As a partner at the Canadian law firm Miller Thomson, Patricia Fourcand serves a clientele composed mainly of business people, professionals, employers and senior executives, focusing on family law and international matrimonial law. Throughout her 20-year career, she has been involved in a wide variety of files, from representing clients in international child abduction cases to files of over $500 million. Becoming one of the youngest female fellow lawyers to join the very prestigious International Academy of Family Lawyers (“IAFL”) is a standout milestone in her accomplished career, but her biggest accomplishment to date is being the first black woman to be named partner in Quebec at a national law firm.
How would you describe your role to someone who has no knowledge of what you do?
I am a family lawyer. I represent spouses in the context of a divorce or a separation: child custody disputes, spousal and child support, partition of assets, and more! I also have a keen interest in family law cases that have an international aspect, in particular cases involving legislation and jurisdiction conflicts.
What milestone kick-started your career?
The biggest milestone of my career was becoming one of the youngest female fellow lawyers in a very prestigious association, the International Academy of Family Lawyers (“IAFL”). This helped develop my knowledge and practice in international family law which was a great deal.
What would you describe as your biggest accomplishment that you are the most proud of?
One of the biggest accomplishments for me was becoming a partner at Miller Thomson, which is one of the largest national law firms in Canada and, in particular, becoming the first black woman to be named partner in Quebec within a national law firm.
What was the biggest risk you have taken in your career?
The biggest challenge I had was to come back to my career after my maternity leave. It is very difficult for a lawyer to return to her practice after several months of absence and attempt to reconcile the enormous demands (of practicing law) with parental responsibilities, especially when seeking to be named partner.
“It is absolutely necessary to be able to distance oneself from personal issues at work as well as at home.”
How did you envision your career before experiencing it within its current reality?
I was aware of the intellectual requirements of the profession, but I was surprised by the business side of the private practice. You have to have an entrepreneurial spirit in order to succeed, you need to develop your network and create your own client base to become a partner.
How hard is it not to bring work home with you at the end of the day?
It is absolutely necessary to be able to distance oneself from personal issues at work as well as at home. As for me, I use travel time between home and work to prepare for the transition. I take the time to change “mode” and start the transformation. I begin to reflect on my priorities for the coming day or evening, making a conscious effort to focus my ideas and energies on what my next tasks should be.
“Success comes to those who are persistent and strong-willed and don’t let themselves be discouraged by the setbacks and difficulties that will no doubt arise on their journey.”
What was the best advice you have ever received?
“Be your authentic self”. It is important to be authentic, to assume one’s path and one’s personality. This honesty will be appreciated and it is the only way to really create meaningful, lasting relationships and friendships. In business, relationships are important: those that we create with our colleagues, our peers, our clients and our social network.
What would be your best piece of advice for others?
You must not give up, do not be discouraged. Often those who have “succeeded” are not always those who have had it easy since Day 1. It is rather that success comes to those who are persistent and strong-willed and don’t let themselves be discouraged by the setbacks and difficulties that will no doubt arise on their journey. A career is not a race, it is a marathon. And like a marathon, you have to have a long-term vision so as not to exhaust yourself at the very beginning.
Who has been your greatest mentor?
Mr. Gerald Stotland has helped me a lot throughout my career, even if we do not work for the same firm. I am very grateful to him.
What is your greatest source of inspiration on a daily basis?
My parents are a great source of inspiration for me both personally and professionally. They have always worked hard, with discipline and diligence. In addition, they raised their children by giving everything they had to offer them a quality education as well as opportunities. They have taken on many daunting challenges, never forgetting what is important to them – their family and their values.
Patricia Fourcand is a partner and lawyer practicing family law at Miller Thomson, a Canadian law firm with offices across the country. Among her areas of expertise are divorce, child custody, international abduction, and sexual harassment. She is the recipient of the 2008 JCCH Young Professional Award presented by Jeune chambre de Commerce Haïtienne and has represented clients before both the Superior Court and Court of Appeal of Québec in child custody cases. She is also a board member of the Association JNF, and the Comité Haïti du Barreau de Montréal.