FACE Your Career: Almira Esmail - Lawyer

Our goal at FACE BC is to create a feminist network of support, where we can learn from one another and share our triumphs as well as our challenges.

Starting in 2019, we will feature monthly #FACEYourCareer interviews with those who are advancing gender equality, creating meaningful change and advocating for access to justice in their daily work.

As a sneak peak, we are very excited to be speaking today with Almira Esmail, a personal injury lawyer with Preszler Law BC*.

Tell us a little about yourself!

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I graduated from Burnaby Central Secondary School and then attended the University of BC, obtaining a degree in International Relations. Before starting law school at the University of Victoria, I took a year off and traveled through Asia, which was an enriching experience I am glad I had!

After law school I dabbled in a few different legal areas including litigation, criminal prosecution work, administrative law as an arbitrator at a tribunal, and insurance defence work.  In 2010 I decided to focus exclusively on plaintiff-side personal injury (accident victims).

I’m married, and my husband and I have a 3-year old son who is energetic and playful; he keeps us on our toes! We live across the street from Kitsilano Beach and love spending time there. I also enjoy biking, stand-up paddle-boarding, swimming, and attending fitness classes.

What inspired you to become a lawyer?

I always loved the idea of being an advocate, particularly fighting on behalf of the “underdog”.

Being a woman lawyer is tough.  While 52% of lawyers are women, nearly half leave their practice after a few years.   Why do you think this is?

The practice of law doesn’t lend itself to work-life balance - it is a high-pressure environment. It is regrettable that so many women lawyers with considerable talent are leaving their practice. Women litigators face more scrutiny and judgment from opposing counsel, judges, juries and their own clients, than their male counterparts. This is usually not deliberate; rather, it is due to subconscious bias and historical male dominance in this field. Female lawyers simply have to work harder, and usually for less pay, than male lawyers.

Being a lawyer is hard, but being a female lawyer – particularly one of colour – is even harder.

In what ways can the legal profession be more hospitable to women lawyers?    Has your current firm, Preslzer Law, made a commitment to supporting you and other women at the firm?

Now, more than ever before, effort is being made to make the legal profession more hospitable to women lawyers. There is more acknowledgment of the myriad ways in which historical male dominance in this field translates to barriers for women, which is certainly a step in the right direction.

I believe Preszler Law has made a commitment to support me and other women at the firm by offering us remuneration commensurate with our experience and skill (rather than perpetuating the gendered earnings gap), and creating an environment where these issues can be discussed in an open and supportive way.  

Speaking of issues like gender and race, how does Preszler Law strive to help diverse communities, such as women, queer folks, immigrants or people of lower income, feel less intimidated by the legal process?

As a woman of colour, whose parents were immigrants to Canada, I can certainly relate to the trepidation and nervousness that [people from marginalized communities] may be experiencing. I talk to my clients and really take my time, explaining the litigation process in detail and guiding them through each step of their injury claim.  I personally pride myself in providing service to my clients that is “over and above”.

At Preszler Law we provide free consultations which allow people to reach out to us without any risk. Even when we cannot take on their case, we try to provide guidance to point them in a helpful direction.

You spoke earlier of work life balance, which is a form of self care.  Your work involves supporting people have been injured and are negotiating intense trauma.  How do you take care of yourself and decompress from work?

My husband and son help to re-set my perspective at the end of a long day! Spending time with them is what keeps me balanced. I also find that keeping fit is key for me. I’ve been biking to and from the office lately which feels great.

If you would like to be featured or nominate someone for an interview, please email FACEofBC@gmail.com!

*For transparency, we feel it is important to highlight that we have a financial relationship with Preszler Law BC.  They are one of our generous visionary sponsors.

At FACE BC, we do not accept sponsorship from just anyone.  Preszler Law BC proudly demonstrates a commitment to intersectional feminism by intentionally seeking diverse staff, supporting community events and organizations, and applying equitable pay and hiring practices.