Fareeha Qaiser, Partner
Miller Thomson LLP
1. Tell us a little bit about yourself and your career path.
I grew up in Pakistan before immigrating to Canada at the age of eight. I completed my Bachelor of Arts (double major in psychology and political science) at UBC prior to attending UVic Faculty of Law. I am a partner at Miller Thomson LLP and practice in the areas of insurance defense litigation, personal injury, professional negligence, construction liabilities, property and casualty claims, occupier’s liability, and subrogated claims.
2. Why Law?
I chose law because lawyers are in a unique position of being able to help individuals, groups, and organizations with their legal problems. Becoming a lawyer means learning to negotiate and learning how to manage people. It is intellectually challenging, from analyzing the facts of your clients, analyzing prior written decisions of the past as guides for current decisions, applying the law to those facts, devising trial strategy, and to devising innovative solutions to novel legal issues. Every case is a new puzzle to solve and there is never a dull moment.
In Pakistan, many women are educated but do not (or cannot) pursue a career outside the home. Further, there are even less women that pursue a legal profession. These were challenges that I was unaware of while growing up in Pakistan. However, in Canada, I was cognizant of having the privilege of being able to pursue any career I set my mind to, even law, without facing the same barriers that women face in Pakistan.
3. How has being a Canadian Muslim (woman) shaped your journey, what challenges have you had to overcome along the way?
Prior to entering law school, I recall being told that law as a profession was not for women and especially not for Muslim women. I was told that there would be challenges that were insurmountable, including being able to dress conservatively, maintaining Muslim values, having a work-life balance, and having a family life. Those conversations, especially from other Muslim women, were disheartening but reinforced my decision to pursue law and to challenge those stereotypes. Along the way there were the usual challenges of not being successful in obtaining articles at a “Big Firm” and imposter syndrome. There is no question that these were and are real challenges; however, with great determination, persistence, hard work, and amazing mentors and supporters along the way, those challenges were overcome.
4. What advice would you give to other Muslim lawyers?
It is a cliché but be true to yourself and your values. Do not change who you are to fit into a firm or its culture. You will gain the respect of your peers by being authentic and bringing your values to the firm’s table.
5. Who inspires you?
My mother. A quote that resonates with me is that “successful mothers are not the ones that never struggled, they are the ones that never give up, despite the struggles.” My mother was a single parent who, like many other immigrants, immigrated to Canada to give her children a better life. In the process, she gave up her career as a history professor and focused her energies on raising us. Watching her overcome her struggles navigating a foreign country where English was not her native tongue and seeing her amazing strength, ambition, and resilience in the face of all the challenges inspired and continues to inspire me each and every day.
6. If you could eat one meal for the rest of your life, what would it be?
Pasta! There are approximately 600 shapes of pasta and they can be cooked and eaten in a variety of ways - so you will never tire of it so long as you live. My aspiration is to one day travel to Italy to try to experience pasta in its authentic form.