Sarah Alasaly, was born in Ottawa and grew up in Vancouver, B.C. After starting her career in the health sector as a registered nurse, she chose to come back to Ottawa to do her JD. She obtained her degree in 2017 and was called to the Ontario Bar in 2017. She was subsequently called to the B.C. Bar in 2018.
We recently had the opportunity to interview this female entrepreneur to learn about what motivated her to start an independent family law firm, Alasaly Law Group, during a pandemic and quickly grow it to a four-person team in Victoria, BC.
Why did you choose to study and work in law?
From a very young age I wanted to be a lawyer. I always loved to watch all the Judge shows on TV; Judge Judy, Judge Joe Brown. I watched them all!
But what really drew me to the practice of law was the ability to help people and make a difference in people’s lives. Looking back, it was this purpose that ultimately drove me to practice in family law and wills and estates.
What made you start your own practice and how does it feel to be an entrepreneur in the legal field?
I always thought I would work in a big firm after graduation. I completed my summer and articles in a big firm, and while I learned so much and had a wonderful experience, it just wasn’t for me.
After much thinking and consulting my mentors, I took the plunge and chose to start my firm. A firm that would reflect my values and that would respect all its members and treat them all as equals.
From the beginning, my firm was based on a “working remotely model”. I actually started it last year, during the pandemic! I am happy to share that we have already grown to be a team of four people; two lawyers, a bookkeeper and a legal assistant. I also made the conscious decision to support women from diverse backgrounds. As an entrepreneur, I strongly believe we have the opportunity to make changes in society. And we did!
Why family law?
I initially studied to be a registered nurse and worked for five years at major hospitals in Vancouver. Ever since I was a child I wanted to be a lawyer, so I eventually got to a point where I could no longer ignore my lifelong desire to study law.
I moved on to law with the intent to work in the health sector. It seemed to be a logical evolution given my background. I believe that it was professors that I met during law school that really had a huge impact on the direction of my career. Dean Dodek, Professor Gruben, and Professor Rockman made lasting impressions on me and taught me so much.
Ethics and family law were both electives. I recommend every student take both of these classes. Dean Dodek taught me the importance of solicitor-client privilege, and gave me the inspiration to write about whether or not a lawyer who seeks spousal advice on ethical issues is a breach of solicitor client privilege. It was one of the most interesting pieces I ever wrote about, and I still think about those same issues to this day.
I also had the privilege of having Professor Malhotra consistently give me advice throughout my entire legal career and to this day.
During law school, I took family law with Professor Rockman and it was an eye-opener! Professor Gruben was my property professor, and Dean Dodek was my ethics professor – all so important for the practice of family law!
But given my background I always thought I had to fit into a box given my professional experience, so I stayed on track with what I thought I wanted, which was to work in the health sector.
Don’t get me wrong – working in the health sector is an amazing and fascinating area of the law! As are most areas of the law. But what it came down to was not being afraid to take chances in order to find out what my true calling is.
What I really love about family law is that you get to help people through a very vulnerable and difficult time in their life. At my firm, we take a holistic approach to the cases and always attempt to resolve matters outside of court and through alternative dispute resolution processes, such as mediation or four-way meetings. Generally speaking, alternative dispute resolution processes are a wonderful way to resolve issues, often leading to the best outcomes. Most importantly, it helps our clients get to a resolution in the most time-efficient and cost-effective way. That said, court is also necessary sometimes, and when it is, we make sure to give it our best!
I also work as a wills and estates lawyer, which is another area I am very passionate about. It’s completely different than family law, but they still go hand in hand. It’s a completely different pace and brings variety to my practice, which is always a good thing!
What advice would you give a soon-to-graduate law student if they want to follow the same career path as you?
Do not let fear hold you back. If there’s something you want, go for it. Find your courage and always follow your intuition!
Is there anything else you would like to highlight?
I will forever be thankful to God, my family and friends who have supported me throughout my journey.
I would also like to emphasize the need for self-care. When I embarked on this new adventure, and especially working in family law and the types of cases I work with on a daily basis, I made the choice to make my well-being a priority. I make time to go horseback riding almost every day. It just gives me so much peace. I get the opportunity to simply be present. No phone, no zoom call, no meetings. It is me, my horse and the nature around us. This really allows me to recharge and give my all to my clients and my firm.
Being a lawyer is tough. Being a litigator is tougher. Take care of yourself – you will need it. Your career is not a sprint, it’s a marathon. One that will take you to all kinds of places you never imagined, so don’t forget to stop, take a break, recharge, and do whatever you need to do to take care of you. Ultimately, it will be what makes you the best lawyer for your clients.