The daughter of immigrants from Portugal, Jennifer Pereira grew up in Saskatoon. After studying political studies at the University of Saskatchewan, Pereira went on to work for an Ottawa cabinet minister and thought she would go into politics. But her career took an entirely different turn when she interned for a local law firm, Robertson Stromberg Pedersen (RSP).
Advantage spoke with Pereira to find out more about what it’s like to be a lawyer in Saskatchewan, how the field is changing, and how no two days are the same at RSP.
Advantage: Tell me a little bit about your background and how you ended up at RSP.
Jennifer Pereira: I grew up in Saskatoon’s west side. After obtaining an undergraduate degree in political studies from the University of Saskatchewan, I stayed on to receive my law degree. I have spent my entire career at RSP—first as a summer student and then as an articling student in 2003. I joined the RSP partnership in 2010.
When did you know you had an interest in law?
Strangely, I never thought I was interested in law. I applied to law school simply as a way to advance my education. It was not until I spent my first summer at RSP that I realized how dynamic, interesting, and rewarding the practice of law could be. I was lucky because RSP offered such exceptional mentorship and provided me with many role models that I could look to for advice and inspiration.
Tell me about your typical case or client.
As an insurance lawyer, I mainly work for insurance companies or large corporations that are self-insured. Accordingly, my file load will range widely from defending slip-and-falls to pursuing a subrogated claim in the event of an accident. None of my files are the same, and each presents a unique challenge. I love that I am always learning about something new on each file.
What’s it like practicing law in Saskatoon? And how would your profession be different in other cities or provinces?
Quality of life is what sets Saskatoon apart from many other jurisdictions. The practice of law is very busy in Saskatchewan; however, my colleagues and I enjoy a good balance between work and personal time. Our cost of living is relatively lower in Saskatchewan than in other jurisdictions, so our dollar goes further. As a relatively young lawyer, another advantage of practicing in Saskatchewan is the exposure to a good breadth of challenging work.
The challenge to my particular practice is the distance between myself and my clients. I often take instructions from companies in Ontario, Alberta, or British Columbia. It is important for me to maintain my relationship with those clients despite being in a different jurisdiction.
RSP has joined the ARC group. What does this allow the firm to do?
The ARC Group is a network of independent law firms across Canada that have joined together to provide legal services to the insurance and risk-management industry. By being a part of a national network, we can work efficiently with colleagues in other provinces on interjurisdictional matters. It also allows us to better market ourselves in the industry.
How do you see RSP changing or evolving?
In Saskatchewan, there is a large age gap between lawyers. When times were tough in Saskatchewan in the ’90s, many lawyers left the jurisdiction. However, now that the economy is booming, firms are busy, and those who left have not necessarily come back. Over the next decade, our firm will become younger as partners retire or slowly transition out of the practice of law.
What do you like best about your job?
I love the challenge of learning something new on every file I work on. Given my practice, I am always learning about matters outside the area of law, such as medical issues or accident reconstruction. Applying these varying fact scenarios to the law is interesting and rewarding.
What is your advice to students wanting to become lawyers?
Be interesting. Often I meet young people who believe they need to do nothing but study nonstop to be a lawyer. That is not true. Great lawyers balance outside interests that will help them attract clients in the future with practical knowledge and application of the law. When our firm considers hiring a student, we look to see whether they have the “book smarts” to do the work, but also the outside interests to ensure they can attract the work and be passionate about it.