Sarnia-based lawyer Pascale Daigneault will take over the helm at the Ontario Bar Association next week, beginning her one-year stint as president.
Raised in Montreal, Daigneault began her law career practicing insolvency law at the large Edmonton firm Duncan & Craig before moving to become the managing director of Fleck Law, a smaller firm based out of Point Edwards in the Sarnia area.
Daigneault told QP Briefing Friday the lack of women in leadership roles first prompted her to run for an elected position with the OBA.
"We often read about a glass ceiling for women in positions of leadership, and I thought if we want to elect women, women have to run. If you don't have female candidates you're not going to elect any," she said.
"Since I was in a position in my career where I thought I could do this - because it is a huge time commitment - I thought I can do it, and if they choose me ... perhaps I can inspire other women to run as well."
Daigneault believes vastly different experiences with Duncan & Craig and Fleck Law leave her well positioned to relate to most of the OBA's members.
"I've done work in very narrow, specialized areas of law in a large firm and I've had a general practice in a small firm where I had to be the webmaster, human resources person and the accountant at times," she said.
Current OBA president Morris Chocla will serve out the remainder of his one-year term before Daigneault assumes command Aug. 15.
The bar association rotates between Toronto-based leaders and those based outside the city, so for Daigneault, one of the largest challenges she faces will be leading an organization more than three hours away by car. And without routine flights or adequate public transit options between Sarnia and Toronto, the long drive is the only option.
From an organizational perspective, keeping the pressure up on the government to improve access to justice options is their number one priority, according to Daigneault, along with two newer initiatives.
"Right now pension and securities reform are areas where we've made submissions and we're hoping to see some movement on the advice we've given," she said.
Orlando Da Silva, counsel in the Crown Law Office of the Ontario ministry of the attorney general, is also set to become first vice-president and will become president in 2014.
Brampton lawyer Edwin Upenieks, a partner at Lawrence, Lawrence, Stevenson LLP, was also elected second vice-president on July 11 and will become first vice president in 2014 and OBA president in 2015.