Erin Durant had been on the traditional Big Law path, a partner at one of Canada’s largest law firms, when it all came crashing down. Hailing from a small town and a middle-class family, Erin managed to pave the way for herself and is now thriving after starting her own practice.
“I was very lucky to have been selected.”
Erin comes from humble beginnings. She paid her own way through law school, with the help of significant loans. She had very little by way of connections and so breaking into the legal profession was a feat. Erin started from the ground up to build a network, but it was her strong law school grades that afforded her the opportunity to start her career in a large Canadian firm.
The amazing opportunity eventually ran its course. In early 2021, Erin experienced a major downfall in her health. Physically, she was in the healthiest shape she had been in since her days as a university athlete. Mentally, on the other hand, she was not in good shape. Erin’s anxiety and depression sent her into a crisis and caused her to take a step away from her career in order to seek treatment. Much of her mental struggles were due to the relentless work environment and lack of adequate support in Big Law.
It took a crisis for Erin to realize that she needed to change courses on her career path.
Following an unsuccessful attempt to return to work, it was clear to Erin that the environment she had been accustomed to no longer served her. She left the partnership at the firm and was faced with the decision of whether to join another law firm or to start her own. A checklist and a budget later, Erin was sure that she could thrive in establishing her own law firm. And thus, Durant Barristers
Having her own law firm gives Erin the freedom to do things the way she wants while maintaining an interesting and lucrative practice. Her clientele includes all of her favourite clients and has expanded to bring in a significant new client base that she wouldn’t have been able to take on at her old firm due to conflicts of interest or time constraints. What were once stressors for her in a large firm are no longer an issue at Durant Barristers. The exciting new litigation boutique firm incorporates a flexible work environment, alternative billing arrangements, and puts an emphasis on encouraging and mentoring young lawyers to build their own practice.
As a litigator and investigator, no two days are the same for Erin. The work at her firm keeps her busy yet fulfilled. When Erin is not in (virtual) court, she prepares for upcoming investigations, drafting client reports, teaching and promoting her two associate lawyers, and reviewing opinions and court documents. Erin also immerses herself in the legal community through volunteer work in the Ottawa area, and she is a frequent speaker at various conferences and events.
“Since I started my own law firm, I hope to have time to enjoy more activities outside of the virtual office.”
Erin’s tenacious drive makes it easy to sometimes forget that she has a life outside of her career. With her own law firm, however, Erin is able to invest more time into creating a more balanced lifestyle – including plans for a sweet new business! During the COVID-19 pandemic, Erin, alongside her husband Brad, started producing maple syrup from the hundreds of maple trees on their property. This hobby expanded its operations so much so that Erin is excited to hopefully start producing enough syrup to sell this year.
Getting back into softball after having to put the sport on hold due to her crisis is something that Erin looks forward to as well. Now that she’s back on steady grounds, Erin cannot wait to step foot on the softball diamond in the capacity of both an athlete and a coach.
The idea that you are either cut out for the legal industry or not is a myth.
In her book, It Burned Me All Down
, Erin outlines her own experiences and struggles with mental health. There is a lack of support for mental health in the legal profession that likely derives from the preconceived notion that the industry is cutthroat. Erin worries that more and more people will be pushed to opt for the latter of this “take it or leave it approach”.
There are many alternatives for young and seasoned lawyers alike to step out of a traditional legal path. Now, more than ever, we have the tools available to us to make the change to providing better support to lawyers and staff. For Erin, it starts with the need to get rid of the idea that practicing law is hard and not everyone can “cut it”. Having law firms focus on improving the work environment will result in improved mental health, which in turn will make the legal profession a happier and healthier place.
The change will happen, slowly but surely.