA Spotlight Series – Anisha Bhardwaj

Anisha Bhardwaj is a first-generation lawyer born to parents who immigrated from India to Canada. Growing up, Anisha enjoyed watching Bollywood movies on the weekends and emulating Priyanka Chopra’s dancing (when her parents were not watching). This eventually led her to compete in Miss India Worldwide Canada. Nowadays, when she is not busy litigating, she enjoys tasting different cuisines from around the world and posting food reviews on her blog (ironically named Judge Foody).

Anisha is an associate in the Litigation and Dispute Resolution group at Aird & Berlis LLP, where she has a general commercial litigation practice and represents clients across a number of industries, such as real estate, commercial leasing, construction, employment and municipal.

1. What drew you to litigation?

Since a very young age, I knew I wanted a career where I could advocate on behalf of my client in a courtroom. I eventually learned about the litigation process and how it actually involves so many other steps that I also enjoy, such as written advocacy (which makes me feel like a creative story writer), negotiating a settlement with the opposing party, and investigating the case. I love the challenge and excitement of the litigation process both inside and outside of the courtroom; it makes me really look forward to waking up every morning knowing that each moment of the day will be unpredictable but challenging and will bring with it an opportunity to help my clients.

2. How did you come to be involved with SABA?

My involvement began during my role as President of the South Asian Law Students’ Association (SALSA) at Windsor Law. I worked with SABA to coordinate a mentorship program for lawyers and students that provided an insight into the organization and provided mentorship from SABA members. After I graduated from law school, I volunteered with SABA and then joined the board after being called to the Bar. Having received invaluable mentorship from SABA as a student, I wanted to give back and am now actively involved in coordinating SABA Toronto’s mentorship program for lawyers.

3. Do you have a favourite memory from being part of SABA?

I had an incredible time at the 2019 SABA Toronto Gala and Awards Night, which was the last SABA Gala before the pandemic started. It was held at Liberty Grand and roughly 400 people were in attendance (which now sounds like a distant dream given the current pandemic environment). There was live music, great speakers and the food was delicious. It had all the hallmarks of a successful networking event.

4. What’s your favourite South Asian snack?

I have a few favourites, but I think that if you put a plate of South Asian snacks in front of me, the Aloo tikki would disappear the fastest.

5. What’s the best advice you have received about the practice of law?

“Practice in an area that you enjoy”. I feel incredibly fortunate to be doing what I genuinely enjoy. Sometimes it takes time to find the right practice area, but if you persevere and remain committed to the goal, you will eventually get there.

SABA Spotlight Series – Amrita Tamber

SABA Spotlight Series – Amrita Tamber

By: Vipal Jain, WeirFoulds LLP

Amrita Tamber is a South Asian lawyer of Punjabi background. She has recently joined Purolator as Legal Counsel, where she works on commercial transactional matters. Prior to joining Purolator, Amrita was a Principal Associate at Capital One Bank where she drafted and negotiated complex commercial agreements for the credit card business. Amrita received her Bachelor of Arts (Hons.) from Wilfrid Laurier University in Political Science before attending Bond University where she completed her J.D.

Amrita is a strong advocate for equality and diversity in the legal profession and society at large. Currently, she is co-chair of SABA’s Social Media Committee and has more recently joined Can-Tech’s Women in Tech Committee as a social media volunteer as she enjoys content creation. Amrita is also a mentor for the NCA Network where she provides support and guidance to internationally trained lawyers. She was also the Director of Communications for Young Women in Law from 2016-2018.

Outside of work, Amrita enjoys various activities such as health and fitness, hiking, traveling and trying new restaurants.

 

  1. What do you enjoy about your practice?

Growing up, I always had a way with words and loved reading. I could never put my books down and would stay up late at night when I wanted to finish an exciting read. Now, being a contracts lawyer means that I have to be very detail oriented and read between the lines. I enjoy using my business mind and being able to advise on risk and incorporate ways of minimizing risk into contracts. I never deal with the “same” problem and there is always something new, which keeps me on my toes as I always need challenging work. I enjoy negotiating complex terms with opposing lawyers to obtain the best outcome for my company. It is also satisfying when I am able to see the finished product come to life after an agreement has been signed and the business starts the project.

  1. How did you come to be involved with SABA?

I moved around throughout my undergrad, JD and Articling so I was outside Toronto for a very long time. Once I was getting called to the bar in 2015, I learned about SABA and went to the Fall Social. After only one event, I made so many valuable connections that I still have to this date. The community was so friendly and supportive so I started attending more events throughout the years, gaining mentors and friends. Eventually, I applied to become a member of the Board in 2020 as I wanted to give back to the community that had been so supportive over the years.

  1. Do you have a favourite memory from being part of SABA?

I joined the SABA Board in 2020, not knowing that life would take us into a virtual environment. My favourite memory would be a more current one from this past December where some of the Board members were able to get together for an in-person dinner. It was so nice to socialize with the team and I hope that we can have more moments like that in 2022!

  1. What’s your favourite South Asian snack? 

My favourite South Asian snack is definitely aloo tikki with channa (potato patty with chickpea curry) and a bit of tamarind chutney on top. It’s not something that I have very often anymore, but it reminds me of my childhood. More recently, it’s always an appetizer served at weddings that I look forward to!

  1. What are some moments in your career that you are proud of?

Overall, I am proud of myself for being the only first generation post-grad educated professional in my family. I took a big leap going to an international law school. I had always wanted to see the world and live in a beautiful country (can’t get any better than Australia) and I was able to experience that while completing my education.

Coming back to Canada, I had gained support from mentors and joined various organizations to help break into the market. Now, I’m proud to be an integral part of various organizations in a leadership role where I can give back to the community.More recently, in only two years I have completely shifted industries from FinTech to transportation and logistics on top of working in a virtual environment. I would say that I am proud of my career leap and pat myself on the shoulder for doing it all remotely!

 

 

SABA Spotlight Series – Ashok Menen

SABA Spotlight Series – Ashok Menen 

By Vipal Jain, WeirFoulds LLP

Ashok Menen is a lawyer and a Chartered Professional Accountant (CPA, CA) with a background in forensic accounting.  Ashok recently joined the Financial Crime and Investigations Group at Export Development Canada (EDC) as a Senior Advisor.   Prior to joining EDC, Ashok served as Senior Investigation Counsel in the Enforcement Branch of the Ontario Securities Commission.  Before entering law, Ashok worked as a forensic accountant at a Big Four accounting firm and at a global forensic accounting boutique.  

 

Ashok has been a member of SABA since 2015.  This year marks his fourth year as a director.  He currently co-chairs SABA’s Pro Bono and Community Outreach Committee.  

 

Ashok was born in Singapore and immigrated with his family when he was 10 years old.  Ashok is passionate about issues affecting immigrants and in particular, helping newcomers integrate into the Canadian job market and fully leverage the value of the skills and experience they bring.  

 

  1. Is your current career path what you originally intended?

I am not sure I ever expected my career path to take such a circuitous route.  I did have aspirations to combine a CA and a law degree.  However, I started to have serious doubts somewhere around the second time I failed the Uniform Final Exam (UFE), which was then the final hurdle before being admitted as a Chartered Accountant. Luckily, I eventually passed and was able to go to law school in my 30s; almost a decade after I started my first full-time job in accounting. I owe my career to a supportive family and most of all, an amazing partner.  

The focus of my career has been financial misconduct and risk management.  I have been drawn to roles with a strong public interest bent. I am incredibly fortunate to have been given opportunities to do what I consider to be interesting and meaningful work in large part because I have benefited from the guidance of wonderful mentors; particularly those in the legal profession.  

  1. Do you have a favourite memory from being part of SABA? 

My favourite memory was helping organize and participate in SABA’s Pro Bono Ontario (PBO) Hotline initiative.  It was rewarding being able to assist people who may not otherwise have access to legal services. The tools that the PBO Hotline has developed for volunteers make you feel incredibly well supported.  

To that end, in March 2022, SABA is conducting a month-long drive to encourage members to volunteer for the PBO Hotline.  I urge members to please sign up by clicking here

  1. What do you like to do during your down time to relax?

I usually unwind by running a marathon or translating ancient Sanskrit texts into Latin. If I don’t have time for any of that, I am perfectly happy with a good book or a British detective series on demand and a pint of local craft beer.  That first part is a joke…my Latin is not what it once was.

  1. What’s your favourite South Asian snack? 

Growing up in Singapore, I think my favourite snacks are actually from South East Asia.  There’s a savoury pastry from that part of the world called a curry puff that I am quite fond of.  Then again, because I enjoy food so much, I am not sure whether curry puffs are truly my favourite snack or whether they are just something I am currently craving.  

  1. What’s something unique that you have learned from practicing law that you can share with other lawyers? 

One aspect that I think exists in many professions but is perhaps more pronounced in law is the willingness of lawyers to serve as mentors.   As I noted above, I have benefited immensely from mentorship throughout my career.  I have generally found people I approach for mentorship and guidance to be very generous with their time and advice.  

If I have one piece of advice for young lawyers, it would be to seek out mentorship; formal or otherwise.  If you are unable to find mentors at your current employer, organizations like SABA provide plenty of opportunities to meet and learn from senior members of the bar.  If your experience is anything like mine, these mentors will provide sage advice in various stages of your career and remain an important part of your life for years to come.  Of course, the gift of such guidance comes with an obligation to pay it forward.  There is no dearth of opportunities to serve as a mentor if you are so inclined.  In addition to mentoring through your workplace and at SABA, I would encourage members to consider serving as a mentor to a newcomer through the Toronto Region Immigrant Employment Council (TRIEC).  

SABA Spotlight Series – Ravi Jain

Ravi Jain Spotlight

Ravi Jain is the Founder of Jain Immigration Law. He is one of Canada’s most recognized immigration lawyers in terms of leadership in the bar, peer recognition for excellence and client satisfaction.

Mr. Jain was presented with the Diamond Jubilee Medal by command of Her Majesty the Queen in recognition of his significant contributions to Canada. Recently, he was selected as “Lawyer of the Year” by Best Lawyers in Canada (the oldest peer-review publication for lawyers) for receiving the highest voter feedback from colleagues across Canada. Who’s Who Legal recognized him as a “Thought Leader” which is the top ranking for obtaining “the highest number of nominations from peers, corporate counsel and other market sources.” The Canadian Lexpert Directory has selected him as well, which is an “acknowledgement of excellence by a practitioner’s own peers and colleagues.” Moreover, the prestigious Chambers and Partners, which ranks the world’s best lawyers, has repeatedly recognized Mr. Jain’s work.

Mr. Jain has over 21 years of practice experience and is among a small percentage who are certified by the Law Society of Ontario as Specialists in Immigration Law. He has been invited to address committees in both the Canadian Senate and Canada’s House of Commons as a subject matter expert in immigration law on several occasions. Mr. Jain was instrumental in founding the Canadian Immigration Lawyers Association (www.cila.co).

His full biography can be found here: https://jainimmigrationlaw.com/lawyer/ravi-jain/

This year marks Ravi’s second year on the SABA board. Ravi regularly visits India and enjoys travelling there. He is a fan of Akshay Kumar movies.

1. What drew you to immigration law? Did you imagine doing anything else?

I love the people and the stories the most. It’s extremely rewarding to assist people with what is the most important matter in their lives. Clients have spontaneously hugged me when receiving a ‘bench positive’ decision at the end of litigation and reuniting families and facilitating smooth corporate transfers provide much satisfaction. Lately, I’ve been active leading the Canadian Bar Association Immigration Section and setting up a complementary new immigration lawyers’ group: the Canadian Immigration Lawyers Association (which will provide timely comment to Ministers, civil servants and the media, effectively build coalitions, do test litigation, operate as a think-tank and engage in lobbying).

2. How did you come to be involved with SABA?

Many years ago I started by attending some networking events and then signed up as a mentor and then I requested that the Advocacy Committee endorse a position I’d developed for the Canadian Bar Association which the Board at the time approved. It’s an honour to now sit on the Board.

3. Do you have a favourite memory from being part of SABA?

The in-person galas of course! The best part is meeting friends over cocktails prior to the main event. Lately, I’ve enjoyed getting to know some very talented fellow Board members.

4. What do you like to do during your down time to relax?

I enjoy travelling with my wife, playing with my kids and relish tennis followed by a drink catching up with friends.

5. What’s your favourite South Asian snack?

Panipuri

6. Who or what inspires you?

My father inspires me. He was a professor and was invested into the Order of Canada for his ground-breaking research citing the benefits of diversity in employment and the importance of removing non bona fide job requirements. He was very active in the community, establishing a Mayor’s Race Relations Committee that was replicated across Canada and also at the federal level as Commisisoner of the Canadian Human Rights Commission and internationally, developing employment equity policies at the end of apartheid at the request of President Mandela’s government.

SABA Spotlight Series – Aaron Bains

Aaron Bains is a South Asian lawyer and partner at Aird & Berlis LLP.  He has a business law practice, which includes mergers and acquisitions, debt and equity financings and advising high net worth individuals and family offices. Aaron is from Surrey, British Columbia, where he grew up in a Punjabi family.  

Aaron initially began working with SABA Toronto several years ago as a volunteer, eventually being appointed to the Board and thereafter holding the roles of Treasurer, Vice President and President.  He is currently the Past President of SABA Toronto and Secretary of SABA North America.

Aaron spends his free time cooking and training as a classical Indian vocalist who also plays the harmonium. In addition to English, Aaron speaks Punjabi, intermediate French, and a little Italian.

1. What do you enjoy about your practice?

I enjoy problem solving and helping our clients effect their transactions.  A significant amount of my work is in the venture capital area.  As such, I am often asked to come up with creative solutions to overcome small and large barriers during a deal.  This can mean finding creative ways to provide security and assurance to a lender or investor in an otherwise risky and early stage investment to helping warring parties agree on middle ground solutions where their interests differ.

2. What are some moments in your career that you are proud of?

In the context of my professional work, I am most proud of how much I have learned and continue to learn on a daily basis and the positive impact that our work can have for clients.  Although I work in the area of corporate law, it is not all dollars and cents only.  I often help clients transition their businesses to the next generation, build and grow those businesses and one day sell them to see the profits of their decades of labour.  Outside of work, I am proud of the time that I have been able to dedicate to giving back to my community – through SABA and as a volunteer at several non-profit organizations in Toronto.  This year I was named the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society Man of the Year after my team and I fundraised over $115,000 for blood cancer research.

3. What is your favourite moment from serving as SABA’s president?

I love attending the SABA Gala – it takes a lot of work to put that event together.  The gala committee is always working very hard up to the last minute.  However, there is nothing better than seeing our diverse and exceptional bar present and having a good time at the best legal gala in the city.  Recently, I was also exceptionally proud of our conference on Anti-Black Racism.  We touched on important topics and, we were later told that the conference sparked discussions at attendees’ workplaces on issues of racism. 

4. What is your favourite South Asian snack?

This is very hard but I would probably say sirnee (it is a fried noodle that is broken up for munching on – ideally with a cold beer).

5. What’s something unique that you have learned from your own practice that you can share with other lawyers?

Although we think that our practices are very different, the common theme is that two parties failed to communicate their expectations and as a result they have now come to a conflict.  If we can start thinking from the perspective of our client and the other party and each of their expectations, then we will start to be able to effectively communicate, draft documents and complete transactions with a goal to meeting those expectations and often with less cost to the client. 

SABA Spotlight Series – Melissa Krishna

SABA Spotlight Melissa Krishna

Melissa is a South Asian lawyer who moved to Canada from Bangalore, India, at the age of 11. Melissa is the Associate General Counsel at BentallGreenOak (Canada) Limited Partnership, a global real estate investment company. Her role requires her to wear many different hats including negotiator of commercial contracts to manager of real estate transactions to advisor on employment matters with respect to the company’s nearly 1,500 employees.

Melissa is a former board member of SABA. She enjoys volunteering, hiking and Bollywood dancing. In addition to English, Melissa speaks Hindi and Kannada.

1. Is your current career path what you originally intended?

Yes and No. In high school, as part of the co-op program, I did a placement at a lawyer’s office and knew after that that I wanted to be a lawyer. However, in law school, I was convinced I was going to be a tax lawyer until I got to spend some time in the tax department during articling and realized that it was not for me.

2. What are some moments in your career that you are proud of?

I led the largest M&A deal that was undertaken by the oil and gas company I was working with a few years ago. The deal involved the acquisition of a company that was listed on both the Toronto stock exchange and the Colombian stock exchange. As such, there were many regulatory challenges as well as deal complexities. The deal won the company a Dealmaker award and my work on the deal was instrumental in making me a finalist for the Tomorrow’s Leader Award.

3. What’s your favourite memory from being part of SABA?

One of the things that I cherish from being part of SABA is the fact that we instituted a mentorship program this year. Having benefited from informal mentors, I’m very passionate about mentorship and am thrilled that we are able to leverage our large membership base to create such relationships to empower and enrich young lawyers. I have generally thoroughly enjoyed my time on the SABA board because of the smart, engaged and dedicated lawyers that form the board.

4. What’s your favourite South Asian snack?

My all time favourite South Asian snack is probably my mom’s medhu vada. I’ve never had a vada that is more crispy or perfect than the ones my mom makes!

5. What was the best advice you received about the practice of law?

I was told to try to give the other side the benefit of the doubt and to understand what is motivating them to argue the point that they are making – this has helped me significantly in not only resolving negotiations amicably but quite often, in my favour.

As an articling student, I was told: “No one expects you to know any law at this point, the best thing you have to offer is your reliability”. This advice has served me well throughout my career as I try to ensure my clients (internal and external while in private practice) feel that they can depend on me.

SABA SPOTLIGHT SERIES – SARAH MALIK

Sarah Malik is an Assistant Crown Attorney with the Ministry of the Attorney General. She prosecutes a variety of offences under the Criminal Code of Canada. Prior to that, she was a criminal defence lawyer with Hicks Adams LLP where she successfully represented clients facing a variety of offences in the Ontario Court of Justice and the Superior Court of Justice of Ontario. Sarah obtained her Juris Doctor from the University of Ottawa and her Honours Bachelors of Arts from York University. She has a passion for social justice and is an advocate for diversity, equity, and opportunity in the profession and society at large.

 

Sarah grew up in Canada from the age of 11 years. Sarah enjoys South Asian food, particularly Haleem, which is a savory stew consisting of meat, lentils, spices, and herbs. In addition to English, Sarah is fluent in Urdu and can understand Hindi and Punjabi.

  1. What attracted you to criminal law?

I was not always sure that I wanted to be a lawyer, let alone a criminal lawyer, but it is one of few professions I considered seriously. I wanted to work with people and advocate for them so I wanted to be in a social justice field. I learned from participating in a mock trial competition in high school and then later mooting in law school that I wanted to be in the courtroom. Hence, I ended up pursuing that passion. I have been blessed and fortunate enough to have received opportunities that have allowed me to continue on this career path. I like that as a criminal lawyer, I can advocate for people, fight for their rights, and can have a direct impact on their everyday lives.

 

  1. What are some moments in your career that you are proud of?

I find the quiet moments of the day to day work the most rewarding. Any day where I can either help a client who had their life turned upside down as a result of criminal charges or assist a complainant or the public to tell their evidence in court makes the work meaningful. If I can help any person get through a difficult day, then that day is worth it. The bigger precedent setting wins and jury trial wins do matter for sure and are a great dose of encouragement and pride we all need from time to time, but it is these quieter moments involving a lot of emotions, high stakes, and a variety of challenges that also make the career worthwhile.

 

  1. What is your favourite memory from being part of SABA?

Being a part of the SABA board has been a wonderful experience. Organizing the 2019 annual gala has been one of my favorite memories. It was the first SABA gala that I planned as a member of the board. It was rewarding to see the long nights and the efforts pay off with a wonderful event that brought so much of the legal community together. 

 

When the pandemic hit in early 2020, I was directly involved in transitioning SABA events and advocacy efforts to a greater electronic format without affecting our ability to be a voice for the membership. Being able to do this fast, effectively, and while helping the organization adjust to the change caused by the pandemic was rewarding. This laid the groundwork for SABA Toronto to continue to be a leading legal diversity organization in Canada.

  1. If you weren’t a lawyer, what else would you be? 

I may have become either an academic or a journalist. These are professions I have considered aside from law. I enjoy the process of taking the time to research a topic and present a story. I suppose, in a way, that is what lawyers do everyday, but to approach it from another angle continues to intrigue me.

  1. What is the best advice you can give about the practice of law? 

 

Be authentic and the rest will follow. Never compromise your principles, ethics, faith, and well-being for anything. There will be challenges and they will come from different angles. Hard work as well as a good support system (whether from colleagues and/or a trusted group of legal and non-legal friends and/or family) is absolutely vital in this profession. Things will unfold and happen exactly as they are meant to.

 

SABA SPOTLIGHT SERIES – MONTY DHALIWAL

Monty is an internationally trained litigation lawyer of Punjabi background. He is an Associate at Pallett Valo LLP, a full service law firm in Mississauga, where he practices in the areas of commercial litigation, estates, employment and labour, and insolvency and corporate restructuring. Monty is a graduate of the University of Buckingham law school in the United Kingdom. Monty’s favourite South Asian food is Aloo Paratha. He enjoys playing hockey, golf and cricket in his spare time. In addition to speaking English, Monty speaks Punjabi and Hindi.

1) What attracted you to litigation?
I’ve always been attracted to the adrenaline that comes with receiving a judgment or decision after putting your entire case out there as best as you can, for better or for worse. It’s a serious rush and one of the few measures of objective success one can have professionally. Winners and losers.

2) What should lawyers elsewhere in the country know about practicing law in Mississauga?
We get to play with the big guys while also serving smaller businesses and local community causes. That’s not always possible downtown.

3) What are some moments in your career that you are proud of?
I had the privilege of appearing before the Court of Appeal on a couple of occasions in the last few years, and it felt like a huge moment. Being a litigator, it was huge to appear in a Court that shapes so much of our province’s law.

4) What’s your favourite memory from being part of SABA?
Recently, I worked with Aaron Bains and Annie Tayyab to encourage South Asian judges to apply for the upcoming Supreme Court vacancy. I can’t believe I get to do things like this.

5) What was the best advice you received about the practice of law?
Regardless of whether you have the facts or the law, don’t let anyone outwork you.

SABA SPOTLIGHT SERIES – JANANI SHANMUGANATHAN

Janani Shanmuganathan is a criminal defence lawyer of Tamil heritage. Born in Sri Lanka, Janani moved to Canada at the age of three. She co-founded Goddard & Shanmuganathan LLP, a litigation boutique that specializes in criminal law and professional regulation. Janani has argued almost 40 appeals at the Ontario Court of Appeal. 

Janani is a champion for diversity in the legal profession. In addition to being a SABA board member, she is vocal about the struggles of being a lawyer of visible minority. Last year, Janani was awarded the Precedent Setter Award, which recognizes early-career lawyers who have demonstrated excellence and leadership in their practice and their community. 

Outside of the courtroom, Janani is trained in bharatanatyam, a form of classical Indian dance. 

1) What attracted you to become a criminal defence lawyer?

For me, being a criminal defence lawyer is a calling. I don’t really know what first attracted me to it, I’ve always just viewed it as something I was meant to do. It is a hard and stressful job, but an extremely important one. And it is immensely rewarding. I feel a sense of pride that people choose me to be their advocate and as the person to safeguard their liberty. 

2) Why did you start your own firm?

I had reached a point in my career where it made sense to be my own boss. I already had my own clients and was running my own files. And having my own firm means I have the freedom to pick and choose what cases I want to take on and affords me the flexibility to balance work and family.

3)What are some moments in your career that you are proud of?

More than individual moments in my career, I am proud about my career as a whole. I am proud that despite the immense stress that accompanies being a criminal defence lawyer, the microaggressions I have faced being a woman of colour, and my own feelings of imposter syndrome, that I am still in this profession. It is so important for racialized students in law school to see racialized lawyers still practicing law. Representation matters so very much. 

4)What’s your favourite memory from being part of SABA?

When I first joined SABA, my personal goal was to help SABA with their inaugural intervention at the Supreme Court of Canada. It was really neat that I was able to achieve that goal in the R. v. Chouhan appeal. As an intervener we only had five minutes for oral argument but we made those five minutes count by talking to the SCC about the lived experiences of racialized people. And although the Court ultimately did not decide our way, those submissions resonated with a lot of people. 

5) What do you think is the biggest opportunity for positive change in the legal profession? 

Diversity and inclusion. The legal profession is changing every day as more and more racialized people join the practice of law. My hope is that as more of us speak out about our experiences – for example, how it feels when people mistake us for the interpreter, or refuse to try and pronounce our names – the profession will change for the better. 

Written by: Vipal Jain