Neha Chugh

Neha Chugh

Carving out her own space to be creative and happy in law

Neha’s best advice for new lawyers? Don’t follow anyone’s advice. 

When you start listening to your instincts and following your gut, you begin to flourish and thrive in a practice that is true to yourself.

After completing her JD at Osgoode, on her last day of articles, Neha gave birth to her first child. From there on, her world went from hectic to even more hectic. Following her articles, Neha moved to Ottawa where her husband completed his postdoc. With a mountain of student debt, Neha knew she needed to find a job fast. She presented herself at  an interview 9 months pregnant, but that did not stop her from getting hired at Dotsikas Hawtin LLP as a criminal lawyer. Two years and another baby later, Neha’s husband had the option to work at the University of Manitoba or Concordia. Either way they were moving, and the family decided to move further east to follow Neha's spouse to Concordia University.   

Neha’s journey to her dream job started here. Neha commutes every day across provincial borders to Cornwall, Ontario where she has established Chugh Law. Having grown up in Guelph with an interest in law, she always assumed she would end up in a power suit working in Toronto. Her reality is far from it, but she wouldn't change a thing. 

As a woman of colour practicing in a small town, Neha encountered many hurdles starting out as a solo practitioner in criminal law. When seeking advice for senior lawyers in Cornwall, she always received feedback along the lines of “you should behave like this” and to “not be so passionate and hungry for work.” She only became successful in her practice when she stopped looking for advice and followed her gut. 

Having followed her instinct and created strong relationships, Neha carved out her own space in the legal profession where she is comfortable to be creative and voice her opinion. 

Having a small town practice means Nehacan be creative and tailor her firm to her preferences. Her firm exemplifies her values and deep commitment to the community. Neha serves as the prosecutor in the Akwesasne Court, assists with provincial offence prosecutions with the City of Cornwall, and is an instructor at Iohahi:io Akwesasne Education & Training Institute. Neha was able to hand-pick the lawyers she works with to ensure their values align with hers. As a result, their workplace is an inclusive space with a diversity of linguistic, educational, racial and ethic backgrounds. 

Neha makes a conscious effort to be a role model for other women of colour in the community. After ten years working as a criminal lawyer, Neha still deals with microaggressions such as being constantly challenged by lawyers and courts for ability. She recommends anyone with an interest in her practice area to have grit and thick skin. 

If you prepare yourself for the hard days, the good days make them worthwhile.

In addition to her firm, Neha’s out of the box side hustle has added another dimension of fun, creativity and community building toher career in law. Alongside her best friend Anne Marie, Neha created Solo Queens where lawyers with solo practices can find mentorship and support.

The idea for Solo Queens began with a tweet. In her practice, Neha got the impression that many lawyers were struggling with legal aid billing. She threw her thoughts into the twitterverse asking the online community if this is a common challenge. The response was overwhelming and led to her and Anne Marie hosting a free webinar online to explain the billing process. When they realized the need for support and direction regarding practice management, the two launched Solo Queens. 

Most recently, Neha’s love for reading and learning has led her to start her PhD. Outside of Chugh Law and Solo Queens, Neha makes time for her family, for her role on the Board of Directors for the York Centre in Cornwall, and connectionsher squad of local moms. Although juggling all these responsibilities may sound overwhelming, Neha chooses to spend time on things that make her happy which contribute to her wellbeing. 

She emphasizes the importance of making friends who are not lawyers. Neha enjoys belonging to an environment that does not carry the same weight as her work. She talks about the Bachelor, shoes, being a mom and most of all realizing that we are all human. 

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