Moana is a new kind of fairy tale. In this Disney movie, there’s no princess in need of rescue; no character faces a crippling hardship. In fact, the heroine of this legend has it pretty good: she’s next in line to become the chief of her people. Her father thinks she is perfect for the job. Everyone else on the island seems to agree. And absolutely no one questions whether a woman should be chief. Moana is destined to be the leader of a peaceful, happy people. She’s got it made.
If Moana isn’t on a constant loop at your house like it is at mine (I swear, it’s my six-year-old requesting it), here’s the story’s central conflict: although Moana is the heir to the throne, she feels a pull to something greater — the sea. Her father forbids her to leave the island, but Moana defies him. Risking her life and that of her pet rooster, Heihei, she embarks on a dangerous journey. And in the end, she saves her people in a way she never could have as chief.
This issue of Precedent is full of Moanas. No, they’re not teenage warriors, but they’re heroes nonetheless. In law, it can be easy to settle into a preordained role. Once you land that law-firm job or move in-house, it’s easy to stay put.
But some lawyers feel drawn to a greater challenge. Consider the career of Saron Gebresellassi. After articling at a personal injury firm, she had a clear path to working in the lucrative practice area. Instead, she launched an activist law practice that’s now dedicated to defending clients against injustice and discrimination.
In this issue, you’ll also meet the winners of this year’s Precedent Setter Awards. Many of them have careers that would make Moana proud. Emily Lam is one example. In her experience, our profession doesn’t offer much support to racialized women. And so, rather than retreating into the relative safety of a large firm or company, she took a risk and started a criminal-law shop with her friend Jessyca Greenwood. By doing so, she makes it just a bit easier for the next crop of racialized women starting out as lawyers.
Our profession could use a few more Moanas right now. If everyone sits back and enjoys the comfort of their jobs, who will confront the challenges our profession faces? If you’re thinking of taking a risk, I encourage you to channel your inner Disney warrior princess and set sail on that adventure.
Publisher & Editor
Post Script: They like us!
In our Winter 2016 issue, we published an exclusive profile of Ontario’s controversial former attorney general, Michael Bryant. Seven years after his involvement in a car accident that left a cyclist dead, we found him in a surprising place: conducting bail hearings as a criminal lawyer. The piece digs into his past as a recovering alcoholic and explores how he intends to build a practice that serves, in part, those who struggle with substance abuse. And this spring, that piece, written by Precedent’s senior editor Daniel Fish, received nominations for two National Magazine Awards, for best profile and best professional article. You can check out the prize-worthy story here.
UPDATE: Since this issue went to press, our piece on Michael Bryant won the gold medal for professional article.
More from the Summer Issue:
This story is from our Summer 2017 issue.
Photo of Melisa by Mckenzie James