What is your story?
I am a second career commercial transactions and litigation attorney, and the founder of my own law firm, Canada Lewis & Associates. Prior to becoming a lawyer, I was a construction contractor. I owned and operated an underground utility and plumbing company; and then I invested in real estate, buying and leasing rental property.
I believe my prior experience as a business owner really helps me provide my clients with practical, creative, and effective legal solutions for the real world within the budgetary and time constraints they face.
What message does Canada Lewis & Associates like to promote?
We have a passion for small and medium-sized businesses because they are the heart of America and are overlooked and undervalued by many other law firms. We focus our attention because we understand this type of business and we know that their legal problems are very personal because the owners are directly involved and will suffer the consequences…. there are no faceless stockholders bearing the losses or paying the fines when something goes wrong.
In what capacity do you LEAD UP in your community?
In particular, personally, and as a recommendation to my clients, I encourage women with buying power to buy from and promote other women. For example, I had the opportunity to buy engineering services for one of my clients a few weeks ago. I with a very competent young female engineer with the firm who was very capable of handling the project. I noticed that an older male was joining the meetings with us. I took that opportunity to make clear that I wanted to hire the female engineer and I wanted to confirm that this would be her account and not the account of the older gentleman. Then I explained very clearly that I believe women have a duty to help other women benefit professionally (and financially) from the money they spend whenever possible. They were both receptive this idea and it was not a problem. Having said that, I’m not sure the result would have been the same if I had not spoken up. Implementing this Women First philosophy is not difficult or time consuming, but it does take a little focus and conscious effort.
In business and/or in life, share a struggle you overcame that other women can relate to?
I was raised to be polite and respectful. It took time and maturity for me to learn that it is not impolite or disrespectful to take credit for the work you do and to speak up when you have value to add to a conversation. Too often as a young woman, I let people take credit for my ideas and my work; and I often sat off to the side or gave up my place at the table (literally and figuratively) because I was being polite. At the same time, I noticed men just walk and assume they can any seat available and make little consideration for the fact that there are 10 chairs and 12 people in the room. I watched over and over where the two people with no chair at the table were women who accepted a spot in the corner. No one considered the men rude for sitting at the table and no one considered the women polite for not doing so – they considered the women less motivated or somewhat uncertain about participating. I had to retrain myself on this topic and it changed the way people interacted with me, listened to me, and respected me.
Did you have a Mentor, Coach or Sponsor along the way that was essential to your growth and success? If so, who was it and why?
I did not have strong women in my life to follow and that made it a little difficult to find my way. It took me a little longer to learn the difference between being strong and being a bitch. I am thankful for the love and support of my father and grandfather who loved and supported me through all my growing pains.
What is the most rewarding aspect of what you do?
I have the opportunity to team with businesses owners so that we work together to protect their assets and help them grow and I love that relationship-building and business-growing aspect of my work. I also enjoy using my litigation skills to protect my clients and speak up for them when they don’t have the voice to defend and protect themselves.