My Story- Becoming a Lawyer
How I ended up in law.
I was asked to write about my decision to become a lawyer by Israel, one of our team members, responsible for client services and marketing. She thought my life story was interesting and those of you who choose to read our articles may enjoy it.
Like most people, I don’t particularly like talking about myself, but sometimes I find it challenging to find new topics to write about, so here it goes…
As some of you may be aware, I came to practice law later in life. I started university at age 37, and in 2010 I graduated from law school at the age of 41. I had to complete one year of undergrad and, as a mature student, I could apply to law school with 30 credit hours (the equivalent of 1 year of university, though normally, the faculty of law at U of Manitoba requires 60 credit hours or 2 years).
Prior to university, I sold real estate and then industrial equipment like service and parts (e.g. forklifts). I was in sales from the age of 25 until I was 37 and had begun attending school.
Out of high school, at the age of 17, I joined the Canadian Armed Forces where I served 8 years. I reached the (dizzying) height of corporal. I completed my basic training in St-Jean Qc and then I trained to become a Radio Operator (or RadOp for short) in Kingston, Ontario. In the forces, I served in Calgary, Germany, Shilo Mb, and Winnipeg. I also completed a United Nations tour in 1988 in Cyprus. That year, the “blue helmets” won the Nobel Peace Prize (I’m still waiting for my award…)
While I chose all three of my careers (military, sales, and law), the decision to start over at 37 was made for me. I simply made the best of it. However, my first two careers came out of a desire for challenge. I sought adventure when I decided, on a whim, to join the army at 17. One day, I walked by the recruitment center in Montreal, and 6 months later I was in “boot camp”.
After 8 years, I decided to leave the forces because, by then, I had a young family and I wanted to stay close to home to see my children more often. I didn’t have many qualifications, so I threw myself into real estate sales. When I started, I didn’t know many people (I worked in Shilo, but lived in Brandon, Mb). So I found a phone book and started calling the “A”s. I used to tell people that I preferred making cold calls than digging holes to sleep in.
After 4 years in real estate, I found a more stable position selling industrial equipment. I did so for about 7 years. As my career in sales was progressing, at the age of 36, my marriage fell apart. I was devastated. I found myself on my own with custody of my three kids on a 50/50 basis with their mother.
I met with an acquaintance of mine who was following a graduate program at the university, and suggested I look into school. So, I did. I realized that, with some major life changes, I could actually afford it.
I went through the process of reflecting on my skills and aptitudes with the help of psychologists who administered tests such as Myers Briggs. Law become an option.
I completed the LSAT (Law school admission test) and applied to the faculty of law at the University of Manitoba. After completing my first year of undergrad, I started law school.
My experience dealing with lawyers
Going to school later in life provides certain advantages. I remember how I felt when dealing with lawyers prior to law school. I was in my early 20’s when I first dealt with a lawyer. I met him when we bought our first home. I remember leaving his office confused. I didn’t understand any of the documents we signed. Further, he kept asking me to sign waivers stating that he warned us about certain problems. I didn’t understand a thing. I left frustrated and confused.
Then when I separated and divorced, I dealt with a divorce lawyer. That process also left me frustrated. There had to be a better way.
Once I completed my articles, I started my own practice. At first, I practiced criminal defence. While I enjoyed the work, the hours and other factors led to disillusionment. I wrote about my decision to leave criminal defence here, if you’re interested.
An opportunity came up in St-Boniface. Two francophone lawyers wanted to retire. So I joined them and decided to approach the concept of providing legal services differently. I wanted to make sure that no one left my office confused or frustrated the way I did when I was younger.
Now, with a team of 8, we focus our efforts on making law accessible. We train all of our staff to explain legal concepts and problems in plain language. Clients attend our offices easily without paying for parking, while offering proximity to downtown. We wanted to take the “marble” out of the law office. We also offer a pet-friendly environment with Bailey, who comes regularly, and Daisy who visits once a week.
You may enjoy reading…
Philippe Richer is President of TLR Law Group. TLR has been located in the St. Boniface neighbourhood, in Winnipeg, since 1996. The office serves the middle class and small business within the province. With a focus on estates, wills, real estate, and corporate law, he leads his team in providing accessible legal services. Philippe also authored the business law course for the Knowledge Bureau and instructed the français juridique class at the faculty of Law at the University of Manitoba.