Introduction (name, year of call, current position, and whether you are a mentor with the program)
I was called to the Bar in 2002.
I am a partner and Head of the Insurance Group at Pallett Valo LLP.
I am proud to be a mentor with the South Asian Women in Law program.
What inspired you to enter the law
My parents always encouraged lively debates, especially during dinner. We discussed everything; politics, world events, social issues – it was all food for thought (pardon the pun)! I enjoyed making convincing arguments and persuading family members to see another point of view which in turn, migrated to school debates and discussions. The debates also taught me the importance of listening, really listening, because if you are simply waiting for an opportunity to speak, then you miss out on important information from those around you. As a result, the law was a natural progression. The law allows you to assist your clients and find resolution and being a litigator allows me to continue to use my advocacy skills to convince, persuade and listen.
What challenges did you meet and have to overcome as a South Asian female, if any
I remember being cautioned about keeping my nose ring in during articling interviews because I might not fit the mould. Also, the length of my name became an issue and there were suggestions to shorten my first name it to “Sue”, but I stayed true to me. If my name or nose ring were barriers, then it was not the firm for me.
Also, apparently we all look the same? Constantly being confused for other South Asian women has always been puzzling to me.
I also did not have many South Asian female lawyer role models when I was starting out, and that is why it is always important to me to be an effective sounding board for those starting out or in need of advice. The mentors I was fortunate to have were paramount to my development. I adopted a number of mentors because I think that mentorship is valuable for insight and providing another, more experienced perspective.
Where you are now-and any successes you’d like to share
I recently moved my practice to Pallett Valo LLP in Mississauga to start and head their Insurance Group and practice commercial litigation. Pallett Valo LLP has been a very welcoming and supportive environment and I am excited to work with amazing lawyers in the city where I grew up.
As women, we are often encouraged to be modest of our accomplishments, but as the mother of 3, I am constantly trying to be a strong and positive role model for them. I am proud of the firsts that I have accomplished. I was the first non-white lawyer to make partner at my previous firm, and I am the first South Asian female partner at my current firm. I was the first female president of the South Asian Bar Association(Toronto). My greatest career success was conducting a 2 1/2 week jury trial which resulted in a big win for my client and an amazing costs award. My client had the confidence in me to conduct the trial after I returned from maternity leave and I appreciated the opportunity.
I am inspired by the direction society is taking to ensure more merit based success and to be representative of our population and you can see that taking effect within the legal community. But there is a lot of room to grow! I would like to see more South Asian women as panelists. I attend CPDs and unless the topic is about diversity, you see very few non-white panelists. That should not be in 2018 and I am working hard to change that!
A piece of advice you would like to give South Asian women entering/working in the field of law
Know yourself and ensure that you are in an environment that encourages you to succeed. There is success in being a trail blazer and proving doubters wrong and winning them over, but there is something to be said about being in an environment that wants you to succeed because of what you bring to the table. In 2018, your skills are what should be valued!