A self-described “happy person”, Aneka Jiwaji has a wonderful family, amazing friends and truly enjoys being a litigator. Part of Aneka’s happiness comes from being a lifelong learner. Since joining the British Columbia Securities Commission as Litigation Counsel, she has continued to make learning a priority in her life while finding time for non-academic passions as well. Keen to master her chosen practice area, Aneka has further pursued her educational goals by enrolling in an LLM in Securities Law. A formerly trained classical singer, she has also rekindled her passion for singing - something she had put on the backburner during law school and her early years of practice. Aneka is excited about her work and is well supported by her fantastic colleagues and friends. Their support extends beyond the office, which gives Aneka the confidence to be her authentic self, engage in issues important to her, and be present for her husband and son.
As a high school student with a love of public speaking, debate and academics, Aneka was sure that she was a litigator well before going to law school. Having grown up around her father’s law practice, she had no illusions that being a lawyer would be a glamorous life. Her confidence that litigation would be a good fit and her love for public speaking helped her dive into the courtroom very early on in her career. She had fantastic summering and articling experiences at a specialty lines insurance defense firm, where she was in Chambers, client facing, and managing files right off the bat. After being called to the BC Bar, she stayed on with the firm as an Associate for a couple of years where she enjoyed the perfect mix of autonomy and support from the senior lawyers there, many of whom remain her mentors today.
Before committing to a niche practice area, Aneka wanted to try different types of law and figure out what worked best for her. She was fortunate to spend her formative years at a full-service regional firm with a mentor who regularly exposed her to the courtroom. While the work environment was amazing, Aneka wanted to foray into complex commercial litigation work and decided to join an international firm. Here, she really started to appreciate her talents for commercial litigation and the business side of lawyering.
At that point in her career, Aneka was ready to specialize. She saw a posting at the BC Securities Commission, and had a feeling it would be an excellent area to specialize in and a great skill set to complement the ones she had already honed in commercial litigation.
You can call it luck, or an earned payoff after five years of intense litigation experience, but Aneka got the job. Moving from private practice to the public sector and a practice area that was very foreign to her was, and remains, the bravest career move Aneka has ever made. She remembers feeling intimidated by the prospect of a huge career shift and learning a new area of law but reminded herself: "If someone else has learned it, you can too." At the time she worried about people judging her career choices. Now she realizes that there is a benefit to taking risks while being intentional about your choices. She has become comfortable with the reality that people will talk about you no matter what you do, so you might as well do what works for you. Will people judge you? Maybe. But, if you choose what is right for you, you will be too distracted enjoying your life and practice to care.
After two years at the BC Securities Commission, Aneka can truly say that the job is everything that she hoped it would be and more. She works with talented lawyers, her work is intellectually stimulating, and she has found the balance that allowed her to start her family without feeling that she has taken a step away from her career goals. One of the most unique parts of her job is that she has the opportunity to work on an interdisciplinary team with fraud investigators, economists, forensic accountants, and other professionals. Collaborating with other professionals has allowed Aneka to see legal issues through a different lens.
Inevitably, moving to the public sector from an international firm meant taking a huge pay cut. Financial fulfillment was something Aneka considered before moving to the public sector but ultimately, for Aneka financial fulfillment is the ability to outsource the mundane but necessary aspects of life so that she can capitalize on spending that time with her family and friends.
What does a BC Securities Commission litigator do? Staff litigators bring regulatory actions against market participants for alleged breaches of the Securities Act. The day to day of the job is similar to what a litigator at a private firm does in the sense that Aneka still assesses files for litigation, brings actions, liaises with opposing counsel, addresses applications and prepares for and conducts hearings on files. At the Commission, Aneka and the other litigators also advise and service other departments on litigation issues and in that way those departments become the “client”.
Aneka loves that she gets to be on her feet a lot and has had the opportunity to first chair hearings from the outset despite being relatively junior. Private and public litigation jobs share some qualities. One of them is that the hours can be unpredictable during hearings. Aneka often works 9-to-5 days, but during a hearing “all bets are off” and working weekends and evenings is inevitable. That said, when she is on vacation, she does not work because she knows that in order to have a sustainable litigation role spanning over a long career it is important to take real breaks. Of course, there are sometimes real emergencies in litigation; however, most “emergencies” are self-imposed due to poor planning or setting unrealistic expectations. If you trust the people you work with, they can handle most real emergencies when you are away, and you should do the same for them when they are on vacation.
Aneka’s outlook to life and practice has shifted dramatically in her eight years practicing. Growing up as a Canadian South Asian woman, Aneka learned to keep her “head down and her mouth shut” and “grind” for the life she wanted. Aneka has now realized that “while being a hard worker never goes out of style, it must be accompanied with good boundaries for a sustainable career and a meaningful life.” As an outspoken advocate for lawyer wellbeing and gender equity and diversity in the profession, Aneka knows who she is and what she brings to the table and surrounds herself with likeminded people so that she never has to compromise her values in pursuit of a fulfilling career.