Occupation: Environmental Lawyer
Coffin has a considerable background in corporate law.
Occupation: Environmental Lawyer
Thompson has extensive experience in litigation.
There have been many similarities in the path of Maggie Coffin-Prowse and Janet Thompson-Price. They are Environmental lawyers working in Fredericton. Both Maggie and Janet grew up in Saint John and have been friends since high school. They each received their LLB from the University of New Brunswick’s Faculty of Law in 1999, and have been practicing since 2000.
Thompson worked for twelve years in private practice for a large firm. Her firm had a corporate client involved in the environmental industry, which lead Thompson’s interest in environmental law. Coffin began her experience while working for an oil and gas company and then proceeded to work for an engineering consulting company. Three years ago she began teaching environmental law at the University of New Brunswick, and continues to do so. Both women attribute their involvement in environmental law to a combination of career exposure and an inherent interest in the field.
Recently they opened a “boutique” Firm together focusing on three areas; Environmental, Construction and Immigration law. With their accomplished backgrounds, the venture was a natural move for both of them, “The market is seriously lacking in these three areas” Coffin said, “and this has given us a differentiation in the market.”
Thompson is also a specialist in the area of Immigration; “We work with immigrants who are moving to Canada who want to start and operate a business. This requires purchasing and acquiring assets, there is a component of construction law in this transaction. In most cases, when they come from other countries they have no knowledge of Canadian laws and procedures. When opening a new business they really rely on us for guidance.“ Thompson also has a personal connection to immigration law in that her parents emigrated from England to Canada; she can still remember her parents receiving their Canadian citizenship.
Thompson had dreamed of a career in law since she was a little girl. “I used to make my parents sign contracts”, said Thompson “if I did the dishes, I would ask them to sign a contract saying that I could stay up later.”
For Coffin, “It just sort of happened”. She can’t remember exactly what lead her to a career in law, but as their Firm Coffin &Thompson thrives she describes going out on their own, and being a partner in her own firm, as the career achievement she is most proud of.
Coffin and Thompson professionally complement each other when it comes to skill-set. Thompson has extensive experience in litigation and Coffin has a considerable background in corporate law, earning the description of a “no nonsense” lawyer. Both partners deal with areas in leasing, environmental remediation work, dealing with government on compliance issues, appropriate environmental clauses, and among many others, identifying and addressing environmental development.
When asked what qualities a lawyer in her field ought to have, Thompson responded “You really have to be able to adapt to the situation and think outside the box to come up with the best resolution for the client.” “Diplomacy” Coffin said, “Often times you have to tell people what they can’t do but still provide them with options on what they can do while still reaching their objectives in a way that is respectful of the environment.”
"The number of female legal practitioners is decreasing, currently" Thompson affirmed, "female to male ratio in Law School is at 50/50". The percentage of women among university graduates in the field of Law increased from 56.4% in 1992 to 67% in 2008. However, those who stay in the profession are mostly men. Typically statistics show that women lawyers are leaving practice in their early to mid 30’s as law isn’t conducive to having a family. According to Professor Eansor’s research at the University of Windsor, men are twice as likely to be partners in law firms, than women are. Research shows women that do accomplish the equity partnership are almost all single and have no children, whereas their male counterparts are in relationships and have on average two and a half children.
This is what propelled Coffin and Thompson to start their own firm, they wanted to have the career they dreamed about and still have the flexibility to have a family, “Sometimes you have to think outside the box to accomplish your goals. It’s not just females that want flexibility and to take on traditional roles. Fathers are also evolving and taking on those roles usually considered “female traditional roles” within family life.” Thompson said.
Both Coffin and Thompson agree that being a boutique firm has given them a lot of flexibility, “Environmental law is very dynamic and busy career; you’re constantly learning new things and its rewarding work. However, being a boutique firm has given us a lot of freedom for family life as we make our own schedule.” Thompson said.
When asked what type of challenges they have faced as females in a male dominated field, they both expressed this hasn’t had much effect on them, “Clients need to know that I know what I’m talking about, and they would expect that from a female and a male co-worker.
At the end of the day, for clients what really matters is that you do an excellent job, and that is gender neutral”
– Coffin said.
“You have to be capable of making calculated risks, as a lawyer that is mainly what we do, help clients make calculated risks.” As Thompson would put it “It’s a very professional field, as long as you know what you’re doing and talking about they respect you.”
Coffin and Thompson both agree that in this field hard work is the key to success “First piece of advice is do an excellent job” said Thompson “Yes, the key to success is hard work” agrees Coffin.“At the end of the day you have to able to do an excellent job for the client and be creative.”
When asked if this was their dream job, “It definitely is” they both responded, “We think we’re pretty cool” Coffin responded.
Coffin and Thompson - we think you’re pretty cool too.