Steve Parr & Ty Dergousoff

Steve Parr* & Ty Dergousoff

Lawyers are great chameleons and the stress of each change is worth the eventual result.

Steve Parr bailed on law after articling, and Ty Dergousoff bailed in the middle of it. Both eventually came back to law and met not long after Steve founded his firm, Parr Business Law, where Ty now works. Their paths to law are similar in many ways, but their attitudes about their work is the most significant connection. 

Law school is a big commitment, and one that Ty and Steve both stumbled into. 

As his graduation from business school approached, Ty still did not know what he wanted to do career-wise. He never dreamt of being a lawyer as a kid, but at his brother’s encouragement, wrote the LSAT. After Steve graduated with a degree in women studies, he worked as a cook while he figured out what to do next. With good grades, he applied to law school. Ty articled at a small firm, and while the experience was not terrible or grueling by any means, his articling term was focused largely on litigation, and he simply wasn’t passionate about the practice. He ultimately left before finishing his articling term. Steve completed his articles, though he did so unhappily. He got called to the bar and immediately moved to non-practicing status. 

After bailing on law, Steve managed vacation rentals for a couple of years. When his business became unfulfilling, he pulled his law degree out of his back pocket and gave solo practice a shot. There are a lot of things about his practice that are not unique because there are standards tied to Parr Business Law’s practice areas, like wills and probate, incorporations and contracts. But building a firm from the ground up gave Steve the opportunity to create a business that is unique in how its team relates to each other and their clients.

Ty worked in apparel for some time after leaving articles, but he really missed the intellectual stimulation that he got from law. Although litigation was definitely not for him, “what if” thoughts about solicitor work persisted. He got in touch with his previous articling principal who was kind enough to let him finish his term and incorporate more solicitor work. After getting called to the bar, Ty continued to work at the firm while looking for a full-time solicitor job elsewhere. He Google searched for lawyers in the Vancouver area  and found Parr Business Law. After doing some research, he thought he and Steve might have some things in common, so he reached out to Steve for an informational interview and kept in touch. Steve was not hiring when they first met, but as soon as he was, the job was Ty’s.

There are occasional fires to put out with any law practice and stress is certainly a big part of the job. 

However, one of the reasons that Steve and Ty love what they do is that they’ve crafted a work environment that helps keep that stress manageable - setting reasonable expectations with clients and with each other, and maintaining a supportive atmosphere play a huge role. Steve’s entrepreneurial journey has taught him that working with people he likes is not a “nice to have”, it’s a must. When he hires, he looks for candidates who will add to the kind, down to earth, unhurried and client-friendly environment. Steve has also learned the value in having boundaries with clients. A lot of firms have a “client first” approach, which means their employees come second, even though it is a lot harder to find a good employee than a good client. 

Ultimately, the complexity and excitement of law is what drew both Steve and Ty back to it. They both find fun in a challenge, especially when their other needs—like rest and play—are fulfilled. Flexibility helps, too. Ty’s workspace on any given day might be a coffee shop, his home, or Parr Business Law’s office space. Given the demanding nature of law, he’s not a big believer in work-life balance when it comes to the profession - that is, if you aren’t finding enjoyment in your work hours, there isn’t going to be a lot of time left over to make up for it. So, he often works six or seven days a week with shorter work hours to enjoy life every day instead of cramming his personal life in on weekends. Steve’s adjustable schedule looks similar to Ty’s, although he tends to travel more. He has run his practice during a long visit to Mexico, but a string of days totally off from work are hard to come by. When he is at home in Vancouver, he might go skiing on a Wednesday and work the Saturday instead.

Experience has taught Steve and Ty that their perspectives about law might continue to change. 

They are not committed to lawyering, or doing anything, if it stops being fun and interesting. For now, though, they are both content with their work. Ty feels like quitting law once gave him the assurance that he is doing it now because he wants to. Steve shares that perspective. He and Ty are free agents and stay because they’re enjoying it, not because of a shortage of options. 

Steve and Ty are also highly aware of the pervasive mental health problems in the legal profession, and how a sea full of unhappy lawyers can drag others in. Steve’s advice for finding a happy career, in part, is to spend time with happy lawyers because their energy will rub off on you. Don’t accept an unhappy career. Instead, keep trying things until you find what is right for you. You can also talk to a therapist or your friends in and out of law, join a supportive community like the BC Small Firm or Solo Practitioner Society, learn a new practice area, take a vacation, or even quit law and try something else for a while. 

The ability to quit is a privilege and Ty realizes his luck in having been in the position to do so. Our time outside of work is limited, so Ty’s advice for finding a happy career is to be intentional with your next steps. Thinking big picture can be overwhelming and often leads to putting things off. Setting small goals along the way is far less intimidating. The odds of you achieving your goals will be higher if you enjoy the journey, even if it takes a while. Finally, Ty is a believer in the power of job searching outside of  formal processes. He has found his best jobs by asking organizations for informational interviews, whether they were hiring or not, and following up to the point where you are just short of annoying.

Change is stressful, and Steve and Ty do not want to downplay that fact, or the fact that becoming a lawyer is expensive and challenging, and a career that shouldn’t be abandoned on a whim. They are happy where they are now, but their journeys were still hard. Asking yourself existential questions is normal, but try not to doubt the possibility of reinventing yourself in a new career. Lawyers are great chameleons and the stress of each change is worth the eventual result.