Author: Danica Doucette-Preville

2017 WILL Awards

On November 9, 2017, the 7th Annual Women in Law Leadership (WILL) Awards were held at the Westin Hotel in Calgary. The WILL Awards are presented annually to women lawyers in recognition of their outstanding dedication, creativity, initiative, achievement, and contribution to the community, profession, legal scholarship, and pro bono activities.

The sold-out Awards Dinner saw almost 400 members of the legal community gathered to honour the recipients. Everyone in attendance enjoyed a wonderful evening as families, friends, and colleagues gathered to celebrate the careers and contributions of the honourees.

The Honourable Patricia Rowbotham delivered the keynote address and was presented with the 2017 Lifetime Achievement Award.

  • Leadership in the Profession (Private Practice) – Sandra Corbett, Q.C.
  • Leadership in the Profession (Private Practice) – Patricia P. Sealy
  • Leadership in the Profession (In-House) – Michelle Plouffe
  • Leadership in the Profession (Government) – Shaina Leonard
  • Leadership in the Profession (Broader Roles) – Kathleen A. Ryan, Q.C.
  • Leadership in the Community – Sarah King-D’Souza, Q.C.
  • Tomorrow’s Leader – Kara Levis
  • Law Firm Award – Dunphy Best Blocksom LLP

The WILL Awards were co-founded by The Counsel Network and the Association of Women Lawyers in 2011. Follow us on FacebookLinkedInTwitter and Instagram to stay current on everything WILL Awards. Visit us at

Fall 2017 Networking Night

On September 26, 2017, we had a really big crowd for Networking Night!  About 80 ladies came to drink good wine, eat great appetizers and mingle with one another at the beautiful Belvedere Restaurant.

Sadly, this was our last Networking Night at the Belvedere, as it has closed. They will be missed.  Stay tuned for our next Networking Night notice, and we will let you know where our new get together location will be!  In the meantime, stay warm!



2017 AWL Golf Tournament

Once again, the 2017 annual AWL Golf Tournament was a great success.

With over 90 golfers, this year was made extra special thanks to the amazing weather and total solar eclipse that could be seen in the hours leading up to tee-off. Many keen golfers arrived early to take in the stellar view from the beautiful Carnmoney Golf & Country Club.

The top team came off the green with a score of 65. But the competition was stiff, with only 10 points separating the top place team from the 6 that came behind it.

First place team: Heather Bonnycastle, Jocey Bonnycastle, Katrina Bonnycastle and Lana Lien (not all pictured above)

Second place team: Sonja Savage, Valeri Shibley, Shirley Last and Lesley Cooney Burk

Third place team: Brynna Hambley and Patricia Olyslager

A tremendous thank you goes out to all of the AWL sponsors; without your generous contributions we could not have pulled of such a successful tournament. Thank you also to all the golfers who bought raffle tickets and mulligans. We look forward to making our donation to Pro Bono Law Alberta.

And of course, a big congratulations to this year’s top seven teams as well as our “most honest team”.

Most honest team award: Zao Han, Charlotte Stokes, Cassandra Sutter and Gabbi Maurier

2017 Spring Celebration

The AWL’s annual Spring Celebration presents a unique opportunity to bring together new members of the Law Society of Alberta, the AWL community and members of the judiciary to recognize and celebrate this important rite of passage in a lawyer’s life. All new female 2016 calls are invited to attend and are individually recognized and celebrated as they pass from articling students to lawyers.

Minister Ganley with the new calls to the bar.

On May 12, 2017, the AWL had the pleasure of welcoming the Honourable Kathleen Ganley, Minister of Justice and Solicitor General, as the guest of honour.

Minister Ganley delivering her keynote remarks.

Minister Ganley spoke both of her experiences as a junior lawyer, sharing anecdotes of her time at the beginning of her career as well as her experience in her current role as the Province’s most senior lawyer.

The AWL wishes to thank all of its members who took time out of their busy schedules to attend, as well as the volunteers who made this event a success.

Thanks are also extended to Gowling WLG LLP for graciously providing the space for hosting the event and sponsoring all of the catering.

It was a packed house for the AWL’s 2017 Spring Celebration.


Lunch & Learn: Bencher Elections

By: Roxanne Davis

On May 24, AWL held a Lunch and Learn focused on promoting the upcoming Bencher elections to women who might consider running to become a bencher or supporting other women who stand for election.  AWL is coordinating its efforts in this regard with the Canadian Bar Association’s Women Lawyers’ Forum (WLF) group in Edmonton.

There are a number of interesting issues and challenges facing the Law Society over the next 3 years including innovation in legal services, access to justice, entity regulation, alternative business structures, and review of the articling program. AWL’s mission is to promote the advancement, equality, interests and well-being of women in the legal profession. We believe that having a diverse group of Benchers will greatly advance that mission. Only 39% of eligible Law Society members voted in the last Bencher elections. We need to work to improve that figure in the 2017 elections.

Bencher elections are held every 3 years. There are 20 elected lawyer Benchers and 4 appointed lay Benchers. The President-Elect is automatically elected, leaving 19 Benchers to be chosen by election. Nomination forms will be available from the Law Society beginning on August 15, 2017 and must be submitted by September 15. The election period runs from October 16 through November 15.

Earlier in May, Law Society Bencher Darlene Scott, Q.C. and the Honourable Judge Julie Lloyd (a former Bencher) spoke to the WLF at a lunch in Edmonton. The Honourable Madam Justice Gillian Marriott (formerly President-Elect of the Law Society) spoke at AWL’s Lunch and Learn. The following is compiled from Justice Marriott’s and Darlene Scott, QC’s notes and is used with their permission.

The Law Society’s mission is to serve the public interest by promoting a high standard of legal services and professional conduct through the governance and regulation of an independent legal profession and upholding the rule of law. Benchers must be vigilant in ensuring they are acting in the public interest, which is not necessarily the same as acting in the interest of lawyers. The Law Society has approved a strategic plan for 2017-2019 which is available on its website. Anyone considering running in the Bencher elections should review it.

Current Benchers come from a variety of legal backgrounds (large and small firms, government, in-house, and not-for-profits). Because it requires a significant time commitment (a minimum of 600-700 hours per year), and frequent travel across the province, prospective candidates should seriously consider whether they have the necessary support from their firm or employer and from their family to allow them to make this commitment to the Law Society.  Sole practitioners or those in small firms may find they will need to reduce their case-loads, which is likely to reduce their income. It is hoped that the introduction of non-Bencher adjudicators will significantly reduce the time Benchers sit on hearings.  It is, however, too early to assess their impact as they were only introduced in 2016-2017. 

Most of the work done by Benchers can be divided into 2 categories – the adjudicative function and the governance function. Traditionally, the adjudicative function consumes more time but Benchers have different interests, strengths and experience which will influence which function they devote more of their time to.

Many lawyers tend to view the Law Society in a negative light because of its role in disciplining lawyers. Are there any lawyers out there whose heart doesn’t jump into their throat for a split second when they see an envelope from the Law Society? That was Justice Marriott’s initial experience. Her thinking changed when she served on the CBA executive and in that capacity was able to attend Law Society meetings and served on Law Society committees. Those experiences led to her decision to run in the 2011 Bencher elections. Because of Justice Marriott’s background in litigation, she expected to be more interested in the adjudicative function but found herself enjoying the governance function.

There are a number of ways of campaigning for Bencher elections. Some are elected through name recognition as a result of other roles, or through the support of large firms. Others send letters or emails to lawyers across the province. It helps to have a history of being involved in a number of aspects of the legal profession and to have demonstrated that you can be counted on to be prepared, work hard and get things done. Before the voting period starts, it is important to let all the lawyers in your network know you are running and ask them to pass on your name to their own networks.   

Serving as a Bencher is described by most Benchers as one of the most rewarding experiences of their careers.  Benchers work with intelligent, committed individuals, with diverse backgrounds and interests, who are tasked with addressing interesting and challenging issues facing the profession.  Being a Bencher is an opportunity to give back to, and help shape, the profession.

If you decide not to run for Bencher elections this time, we encourage you to read the profiles of those who are running, seriously consider which candidates will be devoted to the role and do a good job, and vote accordingly.

AWL thanks Bennett Jones LLP for hosting the Lunch and Learn.

AWL YWL Brunch: Joining a Board

By: Noren Hirani and Jackie Johnson

The Young Women Lawyers (YWL) hosted their third successful event of 2017 on Sunday, June 11. Just over 30 female lawyers under a 5-year call gathered at Q-Haute cuisine for brunch and a panel discussion entitled “So you want to be on Board”.

YWL attendees conversing over coffee before the panel discussion.


Panelists Diane Petite, Q.C., former President of the AWL and board member of ATB Financial, Tina Antony, board member of the Calgary Opera, Janet Soles, executive recruiter and former board member of the Calgary Petroleum Club, and Melanie Pituch, Famous 5 Foundation board member, shared their insights and personal experiences about serving on for-profit and philanthropic boards. Tina Antony shared some of her research on women serving on public Boards in Calgary and led a frank discussion on the lack of diversity on boards in our city.

Attendees were urged to pursue opportunities to serve on a board early on in their careers. Panelist also addressed educational courses and programs that can prepare new entrants for a board position.

YWL is considering a follow-up event on board governance sometime in 2018.

Panelists pictures with AWL board members: Danica Doucette-Preville, Diane Pettie, Q.C., Tina Antony, Noren Hirani, Janet Soles, Melanie Pituch, and Jackie Johnson.


Thanks are extended to Cayley Rauw for the photos.


2017 Spring Newsletter

Our 2017 Spring Newsletter went out to all of our members on April 10, 2017. It included upcoming events notices and invitations for our members to join the AWL’s committees.

If you’d like more information, check it out here.