London lawyers share their views on both practice and profession
Interview by Rod Refcio
PAULA PUDDY IS a former big firm lawyer who founded Vantage Professional Development in 2003 after recognizing and experiencing first-hand the need for practical business training for those in the legal profession. Vantage PD focuses on education and professional development for lawyers in business, and law education for professional engineers.
Originally from Toronto, Paula has made London her home for more than 25 years while obtaining her HBA, LLB and MBA, all from the Western University. A dedicated mother of two, she has been a sessional instructor at Brescia and Western, a board member at the London Small Business Centre and has held the position of director of continuing professional development for the Middlesex Law Association since 2006. She was also a pretty good ice hockey player in her youth.
Rod Refcio: What attracted you to the practice of law?
Paula Puddy: Probably not a great reason, and likely one that I would not repeat if I had known then what I know now. I finished undergrad doing an HBA at then Western Business School, now the Ivey Business School, and was sure that I did not want to start work quite yet. What else could I do as far as another degree went? Law! I wanted to stay in London having grown up in Toronto—I liked the people and the size, and I could continue to play intramural women’s ice hockey with the law school team!
RR: What advice would you give someone considering a career in law?
PP: Unlike me, speak to several lawyers who practice in different areas of law and find out what they actually do day-to-day. There can be a lot of conflict in the legal world, particularly on the civil litigation side, and think about your personality and whether that is a good fit for you. Spend a lot more time researching. It is nothing like Suits or LA Law. I am aging myself!
RR: What is the best piece of business advice that you have been given?
PP: The best and most realistic business advice was from my dad. Regardless of your business, product or service, you are in the business of selling. Especially early on in the lifecycle of a business, you can get wrapped up in other aspects of the business that are much more fun and not as hard as selling. But, without sales, you have a good idea, not a business. I know it sounds cliché, but it is true.
RR: What do you enjoy most about your business?
PP: I am so lucky that, as an entrepreneur and a small business owner, I have several aspects to my career. I love the variety and, of course, all of the people. Imparting business knowledge to newer lawyers is extremely rewarding as I know I am helping them to become more successful by sharing my knowledge. Similarly, the engineering course I teach to engineering students and candidates is a law and ethics prep course to help them pass their professional practice exam as part of the process in becoming a professional engineer.
RR: What has changed most about the practice of law since the time you started?
PP: Everything needs to be fast.
RR: What is the most common misconception that you think the public has about lawyers and law firms?
PP: Some of the lawyer jokes are true! However, I believe that the public does not realize the extent that lawyers give back to their communities in terms of time and money.
RR: What do you enjoy most about being your own boss?
PP: The flexibility to not punch a clock and, right now, spending time with my kids, Zoe, seven, and Max, four.
RR: How would you describe your personality in five words?
PP: Positive, organized, an includer, creative and a learner.
Rod Refcio is the founder and senior lawyer with Refcio & Associates. Submit your inquiries and legal questions to firstname.lastname@example.org. None of the opinions, views or information contained in this column should be construed as legal advice and readers should consult a licensed lawyer for specific assistance.