Vanessa Lam, Law’08, not only runs her own family law business providing freelance legal advice and research services to lawyers, but she also lends her research and writing prowess to the Family Law Section of the Ontario Bar Association (OBA). For her outstanding work, she has received the OBA’s 2021 Linda Adlam Manning Award for Volunteerism.
“Even though life can be busy, contributing to causes you are passionate about is a wonderful way to give back,” says Lam. “Don’t underestimate what you can contribute!”
Lam’s volunteer work has been especially helpful to lawyers during a period of significant change that has seen the Divorce Act and corresponding provincial legislation amended considerably and COVID’s impact on the way in which family law is practised.
For the OBA Family Law Section’s Executive, which she joined in 2018, she was the Public Affairs Liaison from 2019 to 2021 and has chaired several ad hoc committees. An award nominator wrote, “The OBA has been able to make several submissions to government legislative bodies on matters of public policy in the last few years, aided in large part by Vanessa’s tireless efforts. Her unique ability to synthesize complex issues into plain language writing has been a significant asset to the work of the Public Policy Committee.” In addition, Lam has been sharing her expertise with other lawyers through multiple continuing professional development courses during the pandemic.
Learning from the diverse perspectives of colleagues across the province and working on broad policy issues that impact countless families are what Lam finds most rewarding about her work. “Family lawyers are used to helping individual families,” she explains. “But volunteering allows me to participate in systemic efforts to improve access to justice and work on other important family law issues.
“Everyone has their own unique perspective and skillset,” she advises students and young lawyers, “and volunteering can keep you connected to a broader community and diversify your experiences beyond your day job.”