Evelyn Ackah

Evelyn believes the key to becoming a successful law firm owner is to find an area of practice you love, work hard to master that practice area and learn from more senior practitioners.

How do you find flexibility after becoming a solo parent to your newly adopted twins? For Evelyn Ackah, the right solution for her was to quit her job as a Partner at a national law firm and start her own law firm. Making two massive life changes within 8 months was challenging, but Evelyn knew that it would allow her to be the lawyer and mother she wanted to be.

After graduating from Simon Fraser University with a degree in Political Science, Evelyn took a year off from school. During that time, she worked in HR at BC Children’s Hospital in Vancouver where she learned a lot about organizational development, employee relations and issues relating to diversity and equity and inclusiveness. She had not planned for that to be the end of her academic road, but she loved her work so much that she thought twice before applying to law school. What ultimately persuaded her to go to law school was knowing that she would one day be able to speak with credibility about the issues most important to her. She wanted to be an advocate not only for herself but also for others like her who faced challenges based on race and gender.

Needing a change after graduation from the University of British Columbia Law School, Evelyn moved from her home-city of Vancouver to Toronto, where she articled on Bay Street and became a corporate/commercial lawyer. After two years, it was clear to her that this area of practice was not her passion and she considered leaving law altogether to return to the HR world. In 2000, Evelyn joined an international accounting firm that had a business immigration law practice and a global mobility department and there, she found her calling! Beyond the immigration legal work, Evelyn loves learning about the companies she is working with and, more importantly, learning about the people she helps relocate to Canada and the United States. Business immigration law combines her corporate background with her love of meeting new people and making authentic connections.

When Evelyn decided to leave Bay Street, she was also in the process of adopting her children and knew she would need to make changes to her lifestyle. She knew that motherhood would be an adjustment and that she would need as much flexibility at work as she could get. What better way to find a schedule that fits your lifestyle and needs than to own your own law firm? That realization is what led Evelyn to start Ackah Business Immigration Law in 2010. Many of her clients from her time on Bay Street followed her to Ackah Law. And Evelyn was able to start her firm with a relatively large client base. After 13 years running her own law firm, Evelyn now feels financially stable and secure, but admits that learning how to run a business was a challenge - one that is not taught in law school. Evelyn’s biggest lessons in life continue to come from entrepreneurship and motherhood.

As the founder and managing lawyer of Ackah Law, a leading Canadian business immigration law firm headquartered in Calgary, days can get pretty busy for Evelyn. On a typical day, most of her time is spent with clients on the phone or in Zoom meetings. As a business immigration lawyer, Evelyn helps companies meet their internal corporate goals while helping their employees, who often have specialized knowledge or senior executive skills. Corporate immigration comes with some unique services, including the occasional late-night calls from clients who need further reassurance before making their applications at the airport or a pep talk before getting on the plane. Very rarely, she even gets calls in the middle of the night if a client’s application is being challenged by immigration officials. Evelyn loves the fast pace of corporate immigration law where turn-around times tend to be quicker than in other types of law.

Evelyn loves that she gets to build relationships with people from around the world and sometimes professional relationships become lasting personal relationships as well. Recently, she was able to help someone relocate to Canada from Africa and she got to know their personal story along the way. Knowing the impact immigration approval will have on their family for generations to come is an incredible feeling. She gets to make a difference in people’s lives and to Evelyn, that is priceless. Another one of her clients immigrated from Italy with her help and she often sees him at the Italian restaurant he now manages - she even held her pre-wedding dinner there three years ago to further support her client. Recently, this same client and his wife welcomed a beautiful baby and Evelyn visited the restaurant to celebrate with them. She loves supporting her clients in any way she can - even long after they become citizens.

Evelyn’s advice to young lawyers is to learn as much as you can before going out on your own. She is grateful for the training she received on Bay Street and cautions young professionals not to go out on their own too early in their career. She believes the key to becoming a successful law firm owner is to find an area of practice you love, work hard to master that practice area and learn from more senior practitioners.

While Evelyn is very happy in her career and in her life, she is frustrated to see that the legal profession remains a privileged and closed community that is still mostly dominated by men. She has seen many talented women leave traditional law firms to start their own firms when their dual roles of legal professional and mother are not accommodated with the flexibility they need. Evelyn recalls being one of only three Black students in her law school when she graduated in 1997. That number may be slightly higher in some law schools today, but they are still not high enough and do not reflect Canadian society. Evelyn believes that diversity and inclusion remain some of the most important issues facing the legal profession. She believes we need to stand up and support a diverse next generation of young lawyers for there to be substantive change. Evelyn tries to do her part by speaking about these issues publicly and mentoring law students and younger lawyers at her law firm. Evelyn believes that following your passion and obtaining education and training allows you to make choices in life that make the difference in the lives of you and others you come into contact with and helps others understand that they too can realize their dreams. 

Evelyn Ackah's journey from a Partner at a national law firm to a successful entrepreneur and managing lawyer of Ackah Business Immigration Law is a testament to her unwavering determination and commitment to both her profession and her role as a parent. Her firm, Ackah Law, was built and thrived on her expertise and her genuine concern for her clients' well-being, often leading to enduring personal relationships.