There aren’t a lot of women who seek out, and persist in, criminal defence work.
“The harsh reality is that it’s hard to be a woman in criminal law,” said Sarah Leamon, who – as principal of Sarah Leamon Law – is an exception to the rule. She is on call 24-7 and a 12-hour day is a good one, but she can’t imagine practising any other kind of law.
“Nothing else interested me. I didn’t have a Plan B,” she said.
Leamon grew up in Fort McMurray, which was a smaller town at the time.
“I definitely had ambitions to leave Fort McMurray from a very young age, and I did,” she said.
While she dreamed of pursuing fine arts at Emily Carr University, her father gave her the choice of becoming a doctor or a lawyer.
She ruled out medical school – “I’m extremely squeamish,” she said with a laugh – and, after completing political science and women’s studies degrees in five years at the University of Calgary, she left Alberta for law school in Australia.
When she came back to Canada, she completed a master’s degree in women’s studies at the University of British Columbia while preparing to write her law re-entrance exam.
“Everybody that I talked to about it was like, ‘You’re insane,’” recalled Leamon, who completed her degree in a year and began articling a week after she crossed the stage.
Among Leamon’s career highlights is speaking before the House of Commons and Senate about impaired-driving laws.
“I was the most excited person ever and I still am when I think about it,” said Leamon. “It was just so cool to get to go there and be like, ‘Holy crap, everyone’s listening to me.’”
She also founded the Women’s Association of Criminal Lawyers British Columbia and serves as board chair for PACE Society, which offers support services to marginalized populations in the Downtown Eastside.
“Finding those little places where you can kind of use your position of privilege in order to further community interests and causes that you’re passionate about, I think that’s one of the most important things that I’ve been able to do as a lawyer.”
Birthplace: Fort McMurray, Alberta
Where you live now: Vancouver
Highest level of education: Juris doctor from Bond University in September 2008; master of arts from the University of British Columbia in May 2010
Currently reading: Living in the End Times by Slavoj Zizek
Currently listening to: Blue & Lonesome by the Rolling Stones
When you were a kid, what you wanted to be when you grew up: I wanted to be both a veterinarian and the Queen of England – simultaneously
Profession you would most like to try: Politics
Toughest business or professional decision: Your business is only as strong as your team, and so sometimes the toughest business decisions have to do with the people that you decide to build it around
Advice you would give the younger you: Trust in yourself. You can do it, and you will do it
What’s left to do: There is so much left to do. As a business owner, I am always thinking of new and innovative ways to keep my business thriving, while ensuring that my clients continue to receive the very best representation possible. As a lawyer, each day is a new day as I work in the best interests of my clients and in challenging laws that I perceive to be unjust or inconsistent with a fair and democratic society. And as a feminist, the gender wage gap is most definitely on my radar
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.