Bio: My name is Sharon. I currently have an Honours Bachelor degree in Criminology and Juris Doctorate (Law Degree). I am currently an articling student and will be called to practice law in Ontario in July 2021.
Name: Sharon Wiltshire
Education: Juris Doctor 2020 from the University of Ottawa Faculty of Law; Honours Bachelor Degree in Criminology from York University
Years of Experience: 0-1
When you were a child, did you envision becoming what you are now?
When I was a child, I apparently wanted to be a paediatrician (or what I called at the time a “baby doctor”). However, I quickly learned that I was terrible at math and there was no way I could keep up with the “sciences”. However, I took a grade 11 law class with an amazing teacher where our exams actually mimicked law school exams and I loved it. That is when I decided I wanted to pursue law. Becoming a lawyer was a dream of mine since then, but the road was not always linear, and I am proud of myself for sticking to my ambition no matter how unattainable it felt at the time. I started my Criminology degree at York with the goal of getting into law school. In my final year, I was looking at various areas of law and came across the practice of family law. Upon my research of family law, I knew that what exactly what I aspired to be. I love working with children and women, helping families in need, problem solving and advocating for those who cannot advocate for themselves. I finally found an area that encompasses all areas I love.
Did you face any challenges on your journey to get where you are? Do you currently face any challenges?
One of the major obstacles I faced was really trusting myself even when I did not perform to my expectations. The biggest test of that was when I was studying for my LSAT exams. I had to write it twice and even after the second write my score was not that great. Unfortunately for a long time, I let a test score dictate the ability to succeed in the profession of law and felt completely defeated. I felt that I was not cut out for law, I was not good enough and I failed myself. To my surprise that score did not hinder me from getting into law school. But when I did get in, I experienced another hurdle called “imposter syndrome”. Many of my colleagues and professors did not look like myself and I wondered if I really could fit in to the culture of law. However, throughout my legal career I have met many people who look like me who really helped me to understand that the profession could be embracing of difference. This motivated me to stay true to myself and not let the “boy’s club” culture of law to prevent me from shining. This is an obstacle I still face similarly to many other black women in law, but I rest assured in the belief that my presence, and others like me, challenge the dominant legal culture that exists. And, that the legal profession needs people like us.
What skills do you believe a person needs to succeed in your profession?
To succeed in the legal profession, you should have strong interpersonal skills. On television, lawyers appear to be jaded and obnoxious, but in reality, being kind, patient and an active listener is crucial when dealing with clients. Additionally, have a amenable personality is important to your career. The legal community is quite small, especially if you practice in one area. You will often encounter the same opposing counsel and judges. So, maintaining your credibility and reputation are extremely important. Having cultural sensitivity and problem-solving skills are equally important. I also encourage anyone who is interested in law to develop and refine their writing, research and oral speaking skills because these are often the three major tools you will use to do legal work.
What advice would you give to others who aspire to be where you are?
My advice to those aspiring to become lawyers is to apply. No matter how intimidating it seems or how incapable you feel, if this what you truly aspire to do, you should give yourself a chance. You will hear a lot of “buzz” about law school and law and how hard it is and how you need to be super smart. However, what you really need is to be hard working, adaptable and willing to continually learn. It can be intimidating to approach such a highly appraised profession, but if I can do it, you can too. Please do not hesitate to reach out to me if you have any questions. And, don’t stop aspiring to be!