Stephanie Leong is a business lawyer who has found happiness and a sense of fulfilment in her career.
What is her secret? It is two-fold: (1) Stephanie stays true to herself and never lets her career take over her life, and (2) she has found a firm that is the right “fit” for her.
Stephanie’s decision to enter the legal profession was gradual. Since youth she had always preferred arts-based courses over STEM-related ones. Thus, after graduating high school, she pursued an undergraduate degree in History at the University of Northern British Columbia (UNBC) in Prince George, BC, a small city where she has lived for most of her life.
It was not until Stephanie’s third year of undergraduate studies that she started to reconsider her career options. While she enjoyed studying history, practically speaking she knew there were not many employment opportunities in the field. After evaluating her personal goals, she determined that she wanted to be a working professional with financial security and the ability to set her own hours. She soon narrowed her options down to the legal profession after speaking to her friends who were writing the LSAT at the time, as well as her family friends who are lawyers.
Stephanie completed her Juris Doctor Degree at Thompson Rivers University Faculty of Law in Kamloops, BC in 2016 and was called to the bar in 2017. Upon graduation, she worked as an Associate Lawyer at HSJ Lawyers LLP in Prince George for three years. Stephanie loved working at the firm as it was a great learning environment. However, she knew she did not want to live in Prince George forever and wanted to venture out into a different city. She thus decided to move to Kamloops, a key determinant being the size of the city – Kamloops is roughly the same size as Prince George, which makes her feel more at home.
Fast-forward to today, Stephanie is happily working at Fulton, one of the largest full-service law firms in the interior, serving clients throughout BC. As a business lawyer, an average day for Stephanie consists of meeting with clients for signing appointments, drafting purchase agreements and real estate documents, and helping partners on files alongside other lawyers. Other days, she is out in the local community attending events and supporting local initiatives.
As mentioned earlier, one of Stephanie’s keys to fulfilment in her job is the fact that she found a firm that was the right “fit” for her.
Stephanie emphasizes the significance of this: “it’s important as a lawyer that you enjoy the place you work because the job can be really hard. If you work with good people and you like the office you’re working in, it makes it a little bit easier”.
To Stephanie, one of the many attractive qualities about working at Fulton is the significant number of female lawyers and partners at the firm. Over 50% of Fulton’s lawyers are female and they all come from different walks of life. “Women naturally face challenges in the legal practice that men do not, so it’s really important for me to have female mentors around that I can learn from and grow”, Stephanie says. She also enjoys the firm’s collaborative approach, availability of support, flexible and predictable work hours, and excellent work culture where her colleagues feel like family.
Some advice Stephanie has for prospective and current lawyers is to stay true to yourself and to resist succumbing to external pressures such as the infamous “hustle culture”.
Remember that being a lawyer is just your job – it may be a very important job, but it is not your whole identity.
Stephanie finds that law students and junior lawyers especially, often centre their identities around being a lawyer. They set very high expectations for themselves in their careers, only to end up feeling disappointed when their lives do not end up being as glamorous or fulfilling as they expected. Instead of falling into this trap, Stephanie stays true to her identity as sister, friend, wife to her husband Graeme, and dog mother to Morris, her Australian Shepherd. While she truly enjoys her job as a lawyer, it is just one part of her life and it does not define who she is as a person.
Lastly, Stephanie encourages lawyers to be mindful about how many hours you have in a day and to use your time wisely. If you feel like you simply cannot be productive, take a break to recharge your battery. The key to not burning out is to create a balance for yourself, even if it is difficult. It is important to do things outside of law that you enjoy, such as cooking or spending time with loved ones (as she likes to do). Also, make some time for self-care – anything you can do to benefit yourself, really – be it exercising or eating healthy. These activities may not be the most enjoyable things to do, but they are certainly good for you and will help you lead a more satisfied, fulfilling life in the legal profession.