Elizabeth Mah

Forty under 40 winner 2018; Founder and lawyer, Paperclip Law Corp., Age 39

Chung Chow photo

After completing her commerce degree, Elizabeth Mah changed her mind about the career she was set to embark on. She decided to apply to law school instead.

“I got in, and just kept going,” said the founder of Paperclip Law Corp. “It’s fun now.”

After graduating from the University of Saskatchewan and completing her articles, Mah spent several months working at the Fairmont Hotel Vancouver as a catering department co-ordinator and business centre manager.

“I realized that business is definitely my first love, and law school kind of came in just to round out knowledge,” Mah explained. 

At the Fairmont, she gained a deep appreciation for the delivery of luxurious service. That carried through to her time as an associate – and later as a partner at the age of 31 – at North Shore Law. 

“It’s not as common for lawyers to think of customer service and the client experience – at all,” said Mah, who felt she didn’t fit in to the traditional legal model, and that the industry overall lacked creativity.

So she resigned as partner and left the firm in December 2010, and started Paperclip the following month – “the hardest work I’ve ever put into anything,” said Mah, who spent a lot of time building processes from scratch. 

At the time, her ideas – rethinking the customer service experience and demystifying legal processes for clients – were fresh and uncommon in the legal sphere.

Over the last seven years, Mah had two daughters and took her company from startup to a team of 13. That growth has come with some challenges, too, as the company’s values have shifted, and Mah has had to consider how robotics and automation will shape the delivery of legal services.

“The last year has also been super hard. It was sort of a bit of a restart, rebrand and reteam,” said Mah.  

But she’s looking forward to the next phase. 

“The one thing that robots can never replace is the connection and empathy for somebody, and that we’re sitting on their side with them,” said Mah. “We’re focusing on leading with hearts and not documents.”

Birthplace: Vancouver

Where you live now: North Vancouver

Highest level of education: Bachelor’s degrees in business and law

Currently reading: Rest, Play, Grow: Making Sense of Preschoolers (Or Anyone Who Acts Like One) by Deborah MacNamara; Dare to Lead: Brave Work. Tough Conversations. Whole Hearts by Brené Brown; The Go-Giver: A Little Story about What Matters Most in Business by Bob Burg and John D. Mann

Currently listening to: “Have It All” by Jason Mraz; in between “It’s a Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood” by Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood

When you were a kid, what you wanted to be when you grew up: Mom and grocery store cashier (at the same time)

Profession you would most like to try: Host of food and travel show/podcast

Toughest business or professional decision: Staying true to my values and not budging when it comes to vision, while aligning the right people to run our different kind of law firm. It took jumping first, then growing wings on the way, and the steadfast support of loyal believers. For that, I’m truly grateful. My team is truly extraordinary

Advice you would give the younger you: Love yourself. Forgive yourself. Let go of everyone’s expectations of you. Just be the future you dream of, one little thing at a time

What’s left to do: Focusing creative energy and engaging drive of these bold leaders to disrupt and inspire a new vibe of how business will be done in our awesome city


Join us to celebrate the 2018 Forty under 40 Awards January 24, 2019, at the Vancouver Convention Centre. For tickets and event info visit www.biv.com/40-under-40.