My name is Tara Vasdani and I am an Associate Lawyer working primarily in subrogation on Bay Street. I am a 2017 call. And most importantly, I’m a mentor.
My inspiration for practicing law initiated in high school which later turned into a great passion for change. I completed my undergraduate studies in Law and Society, and Political Science, where I had the opportunity of scrutinizing the Canadian political system and social impacts on law. When I moved to Ottawa to complete law school, I chose the combined French J.D. and LL.L. program, not only as a challenge to myself, but to break a few barriers that had become a little too concrete.
As a “scrutineer”, if you will, I quickly noted that I faced some challenges the average or conventional lawyer, would not. Primarily, my race – a reality that became even more evident in a francophone law program, as well as being a female. I always resisted these realities and roadblocks by thinking them possible to overcome via two avenues: assimilation, or bold greatness. For a while, I chose the former – much like many women in the law choose. Although it felt like ages after, I soon realized that I had the potential to be great, without assimilation. And I then became unapologetically myself.
When I joined the South Asian Women in the Law mentoring program, and I met my mentor, I had a few pieces of advice for her. Among them, being that “you will have to work harder” – words that cut like a knife to say to a poor girl, in her first semester at law school. I then sat back and realized however, that I had something even greater to share.
In law school, I often fought to be “like the others” – I dressed the same, acted the same, and completely lost my sense of self. I always had character but it was within my bubble of Torontonians, as well as a few years spent in Europe. I looked at this poor girl, and instead I decided that I wanted to tell a new story. She looked at me and said, “Will it be hard to get a corporate position wearing my hijab?”
I told her about the time that I decided to break free from these chains, and liberate not only my mind, but my personhood. I told her that she had to find faith in her friends, and family, and that she had to find faith in herself. I told her that while I articled, I told myself consistently that I deserved to be there and that I deserved to have the good work come my way. And guess what? It did. My articling experience was difficult to achieve, but the second that I put my foot down and decided to respect myself enough like all those do around me, I was free. I never let anyone look at me differently, I never let anyone treat me differently, and frankly, if they did – I judged their character, and not mine. Today, I am the first lawyer across the country that has served a defendant via Instagram. Seven months into my career, I’ve been featured in the Law Times, and Canadian Lawyer Magazine. Today, I am myself, ruthlessly and unapologetically – and the barriers that are too real and so visibly evident, well, I told them they couldn’t have me.
My advice to the women who seek to attain this level of freedom is this: be strong, be confident, and be bold. Your opportunities are absolutely hindered by the colour of your skin and your gender in a field that has too long entrenched the idea that we are, second-class. But if you can overcome the notion that it is your responsibility to give in to it, or to feel it – believe me, you will be free. And maybe one day, I too, will read about you.