Legislative changes, a technology revolution, and an evolution in the role of women in the workforce; Constance Isherwood has seen it all in a career that has spanned just over six decades. Connie is the most senior practicing women member of the Bar in British Columbia.
She continues to make the hour long commute to her Victoria-based law firm Holmes and Isherwood, which she founded with husband and former classmate Foster Isherwood in 1964. While her husband decided to retire a few years ago, Connie still sees clients, many of whom have remained with her since the beginning.
Connie certainly left her mark at UBC where she was awarded the gold medal from the Law Society, giving her the distinction of being the first woman law graduate to win this prestigious medal.
"At that time, there were very few women in law school. I was one of only eight girls in a class of 200 men. So the odds were pretty good," jokes Connie. "But since we were all studying the same thing and looking towards the same goals, there were plenty of similarities between us all and perhaps a bit of rivalry at times. For the most part, the atmosphere was very collegial and we all got on well."
Connie remembers being given the nick name "Sherlock Holmes" by her classmates as they joked that she was always looking for clues to answers, asking questions and trying to figure things out.
Prior to entering law school, Connie was a legal secretary with Ernest Tait, who was also the principal of the firm, her mentor and the person that encouraged Connie to pursue a law degree. At his encouragement, Connie decided to move from Victoria to attend UBC Law.
"I spent two years just getting my prerequisites from Victoria College. The first year I did through correspondence while I was still working at the law firm. After graduation, I returned to Ernest Tait and soon became a member of the firm. It was always just assumed that I would go back and be hired as a lawyer there."
A couple of years later, Ernest passed away and Connie carried on with the firm as a sole practitioner until she met Foster.
"Foster and I met in law school but after school we each went our separate ways. I returned to Victoria and he articled in Vancouver and then moved to Hope."
Foster later moved to Victoria where he and Connie renewed acquaintances and were married, eventually starting up their own firm - Holmes and Isherwood.
"Foster always jokes that I wanted to put my name first on everything," said Connie who is celebrating her 48th anniversary with Foster this year.
"One thing about partners in a law firm is that you very seldom see each other. They're busy with their clients, you're busy with yours. So the person you see the most is usually your secretary. But I think that patience and fortitude go a long way in making any partnership work, mingled with love and kindness. I don't want to sound too sentimental so let's just leave it at that."
In addition to her law practice, Connie has made significant contributions to her hometown of Victoria, belonging to the Women's Business Network of Vancouver Island, the Asian Arts Society, the Victoria Symphony and the Victoria Board of Trustees of the Canadian Scottish Regiment. In 2006 Connie received a University of Victoria Lifetime Achievement Legacy Award, recognizing her long-time contribution to the Victoria legal community. In 1992, she received the Canada 125th anniversary medal for community service.
With the recent completion of the Faculty's new building, Allard hall, Connie remembers the early days of UBC Law when lectures were held in army huts and the only way to do research was to walk across campus to the library.
"We have enjoyed the visits from Dean Bobinski when she has come to Victoria and in particular when she introduced the drawings and plans for the new building. To have seen it grow through the years is really an accomplishment."
Constance Isherwood was the recipient of the Lifetime Achievement Award at the 2016 Allard Alumni Association Achievement Awards ceremony held on April 27th, 2016. For more, read Profile of Connie D. Isherwood from The Advocate, 71 (2013), and watch Constance Isherwood's 2016 Allard Alumni Achievement Award Video: