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International Women’s Day: Women in Law

March 8, 2019

Roz Bahrami

To celebrate International Women’s Day at OsgoodePD, we are recognizing and showcasing achievements of women from our legal community by featuring alumni and our faculty.

Here we profile these women’s professional journeys and shine light on their accomplishments both at Osgoode and in the broader legal environment. Meet Stephanie Ben-Ishai, Stéphane Moraille and Kathleen Killin.

Stephane Moraille
General Counsel, The Phi Centre

An accomplished singer, musician and Juno winner (with Bran Van 3000), Stephane Moraille is a powerhouse who excels at anything she puts her mind to achieving, including law.
In addition to successfully completing her LLM in Intellectual Property Law, Stephane has an extensive background working as a lawyer and counsel across both the arts, technology, and entertainment industries, drawing on both her legal and entertainment experience in various Board positions since 2001.

Stephane Morialle - headshotYou have an accomplished background in music, how have those skills and experience transferred and helped your legal practice?
I think it’s the hard work ethic that served me the most. Never underestimate the value of sweat equity.

When you win a Juno, people see the ‘highlight reel’ but they don’t see the background work, all the toil that went into attaining the award. Artists are some of the most hard-working people and dedicated workers – they’ll practice the same thing, countless times, in order to master a skill. I had to work, and toil and apply myself for countless hours with a sole focus.

This kind of dedication and this kind of work ethic translates well in law and legal contractual work, where you need to have a good head for detail, where you have to be thorough and thoughtful. All the while maintaining a broad perspective. One of the assets that my entertainment experience gave me was the ability to use both sides of my brain. I don’t see things with only the creative side or with only the intellectual side, both sides work together.

You have been active and involved in numerous boards, including the Muchfact board, the Songwriters Association of Canada & Mainfilm. Do you see a lot of barriers for women in being considered for these positions?
Less and less now. I think women, in general, don’t step forward enough for these opportunities. As women, we will find all the reasons why we shouldn’t apply for the board, or why we shouldn’t take an opportunity. Whereas, in general, a man doesn’t really look at the disruption it’s going to create, or the time invested – he’ll say yes to the opportunity first and then do his best to make it work.

I think as women, we have to just step forward. And stand together.
There is this solidarity between men, they help each other with what job is available and who would be good for it. It’s time for us to understand, as women, that there’s power in networking and power in solidarity and loyalty. And it’s time for us to step forward and step forward together. I’ve had instances where I was knocked down by people who could have helped me but I also had the immense blessing to have a mentor in one of the most brilliant attorneys here, Claire Benoit. Talking about what you know is one thing but knowing what you are talking about is another altogether. It is so precious when decades of experience can be transferred.

I’ve been on boards since 2001 and I have yet to step into a board where there’s another woman. It’s a little bit lonely, I’m always the only woman, and always the only black woman. We need to network – every time I can uplift another female, I do it. Every time I can put someone somewhere where their talents will shine, I try my best to help.

What does International Women’s Day mean to you?
A chance. A chance to make things better. A reminder of how far we’ve come. We have a lot of work to do, around the world, in gaining respect for women. We need to address the epidemic of violence against women that we can no longer deny. Every day, girls are underfed, uneducated, mistreated. We’re half the world’s population and changing this path will change the world.

We need to encourage each other, we need to step forward together. Let’s celebrate the work that has been done, but also take a pause and look at the work that still remains to be accomplished.

Stephanie Ben-Ishai
Professor, Osgoode Hall Law School

A tenured professor at Osgoode, as well as an Academic-in-Residence at firm Davies Ward Phillips & Vineberg, Stephanie Ben-Ishai has been awarded the American Bankruptcy Institute Medal of Excellence along with the SSHRC, Fulbright and Osgoode Hall Law School Research fellowships. In addition, Professor Ben-Ishai is also a published author, co-author and editor and is an active member of several Canadian and international boards and committees.

Professional Headshot, STEPHANIE BEN-ISHALHow have you drawn on such an accomplished background to help develop and shape the LLM program and Small Business Clinic?
I feel fortunate to have had such variety in my career and I feel like each of the different elements of my teaching, service, research and professional activities all shape and benefit each other. I learn from my students varied and global experiences and I contribute to them with elements from each of my own experiences. It’s an ongoing project that I really enjoy.

You’re active in reform, regularly providing consultation to governments & self-regulatory organizations – What drives your involvement with such bodies on insolvency and commercial law matters?
My research is often empirical and helps uncover areas in need of change. I feel a great sense of accomplishment when I can contribute to that change based on my research and technical expertise.

What does International Women’s Day mean to you?
For me it’s about celebrating my mentors and mentees and recognizing there is so much work to be done both at a personal level and at an institutional level. As I raise my five-year-old son and start to see him ask big questions this takes on new meaning for me.

Kathleen Killin
Student at Law, Daoust Vukovich LLP

Internationally educated and trained, Kathleen Killin (an alumna of both Osgoode’s LLM in Canadian Common Law and LLM in International Business Law) has long been a high achiever in the art, technology and legal worlds. Kathleen has been named a top Artificial Intelligence writer on Medium and featured as a ‘Women of Legal Tech’ by Legal Tech News and CodeX. Kathleen currently serves as the only Canadian representative in the New Leader Circle for the International Center for Research on Women, based out of Washington, D.C.

Professional Headshot of Kathleen KillinThis is your first year of practicing law – how are you finding it? What lessons have you learned in your first year?
Like any new job, there has definitely been a learning curve. I am extremely fortunate to have great mentors within my firm, Daoust Vukovich LLP, who I can rely upon for guidance on this new journey. The lessons I’ve learned have been abundant, but one that resonates with me the most is the importance of setting goals. I like to set weekly, monthly and yearly goals, with some that are easily achievable and others that will definitely require a lot of work. For example, one of my weekly goals is to eat away from my desk once a week to give myself a mental break (even for ten minutes), whereas a 2019 goal is to be published twice this year. I find it keeps me on track and motivated. I also feel a twinge of accomplishment when I can check an item off the list. And, three quick points on what I’ve learned so far: always be prepared; anticipate questions before they are asked, and master that follow up email!

You’ve had an interesting journey into law – an accomplished background in Art & Art History – how have those skills and experience helped your practice?
I’ve worn many hats over the years in the art and technology worlds, and now, in law. A constant in every industry is the importance of perseverance and determination. These two qualities transcend boundaries. I learned early during my time in the art world that unplanned circumstances may get in the way of your successes. Remember to use these stumbling blocks to push yourself and move forward. Give yourself a few hours (or a day) to regroup, then channel your energy into how you will accomplish the task in a different way.

What does International Women’s Day mean to you?
International Women’s Day is a reminder of how much work we still need to get done. In light of the political turmoil south of the border, we have been reminded that we cannot rest on our laurels and expect the governments of leading nations to respect the rights of women. We celebrate the day to remember those ‘Nasty Women’ who have come before us – from Nellie McClung to Rosa Parks – but must also remain somber and determined to continue to fight the good fight for true gender equality.

What do you see as the biggest challenge(s) for women in law?
The biggest challenge I see for women in law is not law specific – it is across every industry. There truly aren’t enough women at the table. Whether it is in the legal, technology, construction, or mining fields, women are constantly underrepresented in leadership positions. This is my greatest hope for women in law in the future. This has begun to change, but more needs to be done in order to achieve equal representation on boards, in C-suite positions, or at the partnership level.