Natalie: I set my mind on being a lawyer when I was a child. I've always enjoyed solving problems and advocating and that's exactly what I find myself doing on a daily basis. I was very analytical, and frankly argumentative, growing up so I though becoming a lawyer would be a great fit and it has been. When I was looking for a student position I initially didn't get an interview with my first choice, Smith Lyons, which later merged with Gowling WLG. So I called the head of student recruit to tell him that he was making a mistake and should reconsider. He agreed. I was given the interview and then I was hired.
I remember sitting in my first office in Scotia Plaza thinking, "Wow. I can't believe this is real." It had always been a dream of mine to be a lawyer and I was very proud of at moment that I had accomplished that goal. I needed another challenge at that point though, so I talked to one of the other first year associates, and we challenged each other to run our first marathon. We ran the LA Marathon and I qualified for Boston Marathon and then I ran that, which was another proud moment of my life. It also led me to my current passion outside of work which is cycling.
Law is a very demanding profession and cycling is a way for me to strengthen, not only my physical well-being, but also my mental health which is a priority. It also contributes to the focus and dedication that I bring to my practice. I'm one of only two lawyers, I believe, in the Province who are certified as specialists in both civil litigation and environmental law. I mainly deal with property that is impacted by contamination. I help clients navigate what to do either when they've been impacted by someone else's contaminates or cause of contamination themselves. There's really a web of practical considerations and legal implications that have to be taken into account. What I do requires the ability to not just comprehend but also translate complex scientific evidence into plain language, to make it easy for clients to understand, and the person ultimately deciding the case. But if you told me that I'd be an expert in science based cases at the peak of my career I would have laughed. I never had an interest in science growing up.
Becoming an environmental litigator was really an evolution and an organic process for me. I was litigating several cases early on in my career for oil companies, including oil spill cases and I started to develop an expertise in all things related to contaminated property. Then when the environmental group at the firm found out that I was doing this work they invited me to join them and my practice just took off from there. Over the years I've developed my expertise and expanded my client base to include, not just oil companies, but also developers, manufacturers, insurers, anyone really with an interest in property. I'm able to get clients excellent results, not just through hard work, but because I know the law, the science and the players in my field. The law in my area is constantly evolving and therefore so is my advice to clients. It's important to have industry experts like me before the courts to try and steer the law in the right direction. In a way we're trail blazers. Some of my own cases have made important changes in the law and it's exciting to me to be practicing in area where there is this evolution and ability to effect change.
It was a very proud moment for me to be named 'Lawyer of the Year' by Best Lawyers for Environmental Law this year. The award is purely based on peer reviews, so what your competitors think of you. I'm proud to have built a strong reputation among the environmental bar and to have gained the respect of my peers. I've worked very hard to get to where I am but at the same time I feel very fortunate. I've had the privilege to conduct trials, arbitrations, administrative hearings and argue appeals and I've learned from some excellent senior lawyers in my career. It's important to me to contribute to the legal community through speaking, writing articles and teaching. Being a lawyer is more than just a job. It's a profession and we have a duty to give back by mentoring and teaching so the younger generation can achieve the skill set and degree of excellence that this profession requires. I've always encouraged younger lawyers to get involved in the legal community and start building their profiles early on in their careers. As co-Lead now of the Advocacy Group in Toronto I'm trying to inspire the younger generation to get out there, give back and start building a practice. Giving back is not only the right thing to do. It's how you start developing relationships and building business.
There's nothing more satisfying to me than achieving a great result for a client. My clients know they can rely on me to offer strategic and practical approaches to whatever issue they're facing. I put myself in their shoes to be their best advocate. I often come up with creative solutions to cases. There might be different ways of allocating risk and responsibility, or transferring rights between parties, or different ways to address property contamination and the risk that it poses. I like to look at problems from all angles and use creative approaches to deliver the most cost effective solutions that I can for clients. I also ensure my clients are set up with the best team. Not only the lawyers but the engineers and the consulting experts who will prioritize finding the most practical way to address the issue. I've developed close relationships with many of my clients. I enjoy spending time with them outside of the office and we often find ourselves laughing with one another, including when we're on breaks at hearings. Developing this rapport with clients, as well as with my colleagues, is one of the many reasons I love my job.