Bencher Profile Series: Moira Váně
When Moira Váně began practising law in 2003, she was aware of, and disheartened to see, women leaving the legal profession at a high rate. Fast forward 18 years later, Moira remains committed to finding ways for the profession to change so that more women stay in law and achieve success to better reflect and serve the public.
“While over the course of my career I have seen many glass ceilings smashed, I still think that the profession is not doing enough, and the Law Society is where a lot of systemic change can be effected.”
Moira points to a 1993 CBA Report called Touchstones for Change: Equality, Diversity and Accountability of igniting her passion for gender equity. While the report was written over 25 years ago, she believes that many of the issues are just as relevant today.
“I thought that I could be of service to women in our profession and the public by running to be a Bencher to try to bring some of these systemic issues to the forefront in meaningful ways. I believe we can be more innovative, supportive and inclusive to make our profession more representative of society.”
Moira received her law degree at the University of Alberta and began her career working as a prosecutor for the provincial government in rural Alberta in 2003. For the last nine years, she has worked with the federal prosecution service in Edmonton. This professional experience contributes to a strong foundation and belief in advancing the strategic goals of the Law Society of Alberta. In addition to her work as a Bencher, she currently serves as a Vice President for the Association of Justice Counsel and recently founded the Iris Barry Yake Memorial Robe Lending bank to provide junior counsel with court garments.
Moira specifically looks forward to contributing as a member of the Equity, Diversity and Inclusion (EDI) Committee to effect change in terms of gender and racial equity.
“It is important to make the profession a welcoming place from the moment you start, and throughout your career. It must continue to be a place where space is made for every kind of person so that they can continue to be successful as a lawyer and continue to be successful in the services that they provide to the public.”
“The public has been very clear, in this last year particularly, that we want to see a more equitable society. That means we have a responsibility as lawyers to ensure that we achieve that both within the legal community and in society.”
She is confident that access to justice can be directly impacted by a stronger focus on EDI in the legal profession. One of the ways Moira believes this can be accomplished is by engaging marginalized communities early to motivate and support those interested in a career as a lawyer.
Moira is also a strong proponent of a greater focus on wellness in the profession. That belief is backed by her nearly 10 years of volunteer service with the Alberta Lawyers Assistance Society (Assist). Moira says that she is not afraid to have important conversations on mental health issues and making sure the right kind of services and supports are readily available to lawyers. One of the ways that Moira has contributed to the supports available is as a founder of the New Parents’ Peer Support group with Assist.
“Your wellness directly impacts your competence. If you are in crisis, I don’t think that you can necessarily provide the best services to the public, although some aspects of traditional lawyer culture would have us believe otherwise. The expectation that you can be competent, be a big biller and be working all the time when other aspects of your life are out of sorts is erroneous. There are dangerous myths in our profession that negatively affect many of us.”
While the pandemic has further exacerbated mental health concerns both personally and professionally for many people, Moira sees a bright spot in that the legal profession has been forced to re-assess many traditional ways to better accommodate a variety of circumstances.
“I think as time goes on, we’ll learn more about what good came out of this trauma and that we can capitalize on that learning to make the profession better for everyone.”