As part of uLaw's ongoing "Spot Light" series to profile the various minds who comprise the Canadian legal landscape, we recently sat down with Damian Williams, a North York-based paralegal who runs his own firm.
Like many paralegals interviewed by uLaw over the years, Williams is his own boss. Instead of working for a larger firm, he sets his own hours and finds his own clients. Similarly to many other paralegals, his initial career interests were in other areas before he decided to get started.
Below is the Q&A we held with Williams earlier this month so we could get his thoughts on what it's like starting out as an Ontario paralegal, and also how the field of law is changing.
Q: At what point in time in your life did you decide to pursue the field of law? Why did you make such a decision?
"I decided to pursue the field of law after I decided architecture was not for me. I was lost as to where to turn next and I had my family and peers all suggest the legal profession would be a great fit for me.
Q: Why did you become the paralegal that you are today? Which areas of the law do you focus on?
"I became the legal practitioner I am today due to my passion to help people and also my passion for cars. It has led my practice to primarily focus on matters pertaining to the Highway Traffic Act (HTA)."
Q: Can you remark on any particular court cases and/or regulatory changes you've encountered and had to work through?
A: "A great example of this would be the changes to handheld devices charges. When the 3-day suspension came in upon a conviction it took drivers by storm, but it certainly cracked down on the problem. The main issue was ensuring that fellow practitioners, especially newly licensed ones, knew to emphasize this new legislation to their clients."
Q: Have you noticed any trends in the manner in which Ontario handles and regulates individuals who are either charged by the Highway Traffic Act or the Provincial Offences Act?
A: "I've noticed that as time has passed, a lot of laws are being passed to hold drivers more accountable for their actions; especially as distracted drivers become more prominent on the road."
Q: Can you tell us about some difficult and daunting areas you've had to tackle in this profession?
A: "Some of the biggest challenges I have faced in my career is finding where I belong in this profession." "There are so many areas of the law where it's easy to become a jack of all trades and a master of none. Actually honing in on what you're not only passionate about, but also good at, is very important. I conquered such challenges by self reflecting and also speaking with peers for guidance."
Q: Can you tell us about some of your most satisfying moments of your career, in your first five years?
A: "Helping an individual keep their home when they were being unethically evicted, and assisting an individual in keeping their license in order to allow them to continue to provide for their family are two highlights of my career among many others that come to mind. Knowing that the respective families can sleep a little easier at night with my help is what keeps me going even in the most difficult times."
Q: How has the practice of law shifted or changed over the time you've been a practitioner? Where do you see this direction going in the future?
A: "Technology is playing a huge role in taking away some of the duties that were once heavily relied upon by one or even two employees. As a business owner it is truly wonderful to be able to cut costs. As a former employee, I truly worry for the future of this profession."
Q: How do you think the legal profession will change in the next 10 years?
A: "In the next 10 years technology and access to justice will continue to grow exponentially. On the technology side, more and more jobs will unfortunately be cut and replaced with more cost-effective means, such as firm software to help sole practitioners and even bigger firms. Subsequently this will allow for more access to justice for those who can't afford legal representation, but don't qualify for legal aid."
"Although paralegals such as myself are ideal in those situations, our profession is still not common knowledge to the general public. I hope to be part of that change in the next 10 years."
Q: Anything else you want to tell us about being a paralegal?
A: "What I like to add is that since opening Williams Legal Services Professional Corporation in 2016, I have felt nothing but pride for what I have been able to accomplish and the people I was able to help along the way."
"My goal is to see exponential growth in my firm over the next 10 years and be able to remember the beginning; when it was just me, a few dollars, and a dream to help as many people as humanly possible with my small operation."