As a people person, Lorna Yates loves working in family law and hearing her clients’ stories. Lorna did not go into family law naively. She knew, through family connections in the profession, that the life of a lawyer is full of goods, bads and uglies. Family law, in particular, carries this reputation. But with a passion for helping people, the forewarning did not deter Lorna from making what ended up being the right decision for her.
Debating between pursuing a career in education or law during her undergrad, Lorna had the privilege of knowing what the legal profession was like through some family connections. This gave her some forewarning of “the good, bad, and the ugly,” but as she puts it, “at least [she] knew.”
During her undergrad, Lorna debated pursuing a career in education instead of a career in law.
She credits Evelyn, a friend of her parents and a family lawyer, as having the biggest impact on her decision to go to law school. Evelyn was a strong, independent woman who loved what she did. Why wouldn’t Lorna want that for herself? Once Lorna decided on law, family law was always her goal. If she was not going to be helping kids in a classroom, she could help them by advocating for their parents.
During her time at Queen’s Law, Lorna exhausted all of the family law courses and clinical options she could find. Her experience working in law firms over the summers throughout her undergrad and law school gave Lorna an idea of the kind of world she was about to enter into when she was applying for articling positions. After law school, Lorna articled at Gowling WLG and, as you might imagine, spent much of her time there in the family law department.
While she acknowledges that there are pros and cons to “big law”, Lorna doesn’t regret her time there.
Her years working at Gowlings were formative. She learned how to research, docket properly, and how to take direction from senior associates and partners. Learning how to be a good associate was an important start to her career, but there were things she knew she was missing. Appearing in court and other opportunities to be brave as a younger lawyer were experiences that she knew she needed to find elsewhere.
Lorna had ambitions of becoming an excellent litigator. To do that, she needed to find more challenging cases that would need to be settled in court. This pursuit led her to Wilson Christen LLP. At Wilson Christen, Lorna had opportunities to learn from family law experts, including Jeffery Wilson, and had the chance to do some amazing advocacy work. How to practice defensively and manage difficult personalities (whether that be clients or other professionals) are skills she now makes use of in her own practice.
Lorna’s work and training at Gowlings and Wilson Christen gave her the confidence to open her own firm.
Though it has gone through several iterations over the years, Lorna is a founding partner at Laurel Family Law. Her boutique firm seeks beneficial resolutions for clients and their families, and she loves the work she does. In her practice, Lorna favours quality over quantity in choosing the cases she works on. She has never been one to shy away from a challenge and she is invested in the clients she works for. Working in a boutique firm also means that Lorna gets to be the excellent litigator she always wanted to be. Only about 2% of family law cases in Ontario make it to court, and Lorna feels lucky to have the opportunity to argue some of those.
Lorna knows how lucky she is to love her job as much as she does.
The complexity of the work and the clients she takes on, mean she is never bored. Her clients tend to be people who are going through a crisis – sometimes the most challenging times in their lives. Helping people in these situations is not only something Lorna loves but is something she excels at.
Working in family law and serving and advocating for clients, you don’t get to have as much work-life balance as other professions. In fact, Lorna does not think work-life balance exists. Instead, she thinks it is better to think of life as a series of choices you make. Some days you choose to invest more time in your career; some days you choose family; and some days you choose yourself. Take stock of what you need and make the right choices for you.
At the end of the day, Lorna’s job is only one part of her life. Outside of work, Lorna is married and a proud mom of twins, Jack and Molly. Choosing to find time for herself, when she can, is a choice that she is always happy she made.