Associate, Cassels Brock & Blackwell LLP
Called to the bar in 2009
By early 2010, Suhuyini Abudulai was ready to give up. Though she had been an associate at Cassels Brock & Blackwell LLP for about a year, she rarely worked on meaningful files, sapping her of motivation. “I had checked out,” she remembers.
Then she got a call. Alison Manzer, a senior partner in the firm’s financial-services group, wanted to help. “Her marketing skills were so advanced that everyone wanted her to go to events with them,” recalls Manzer. That’s no surprise: Abudulai, now 34, is a born extrovert who can easily work a room. Legal events swamped her evenings. Back at the office, though, it wasn’t resulting in any work — a nightmare for a junior associate. But Manzer, who quickly became Abudalai’s mentor, offered a solution: be more strategic about which events to attend, and, to win files from partners, develop a specialty.
“And did she ever,” raves Manzer. Within a few years, Abudulai became the firm’s go-to expert on the Consumer Protection Act — a baffling document that banking lawyers refer to as a “game of snakes and ladders,” because every clause seemingly refers to another. Abudulai annotated the entire act, and now helps banks and retailers comply with its minutiae. “It took a few months,” she says, “but I learned so much.”
Having found her place, Abudulai helps other young black lawyers get ahead. As a co-founder of her firm’s diversity committee and a member of the Canadian Association of Black Lawyers, Abudulai often speaks about the career hurdles placed before black lawyers — from discriminatory comments to unconscious bias. “We often dance around these issues, but I want to put it out there that stereotypes and biases play a role,” she says. “I want them to continue in their careers. I don’t want them to give up.”
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Photography by Ian Patterson, hair and makeup by Jessica Haisinger, shot on location at Cluny Bistro & Boulangerie.