James Struthers (JD 2017), at a crossroads in his career, pursued law school for the intellectual challenge and the ability to contribute to society. Now, as founder of macushlaw and 253 Columbia, he is helping rethink how lawyers work and provide their services to the public.
Founded in 2020, macushlaw specializes in corporate, commercial and real estate services to SMEs, non-profits, and Indigenous groups and individuals. The macushlaw team prides itself on providing affordable and approachable legal services without sacrificing quality.
To James, macushlaw was a natural next step in his career, having begun in a big law firm and then working at a medium-sized boutique firm. “I bought into the narrative that you have to go [to a particular type of firm]. There were high expectations for quality of work, degree of clarity, depth of research, and structured ways of doing things that are doubtlessly important. However, there are a number of characteristics of the traditional, top-down, pyramidal law firm which can disrupt alignment of lawyer, law firm and client interests.” Seeking further innovation and flexibility in his practice, he founded macushlaw. “I’ve always been very self-directed, very independent,” he said.
While the process of starting his own law firm was a daunting one, he enjoys the work, particularly for the freedom and the creativity it involves. He added, “Being able to control the direction of the firm, the culture we want to create [and] a way of practicing that is better for the lawyer and client, it’s fun to get to think like that.” Furthermore, he is also responsible for other aspects of the firm like marketing and branding, which provides further avenues for creativity beyond his files.
macushlaw’s home base is 253 Columbia, one of James’ other innovations to emerge during the pandemic. 253 Columbia is a “work share” space and community for lawyers in non-traditional careers. James said, “I saw that the industry was changing quite rapidly, seeing institutions like the court and the land titles registry taking a different approach to conducting hearings, receiving documents in advance of a trial, receiving land title documents…you just don’t need the office as much anymore. There is a real paradigm shift happening in the legal industry and the institution is changing, really open floodgates.”
253 Columbia, more than anything, is a community. “It’s creating that sort of hub for us to share resources, reduce costs of providing legal services, reduce barrier to entry for sole practitioners and (improve) access for clients too. 253 is supposed to be a place that comes together to meet that demand.”
Regarding his more unconventional path, James encourages current law students to broaden their thinking of what makes for a good and fulfilling law career. “You need to decide what kind of clientele and what kind of community, culture, practice environment is best for you. I think a lot of caring, confident, smart students get pulled into this mantra of ‘Big firms are where best students go’ and forget what they went into law school for. You came to law school for a reason. Are big firms the right place for you? There are a lot of great alternative careers out there, but smaller employers just don’t have the same budget bandwidth to reach out to students like big firms do."
Beyond his work at macushlaw and 253 Columbia, James is also heavily involved in the community. He is a Director of Mission Possible and the British Columbia Civil Discourse Society, and is the President of BGuiled Debate Society, which organizes a spin-off of the beloved Allard Law tradition.
Though undoubtedly busy, he loves what he does. “There are good days and bad days like with anything else, but there is more than enough to keep me happy and fulfilled despite the long workdays at this stage of building my practice and growing 253 Columbia and macushlaw."
Date Published: August 2021