A desire to prove she was capable drove Leena Yousefi into law.
“I was kicked out of university and I just wanted to show everybody that I wasn’t who they thought I was,” explained the CEO of YLaw Group.
Born in Iran, Yousefi was a child of the Persian Gulf War. It was a childhood characterized by bombs exploding in her neighbourhood, violence and trauma.
When she immigrated to Canada at 13, the transition wasn’t without challenges.
“That was also very difficult,” Yousefi explained. “I had lost my home and my friends, and I was in a completely different culture.”
The transition took a toll. In her second year at the University of Victoria (UVic), she suffered from depression and experienced a complete loss of identity.
Her academic performance nosedived. Her family thought she was a lost cause. She was kicked out of school.
“One morning I woke up and I basically said, ‘I can take this pain and turn it into something really good, or I can let it turn me into something really bad,’” she said.
That morning, she said, she packed her bags and returned to UVic. She graduated with distinction and a degree in social justice. Four years later, she attained her law degree.
Before founding her firm, Yousefi spent several years earning a practical education in the way firms worked – or didn’t work.
“I broke out because, quite frankly, I couldn’t wait to break out. It was this golden opportunity.”
Yousefi founded YLaw in 2013 on a foundation of modern business practices and a give-before-take ethos to client relations. YLaw has grown more than 500% over the past five years and plans to open a third office in 2020. Yousefi has also been named one of the top 25 most influential lawyers in Canada and B.C.’s top family lawyer for 2018.
“I get insane gratification from doing this job,” she said. “I can make things worse or I can make things better, and my goal is always to make things better.”
Birthplace: Tehran, Iran
Where you live now: Vancouver
Highest level of education: Juris doctor
Currently reading: The Baby Book by William Sears
Currently listening to: “Boogie Street” by Leonard Cohen
When you were a kid, what you wanted to be when you grew up: Astronaut
Profession you would most like to try: Marketing professional
Toughest business or professional decision: Who to hire or fire
Advice you would give the younger you: Be kinder to yourself
What’s left to do: So much. Suffice to say, the sky is my limit
Join us to celebrate the 2019 Forty under 40 Awards on January 30, 2020, at the Westin Bayshore. For tickets and event information visit https://www.biv.com/forty-under-40