SABA SPOTLIGHT SERIES – JASMINE K. SINGH
Jasmine is a Legal Counsel for BMO Financial Group. She is a derivatives lawyer based in Toronto. She holds a Bachelor of Arts from York University and Juris Doctor from Bond University. She has been a SABA member and volunteer for many years. Prior to being appointed to her current position as a Vice President, she has previously held the role of Director of Communication and Treasurer. She is also currently co-chair of SABA Women’s Committee and Pro Bono Committee. Jasmine is an advocate for the advancement of equity, justice and opportunity for women and racialized lawyers in the Canadian legal community.
- What initially attracted you to become a lawyer?My path to becoming a lawyer was not a direct one. I didn’t always know that I wanted to be a lawyer. I grew up in a family of entrepreneurs and was initially attracted to a corporate career. After completing my undergraduate studies, I knew I wanted to pursue a post-graduate degree. I initially thought about doing an MBA but a professor recommended going to law school. I decided that made the most sense for me at the time. Before attending law school, I wasn’t sure if I wanted to actually practice law. However after two weeks of law school, I realized that using analytical skills to tackle issues resonated with me. So I knew law was the right path for me.
- What area of law do you practice and how did you get interested in that area?I practice derivatives law at BMO. My practice focuses on energy commodity derivatives and securities financing. My files require me to understand complex products, and advise on the regulatory landscapes within which BMO’s businesses operate.As a law student in Australia, I was initially drawn to criminal law and business law. When I finished law school, I wanted to come back to Canada, so I went through the OCI process from Australia. All the interviews I received were corporate based, which paved the path for me. I articled in-house at Loblaw Companies Limited, where I did general corporate work, assisted with litigation, real estate, and labour and employment matters. After articling, I began my legal career with George Weston Limited, Canada’s largest retail conglomerate, where I gained experience managing commercial litigation for subsidiary and affiliated entities and assisted in negotiating a breadth of commercial transactions. These experiences led me to my current role at BMO.
Though I didn’t have a securities background, I viewed my current role as an exciting opportunity to transition into a specialized practice area and was able to do so by leveraging the set of skills I developed through my past experiences.
- What is your favourite memory from being part of SABA?As a Co-Chair of the Women’s Committee, I along with Richa Sandill had the unique opportunity to engage in advocacy efforts with the Prime Minister of Canada and another government representative at a roundtable discussion. We discussed the disproportionate impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on women in Canada. We talked about discrimination and harassment faced by South Asian lawyers and the systemic barriers for women in our profession and the need for diverse judicial representation at the Supreme Court of Canada.SABA has provided me with an amazing platform to engage in advocacy work that I am passionate about and to voice these issues at the highest levels with the hope of creating an impact in the community.
- What is your favourite pastime during the pandemic?Regularly exercising has always been an important part of my daily routine, but during the pandemic, it has proven to be an even more crucial part of my routine. It offers a mental escape and is always a mood booster. When the weather was better, I also found myself going on a lot more walks on routes through the city that I hadn’t explored before.
- What advice do you have for aspiring lawyers?It’s important to introspect to ensure that a legal career will be fulfilling. Make sure you really want to either be a lawyer or that a legal education will contribute to your future career of choice. I was the first in my family to practice law, and an important part of my decision was speaking to practicing lawyers who could provide insight. If you can find someone who can connect you with a lawyer and who can tell you what it’s like to practice law on a day to day basis, that’s important. Some may only picture the work of a litigator or criminal lawyer when they think of a lawyer at work, but there are so many different practice areas. I would recommend trying to gain as much exposure as you can to see what resonates with what you want to do.
Written by: Vipal Jain