Building Connections: Jennifer Gravel Vanasse Receives William J. Simpson Distinguished Paralegal Award
Licensed in 2008, Jennifer Gravel Vanasse has demonstrated exceptional skill and commitment to her profession with over three decades of experience as a law clerk and a paralegal.
Having worked at Vice & Hunter LLP in Ottawa since 1988, she has demonstrated the utmost devotion to the firm and its clients. Jennifer was among the first group of paralegals to be licensed in Ontario, and has represented clients before the Small Claims Court, Provincial Offences Court, the Human Rights Tribunal, and the Landlord and Tenant Board.
She has contributed to the development of the paralegal profession through her long-standing involvement with the Paralegal Committee of the Carleton County Law Association, and through her mentoring of paralegal students and other licensees. A proud and tireless advocate of the paralegal profession, Jennifer continues to build stronger connections between lawyers and paralegals.
Jennifer is this year’s recipient of the William J. Simpson Distinguished Paralegal Award which is awarded to a licensed paralegal who has demonstrated a number of criteria, including: outstanding professional achievement, outstanding contribution to the development of the profession, adherence to best practices and mentoring of others in best practices, a history of community service, and personal character that brings credit to the legal profession.
What does this award mean to you?
Winning this award shows me that you don’t have to move mountains to make a difference. I love my career and I love helping others by sharing my knowledge and experience with them. To me, winning this award means that my quiet efforts in Ottawa have not gone unnoticed, and for that I’m very grateful. I may not be able to help everyone, but I do everything in my power to help those I can, whether they are clients, colleagues or strangers. It is also a tremendous honour to be included as part of the group of previous award winners, for whom I have a great deal of respect.
What drives you (or has driven you) in your legal career?
Throughout my legal career, I’ve been driven by three things: fighting for the rights of my clients; solving the puzzle that sometimes is the law; and promoting the paralegal profession. I enjoy the challenge of researching an issue and analyzing the law. Each case and every client is different. They each require the utmost attention. I want my clients to feel heard when they discuss their case with me. The issues are very important to them and I respect that. When I put the facts and the law together and provide the client with my opinion, it is very satisfying.
With respect to promoting the paralegal profession, my goal is to improve relations between lawyers and paralegals. I believe that much good can come from a complimentary approach to the two professions. I have a tremendous amount of respect for lawyers and in my practice, I have tried very hard to follow the example of the lawyers I have worked with for over 30 years. I see my role in the firm as bringing added value to our clients—in that I am able to provide legal services at a lower rate, while maintaining the client’s connection to the firm. I hope that my experience will be an example for other lawyers and paralegals with regards to the value of this complimentary approach.
What piece of advice do you have for new legal professionals beginning their career?
I would advise new paralegals to be prepared. Make sure you know the facts and have done your research. Think about what you are going to say in court before you go to court. Confidence is very important when you are representing a client in court. Confidence comes from preparation and practice. I would also advise new paralegals to be civil. The issues you are dealing with are your clients’ issues, not yours. Many times I have seen lawyers, who have fought strenuously in court, shake hands when the hearing was over. I have always admired lawyers who do that. They can put their differences aside and remain collegial. As paralegals, we can and should do the same.
The Distinguished Paralegal Award was established in 2011 and presented for the first time in 2012. It was renamed in 2014 to honour William J. Simpson and his outstanding contribution to the implementation of paralegal regulation by the Law Society.
This year, 12 outstanding members of the legal professions will be honoured with Law Society awards on May 22nd.