“I think probably what I am most proud of is charting my own path and putting together each of my experiences to create what for me is a job that is completely in alignment with my core values. I am somebody that truly loves what I do and I am excited to come to work every day …” – Jennifer McNaught, Legal Personnel & Professional Development Director, Class of 1997.
Jennifer McNaught was born in Vancouver, but soon moved to Whistler and was raised by her mother and a pair of skis. She spent her teenage years in Calgary, but couldn’t stay away from the west coast. When it came time to apply for university she only applied to one – the University of British Columbia.
Ms. McNaught completed an undergraduate degree in psychology in 1993. The desire to expand her educational platform led her to consider a variety of post-graduate options. Ultimately she settled on law. She recalls that “…at that time there were a lot of issues that were at the intersection between law and psychology – battered women syndrome and forensic psychology - and I was quite engaged with and interested in those topics and so for me law school seemed like just a great thing to add to my toolkit.” She returned to UBC to obtain an LL.B., enrolling in 1994.
Jennifer McNaught has a many distinct memories from her time in law school. She remembers Professor Stephen Wexler lecturing Torts. She describes him as ‘a druid…and he sat on tree stump,’ and studying Legal Perspectives under Professor Stephen Point extended learning beyond the classroom with experiences like visiting a sweat lodge. She remembers having such an impression from her Contracts professor Tony Hickling that she dressed up for her 1L Halloween as a ‘mere puff.’ Also during law school, Ms. McNaught remembers learning her first thing about evidence from a judge during a Law Students Legal Advice Program trial in her first year.
After graduating, Jennifer McNaught practiced employment law until 2003, when she left private practice and went in-house. Ultimately Jennifer returned to UBC again to obtain her Master of Education in Counselling Psychology. Upon graduation, she began working as a counsellor with the Lawyers Assistance Program. She remembers counselling women at the point they’d decided to leave private practice and recounts the insights gained regarding some of the causes of female attrition in the legal profession.
After working with the Lawyers Assistance Program, Jennifer McNaught became Director of Legal Personnel and Professional Development with Blake, Cassels & Graydon LLP. In this role she has seen first-hand the major changes to hiring in the last ten years, including the growth of the Allard School of Law’s Career Services Office. She noted the increased networking between students and firms and the present ability for students to learn about firms from their online presence – a tool ushered in by the internet.
The Peter A. Allard School of Law History Project had the opportunity to interview Jennifer McNaught shortly after her 20 year reunion with the Class of 1997. She recalled many great memories from law school, and shared some advice for future lawyers. “When you start practicing, figure out what’s important to you and block time to ensure that you do these things with enough frequency to feel fulfilled,” says McNaught “…maybe it’s going to the gym three times a week, maybe it’s walking your kid to school every Friday…work can easily become all-consuming and you need to keep your personal values in focus.”