Erika Verret

Erika Verret

Erika's journey shows how it is never too late to find the courage to make change and start chasing your dreams.

By the time Erika Verret became a lawyer, she already had over twenty years of experience in another high-stress career. When Erika started her firm, Bridge Legal & HR Solutions, she did it with the goal of creating a work environment free from the high levels of stress she found in other jobs. 

Going back to school at forty-two and starting her own firm at forty-six took courage, but her life experiences both good and bad gave her the confidence she needed to stop letting anything hold her back.

Although she had always wanted to be a lawyer, Erika wanted to take a break from school and work for a while before pursuing any further education. After completing her combined honours undergrad degree in Psychology and Criminology, her first job was in client relations at a recruiting firm, but her lack of confidence made the role too intimidating at the time. She moved into an administrative assistant job at a small engineering consultancy firm of about twenty-thirty employees. As she became more comfortable in the role and learned more about HR, she felt inspired by other young women who had become successful in the industry. The firm had no HR department, so she returned to part-time studies to earn her Human Resources Management degree and she began to build the HR Department. By the time she left the company fifteen years later, she was a certified HR professional (CHRL), earned her MBA, and the company had grown to three-hundred staff (a combination of employees and independent contractors). 

While Erika completed her MBA while working full time and in her late thirties, she realized the courage the program provided to her. Many of her classmates were in top-level positions, like CEOs and Vice Presidents. In getting to know them in an academic environment, she realized that as successful as they were, they were all just people with similar insecurities, strengths and weaknesses – like herself. She did not realize how badly she needed this new courage until she found it.

Erika’s career was thriving but her marriage took a turn to separation. With her new found courage and independence, she realized the opportunity for growth at the engineering firm reached its peak. She sought out new opportunities and felt comfortable taking a bit of a step down to join a new company in the nuclear industry to gain experience in an union environment as an HR Business Partner and quickly moved to lead their Talent Management program. Life was good, but everything changed unexpectedly for Erika with the sudden loss of her sister. The tragedy impacted Erika deeply and she struggled through depression. 

Through the recovery process after the loss of her sister, Erika realized that life was short and to live without regret. The only regret she had to that point was not returning to law school as she had planned. Her divorce, while difficult, gave her freedom to make whatever move and change worked best for her. 

As part of her healing, Erika began looking at law programs. At forty-two, she wanted to complete her degree as quickly as possible, considering she was not 22 anymore, so her choices were between accelerated J.D. programs in either Australia or England. Thinking mostly of the weather, Erika chose Bond University in Australia. 

Going to law school in another country at 42 was intimidating, but Erika’s MBA experience gave her the courage to do it. Erika ended up developing lifelong friendships with other Canadians, who, although younger than Erika, welcomed her into their circle with open arms. Erika loves sharing her story about returning to school as a mature student and hopes that others thinking of going back know that it is possible. It can also be a lot of fun!

On her return to Ontario, Erika had to study for and write an NCA exam. Wanting an income during this time, she started an HR consulting firm. She was worried about pigeon-holing herself into employment law because of her HR experience, but eventually realized that her experience meant she did not have to start her law career at the bottom. She had had a great career that translated well into employment law, so she went with it.

After Erika got called, she kept her HR firm going but added law to the practice. As the name says, Bridge Legal & HR Solutions bridges the gaps between legal and HR services by providing both in one place. The firm is a one-stop-shop for small to medium-sized businesses and because of Erika’s HR background, she has a practical approach to her client matters. 

Erika approaches things differently with her firm. She keeps her rates reasonable and provides customizable fee structures to her clients. She also hires differently and offers a unique workplace for her employees. Although Erika’s days will be busy until she is able to focus her time completely on managing the firm, she strives for work-life balance and encourages her employees to live with a work-life balance as well. The job is not 9-5, unless you want it to be. Everyone works remotely and as long as clients are happy and professionally serviced, she does not care where or when anyone works. She has developed a formula that allows employees the flexibility to work around their personal commitments and really aims to allow employees to determine their own financial goals. 

Being a business owner can be stressful, but Erika’s amazing team makes it all worth it. Erika now personally centres her efforts on workplace investigations while her team focuses on employment law and HR Consulting. She loves the independence that being a business owner gives her. If she needs a two-hour lunch break, she can take one. Avoiding burnout is key. 

People dream of vacations they’d like to take or of owning things, but those dreams are different than the things that you want that sit in your soul and you are compelled to do. Erika thinks it is incredibly sad when people crave those experiences but don’t act on their desires. The desire to go to law school was something that had sat in Erika’s soul for years and getting accepted to Bond was the first thing that made her feel excited since her sister’s passing. 

Career and life paths are very rarely black and white, so it is important to not get so funneled in one direction that you lose sight of other opportunities. Some people end up exactly where they thought they would be, and that’s ok, but keep paying attention to signs of what you want regardless. Making change and chasing your dreams takes courage, but it is never too late to find that courage.