Lorna Strong’s story is a lesson in hard work, open-mindedness and adaptability.
Strong, who graduated from the Allard School of Law in 1998, entered law school after an Applied Sciences degree from UBC and a brief career as a nurse. At that time, her two daughters were just four and five years old. Despite the challenges she faced in balancing the rigour of law school with parenthood, Strong remembers her time as a student fondly.
“It is difficult,” she said. “You do get better with managing your time. It’s not prohibiting, [but] it is a challenge, and I would say it positively impacts the children. They became friends with a lot of my friends … and it inspired them. They both went on to do undergrad degrees from UBC and one a masters from UBC.”
Strong said one of her fondest memories from her time in law school was when a fellow student brought the children to watch her play in an intramural hockey game.
“The kids had a lot of fun at the game and developed their own cheer, which we still remember now, which was, ‘Go Law! Go Law! Turn ‘em into coleslaw!’” she said. “I found that I was able to integrate parenting with having fun with my fellow students and it was a great experience.”
Strong also remembers the friendships she made as a student and preparing “CANs” with classmates. She also told the History Project about the time she and a group of her peers travelled to Quebec together to attend the 1995 Montreal Unity Rally.
After graduating from law school, Strong articled at Harper Grey Easton, a firm that focused on medical and insurance law and litigation. Her interest in business law was sparked after being involved in an international business arbitration during that time. She then moved to Getz Prince Wells where she focused on securities litigation, but soon decided that she wanted more of a solicitor’s practice. That’s when she joined HSBC, and despite her initial reluctance, has spent nearly 20 years with the bank.
“I didn’t want to work for a bank. I didn’t want to work in-house. It seemed very foreign and it actually seemed like it would ruin my career,” she said. “But I joined the bank and I’ve never looked back. It’s been a fantastic experience … There’s endless work there and endless experience. When you work in a complex, large organization, there’s always something new to deal with. The days can be extremely challenging, and some days I’ve felt like walking out the door, but I’ve never had a boring day, and that’s really important.”
She is now based in the U.K. where she manages the legal counsel team that advises HSBC global trade finance, a business that facilitates more than US$740 billion in worldwide trade each year. Her work involves diverse areas of practice including supporting the development of block chain technology for trade finance and problem-solving disruptions of trade due to COVID-19.
Strong has also remained involved with the Allard School of Law, providing some of the seed funding for the 75th Anniversary UK Alumni Bursary, which is intended to help law students in need of financial aid.
“It was important to me because certainly when I went to law school it was financially challenging, and it’s probably no easier today—probably even more difficult,” she said. “It’s really important to me that our law school retain a diverse group of students. I think I’m a very good argument that it’s very difficult to imagine, upon a student’s admission, how they’re going to contribute to the legal world. Who would have thought a nurse who had two small children and at the time lived on a very small island would ever be leading the way in blockchain in trade finance?”
Strong’s advice to students and young lawyers is to approach new opportunities with an open mind, challenging as they might seem.
“I always tell my staff and other people that you learn by saying yes to work even if you don’t know how to do it and just doing it,” she said.