Lynda Collins

Lynda Collins

Working towards happiness is easier than living life without joy

This profile was written by Hanna Hsiao, a law student at the University of Ottawa.

“Follow your bliss” – Joseph Campbell

Professor Lynda Collins was a Gold Medal Recipient from the Osgoode Hall Law School. This accolade is often the pinnacle of success for many young lawyers, but Lynda’s greatest pride comes from the work she has done to help the environment, support her family, and teach her students about happiness and the law. Not everyone will be a Gold Medal Recipient, but every law student has the opportunity to create a life with meaning far greater than any award could give them. Lynda is excited to guide her students in doing just that. 

A social justice activist since a young age, Lynda fearlessly advocates for feminist, queer, disability, and anti-racist rights.

Inevitably, Lynda sought to take her activism full-time, and thus began her decorated career in law. Intending to become a social justice lawyer, Lynda entered Osgoode Hall, where she participated in their intensive program, focusing on land resources and First Nations self-government. She also took part in a co-op placement with Ecojustice Canada, where her love of environmental law was realized. Through spending time with Ecojustice as an articling student, and later as a staff lawyer, Lynda became interested in the developing field of toxic torts. She took her interests to California, where she practiced in toxic tort litigation in San Francisco, working specifically with groundwater contamination issues. 

Throughout law school, Lynda began meditating to manage the stress and anxiety that is all too common in the legal profession. She also invested many years in the study of integrative coaching, which empowered her and showed her that we all contain the strength to evolve and become happier, more effective, loving, and compassionate humans. This practice, like almost anything, requires deliberate focus.

Although becoming happier takes “work”, working towards happiness is easier than living life without joy.

After some time, Lynda began to think about how she could personally effect change by preventing environmental harms before they ever occur, and this is what eventually lead her to academia. The University of Ottawa has one of the best environmental law groups in the country, where Lynda designs more effective systems for environmental protection and conducts research, which continues to highlight environmental torts. The University encourages faculty to continue to engage in the legal field; doing pro bono work and working with NGOs, in policy, or media. Lynda values the freedom and opportunity to craft her job, reimagining her career from year to year. As a full-time law professor, she enjoys the stability and freedom that academia affords her, all the while actively participating in her community of progressive faculty members who have  become some of her closest friends and family. 

During her time practicing, Lynda noticed that lawyers who were able to complete a high volume of work in a short time were compared to "machines” as a compliment. She takes that notion and ensures that her students understand that well-being is the foundation of success and not the other way around. Once she discovered the large, and growing, body of evidence surrounding the well-being of lawyers, students became more receptive to her advice. Thus, the idea for the course, Happiness and the Law was born. With the goal of creating a robust and effective course for first-year and upper-year students, Professor Collins thoughtfully crafted her curriculum to provide value in her teachings. Lynda continues to be excited and optimistic about the support that the course receives, with enormous student interest, and often a lengthy waitlist. Lynda would love to be able to provide some sort of intensive course in well-being and happiness to all students in the faculty and continues to advocate for the well-being of lawyers and students alike.

Outside of her work, Lynda finds joy in the many little things that most people may take for granted.

Her son was born with a form of Cerebral Palsy, and she advocates for him zealously. She enjoys being a mother, playing music with her son, and spending time outdoors, when the Ottawa weather permits. Lynda and her “co-mamma” are true groundbreakers, as the first partnership of a non-conjugal relationship in Canada to become legal parents to their son. Her outlook on life is overwhelmingly positive. She is endlessly grateful for the educational support that her son receives at school and finds hope in the overall positive evolution globally of extreme poverty and armed conflict in recent decades. Lynda also seeks joy in the pages of books like “The Optimistic Environmentalist” by David Boyd, and “The Rational Optimist” by Matt Ridley. 

Professor Lynda Collins has realized her potential as a social justice activist as she continues to advocate for her son, her students, and herself. She hopes to demonstrate to her students that they can not get it wrong.

There are infinite do-overs.

As  tempting as it is to be critical of every decision you  make, especially in the early years of your legal career, there is always something else out there to discover if you are not enjoying what you are doing.

Not Your Average Support – Any Amount