"One of the things as a lawyer is you don't often get to see physical manifestations of what you've done...but to see a physical manifestation, whether it's that I go up to Whistler and drive along the Sea to Sky Highway, or I go to a hospital or a school that I was involved in, it's really satisfying. It justifies the hard work." - Anne Stewart, QC, YMCA Woman of Distinction, Canada's Top 25 Woman Lawyers, Public-Private Partnership Projects Pioneer, Class of 1975.
Anne Stewart was born and raised in Nelson, BC but found herself drawn to the big city. She moved to Vancouver as soon as she could start university, enrolling in a Bachelor of Science in Mathematics at the University of British Columbia. While considering her options during 4th year, she enrolled in Commerce 331 (Commercial Law) as an elective, which involved some slight pressuring of the registrar's office. The course was what convinced her to pursue law, and interestingly Ms. Stewart says that "some of my clients now are from that class."
She enrolled in the law school at UBC in 1972, and remembers thinking "I don't want to be the best female lawyer, I want to be the best lawyer I can be." While she was worried about the usefulness of her science degree, she soon found the step-by-step thinking from her scientific degree to be a very useful approach to legal problems. She remembers Professor Peter Burns scaring everyone in their first criminal class, Professor Joost Blom teaching his first class at the law school to Ms. Stewart and her classmates in section 1 ("the best section"), and Professors Dibold and Slutsky being a "fun twosome to be around." She remembers upper-classmates renting a house at 911 Nicola in the West End, and recalls "going down there one time and cooking thanksgiving dinner."
Anne Stewart distinctly remembers that playing bridge was a common past-time for many students at the school. As well, students made good use of a payphone in the basement of the school, having worked out a way to place calls for free. She also hasn't forgotten walking into class one day in one of the old Fort Camp buildings to find all the objects painted in a multitude of colours. Much of the rest of Anne's time was occupied with studying and hitchhiking to school. "We all did it," she remembers "that's how you got to UBC...probably 90% of the time it was another student who picked you up." When she graduated from the school in 1975, she was one of 7 females graduating in the top 11 students of the class.
She articled at Davis LLP, and built a corporate commercial practice. The conciliation of negotiation drew her to solicitor's work in that area of law, where she enjoyed helping clients achieve a common goal. Anne is proud of the fact that many of her clients she's known for her entire career, and boasts "they're much more than just clients, they're friends." In addition to great relationships with clients, the highlights of her career include acting on the first P3 Project to close in British Columbia, and the privatization of the Vancouver airport. Both projects were exciting "because no one really knew what they were doing," but she problem solved step-by-step and figured it out. With the airport, she admits "I still go out and look around and think 'there's a little piece of me out here'." She was appointed Queen's Counsel in 1993.
Personally, Ms. Stewart has been heavily involved with the Minerva Foundation, through a variety of mentorship initiatives. The Minerva Foundation works to support and encourage women in leadership roles. Stewart remembers starting a program with Minerva called Helping Women Work, which helped women reintegrate into the workforce. One of her favorite memories from that program was helping an immigrant from India transition her skills as an instructor of medicine. This lead her to find work with UBC in the Faculty of Medicine. Stewart also helped develop Leaders in Transition, a program focused on helping woman who'd spent life devoted to a career reorient for the later stages of life.
To those entering the legal practice she offers advises that you stay open to opportunities, and take the time to learn about clients and their business. She also says that young lawyers shouldn't feel hesitant to speak up in meetings, because they'll either be able to learn something about the practice of law, or they'll be able to contribute an idea that others may not have thought of yet. "Find your champions," she underlines above all, noting that champions are the people that help shape and grow your career.
In addition to her community involvement, Anne Stewart is a generous contributor to the Allard School of Law community. Using money from the 40 year reunion of her class, Anne helped create the Law Students' Emergency Fund. The fund is able to quickly respond to help students stay in law school when circumstances change in such a way that they would otherwise be forced to stop their academic pursuits. More information about the Law Students' Emergency Fund is available here.
Anne Steward was interviewed for the Peter A Allard School of Law History Project in Summer 2017.
Listen to the interview to hear more about her time in law school, the development of P3 projects in BC, and what mentorship means to her.