The Women’s Legal Mentorship Program (WLMP) profiles its mentors and mentees in our monthly spotlights. Whether they are connected through a WLMP University Chapter mentoring program or the online WLMP Mentoring Community, we shine a light on our mentors, mentees and WLMP alumni.
This month, we’re spotlighting Kristianne Anor and Ashvi Shah, who were paired through the WLMP’s University Chapter Program at the University of Ottawa, Faculty of Law in the English Common Law Program.
Currently, Kristianne Anor is completing her articles at a criminal defense firm in Toronto and Ashvi Shah is working on her law degree at the University of Ottawa, Faculty of Law in the English Common Law Program and participates through the WLMP uOttawa Chapter.
Both Kristianne and Ashvi took the time to answer a few questions about going to law school, mentorship and life post law school.
WLMP: Thank you for taking the time to be interviewed. First, tell us a little about yourselves. When and why did each of you decide to go to law school?
Ashvi Shah (A.S.): I grew up in the Greater Toronto Area (GTA), and I did my undergrad at the University of Toronto (U of T).
I was trying to figure out what to do with my Bachelor’s in International Relations and Criminology when I decided to try for law school – it was the one choice that opened up more options for me.
I decided to come to Ottawa because it was just far enough from home to have some independence, but just close enough that I didn’t get too homesick. Although I still miss Toronto, I’ve really enjoyed Ottawa and law school so far!
Kristianne Anor (K.A.): I really love puzzles. When I was younger, my parents would sit with me and watch me put together my Lion King puzzle. At first, they would watch me try and unsuccessfully piece together the first two pieces I could grab, put aside one of the pieces and try again, and again, and again.
After a generous number of unsuccessful attempts, my parents made me put all the pieces back in the box, shake it, and then dump it all out on to our kitchen table. They would then help me flip over each puzzle piece so that they would all be upward facing and explain, “that way you can see everything you’re working with”.
All my life, everything I did academically and professionally, was geared towards completing the puzzle of medicine. I wanted to be a pediatrician. For so many years, I struggled to piece together my academic interests with my professional goals, forcing them to fit together in a way that would just not coalesce. It just didn’t fit. And I couldn’t understand why.
Until a few years ago. I spent the better part of my life working at a medical office in the Jane and Finch area. I regularly helped and cared for people who experience society from a position of struggle.
My MA research was conceptualized from and developed through my experience at the clinic. Refugee health and health policy (which was the premise of my graduate work in anthropology) proved to be two things that I was passionate about. Working on my thesis demonstrated that if I genuinely wanted to continue helping racialized and vulnerable populations, then I needed a career where I could make the kind of lasting difference that didn’t involve treating colds and fevers.
I wanted to help these marginalized populations navigate their way through society from a position of strength, rather than struggle by advocating for their rights, eliminating boundaries to equality and fairness, and by making legal knowledge more accessible to those that needed it the most.
So, in 2016, when I began writing my MA thesis and through that writing process, I was forced to confront the pieces of my life that I had always assumed would come together through force and time.
Confronting these pieces of myself meant putting all of my academic interests, professional goals, potential career paths, strengths, weaknesses, and ideas into a box, shaking it up, and dumping it all into my thesis and through the process of writing, I somehow positioned myself in a unique set of circumstances that flipped each of these pieces right-side up; I was finally able to clearly see everything that I was working with and my interests and passions became crystal clear. The reason these pieces never fit was because they were in the wrong box; I didn’t want to become a doctor at all. I was meant to become a lawyer and legal academic.
My parents were and are wonderful teachers. Little do they know the simple guidance they provided me back when I was younger, would eventually stick with me, and guide me in how I approach all of the weird and nebulous puzzles I’ve encountered in life and will continue to encounter as I continue to grow as a person.
WLMP: What area of law are you both hoping to practice in?
A.S. : I haven’t settled on one area for sure yet, but as of now, I’m thinking of practicing in immigration law. Law school really opened my eyes to all the fascinating areas of law, and I really enjoy learning about international law, family law, human rights law, criminal law, and employment law.
K.A. : Honestly, all of the areas of law!! Throughout law school, I aimed to balance all of my interests in public law and tech law. I came to law school knowing I had a particular interest in immigration/refugee and health law and a strong interest in criminal law. During law school, I was fortunate enough to have caught the attention of a few amazing professors who introduced me to the world of tech and IP law. I ended up graduating with a dual option in public law and tech law.
Currently, I am completing my articles at a prominent criminal defence firm in Toronto and am hoping to find a way to merge all of my interests once I begin practicing and/or return to academia!
WLMP: When and why did you sign up for the WLMP Mentorship program?
A.S. : I grew up in the GTA, and so moving to Ottawa meant figuring out a whole new city, making friends, and navigating the first year of law school all at once, and so the idea of having another older female student who has just been through it all to help me was very appealing.
K.A. : I signed up for the WLMP Mentorship program in the second year of law school (2L). I was fortunate enough to have gained an unofficial mentor (and lifelong friend) in my 1L year through the Canadian Association of Refugee Lawyers (CARL) – uOttawa Chapter who showed me there is not just one way to do law school. Because of her influence and mentorship, I approached law school the way that felt most natural to me and that involved looking for new avenues and new opportunities to further my interests and expand upon them in ways that connected to one another.
Practically, that meant taking courses and seeking out experiences where I could think critically and write about the law, technology, and society that applied the skills I gained as an anthropologist. Because my mentor encouraged me to study what I wanted and to just be myself, I wanted to be able to give back and mentor a 1L to let them know that it’s okay to be different and that it’s okay to want to do things your own way. Luckily for me, I was paired with a young woman who was open to receiving the type of mentorship I had to offer and kind of became a mentor to some of her friends too!
WLMP: What were some of the things you did together as part of your WLMP Peer Mentoring?
A.S. : Our mentorship relationship has always involved food! We got together for dinner a lot, and sometimes went to the movies. From as soon as our first meeting, our mentorship went beyond school and career. We talked about everything in life, and Kris became not only a mentor, but also an inspiration and a friend. I remember ordering take out at Kris’s house, where she introduced me to her dogs and a new show, Working Moms, that I later became obsessed with.
K.A. : Ashvi and I didn’t really have a super formal mentor-mentee relationship. We had both been unable to attend WLMP’s “Meet Your Match” event, so we had instead met over dinner and drinks and honestly, she went from mentee to little sister real quick! We would go out for dinner and a movie pretty often (that just seemed to be our thing) and just hang out together watching Netflix, talking about the law, life, and love, and hanging out with my dogs. And like, study, of course.
WLMP: What makes the WLMP mentoring program special for you?
A.S. : I love how the WLMP student mentoring program creates a bond of sisterhood like what I had with Kris. It’s like we’ve all been through the same stuff, and it’s nice to see other women lifting each other up. And honestly, if it weren’t for the WLMP, I wouldn’t have met Kris the way I did, and I don’t know where I’d be without her!
K.A. : The very fact that the WLMP introduced me to Ashvi is what makes this organization so special because I not only gained a mentee, but I also gained a lifelong friend! But real talk, what also makes the WLMP mentoring program special for me is that it exists. Navigating law school when you’re a woman can already be tough; navigating law school when you’re a woman of colour can be tougher!
Having someone that can kind of understand what you’re going through, what you’re experiencing, and what you’re feeling and having someone you can look up to, trust, and rely on for advice or insight is invaluable in law school. And if you can have fun with that person too, well, that’s just a bonus. The WLMP mentorship program provides women with the opportunity to connect with each other to form these kinds of relationships and friendships and that’s what makes it so special for me.
WLMP: What do you look forward to doing after you graduate and are Called to the Bar?
A.S. : I’m really looking forward to articling and learning how to do all the “lawyer things” you might not learn in school, things that just happen with practice. I’m also looking forward to meeting new people, learning more about the career, and paying off my student loans!
K.A. : Now that I’ve graduated, I’m looking forward to learning how to be a lawyer; specifically, I’m looking forward to learning how to be a criminal defence lawyer! I am so excited to work and experience what it’s like to practice beyond the confines of school, while figuring out how to continue balancing my interests in tech and public law in the real world.
I know that I want to practice for a few years before returning to academia, so after being Called to the Bar, I’m really looking forward to seeing what kinds of opportunities open up for me and where my legal career will take me!
WLMP: What advice would you give to incoming first year (1L) law students?
A.S. : Find your people. Law school is such a great experience once you find your people. The people you can rely on, the people with whom you have no fear of judgement, the people who make the experience worth it.
K.A. : My advice to incoming 1L students would be to be yourself. There is no correct way to do law school—take the courses that interest you and surround yourself with people who motivate you, encourage you, and inspire you. For me, the best thing that came from law school were the lifelong friendships I made with some very special people and professors who challenged me, believed in me, and mentored me throughout my 3 years at uOttawa. Also, join WLMP!!
WLMP: What advice would you give your fellow law students who are thinking about becoming a WLMP Mentor?
A.S. : It’s totally worth it! Regardless of how much time or effort you can afford to spend in a mentorship relationship, it will still be worth it to a mentee.
K.A. : Do it!!! You won’t regret it. Mentorship is so important. If it weren’t for the many mentors that took me under their wing during law school, then I know I would not be where I am and who I am today. The program is what you make it and if you’re lucky like I was, you’ll not only gain a mentee, but you’ll also gain another mentor and a little sister!
WLMP: Finally, what is your favourite WLMP Peer Mentoring Circle Memory?
A.S. : Honestly, every memory with Kris is my favourite! Although, I remember in our first meeting, I thought we would only talk about school and careers, but we had such a natural conversation and randomly started talking about our personal lives and joking around, and I knew that Kris would be much more than a mentor. She has always made me feel confident and encouraged me to believe in myself, and she does that every time I see her. I couldn’t have asked for a better mentor!
K.A. : I don’t think I have a favourite WLMP Peer Mentoring Circle Memory…all of the times I shared with Ashvi are tied for first!!
WLMP: Thank you Kristianne and Ashvi for taking the time for this interview.
To learn more about the WLMP, find out how you can get involved or if you’re a self-identifying female law student at uOttawa looking to get matched this Fall, contact us.