Sarah Mavula knows what it’s like to leave everything behind and start a new life. When she was a young child, her family fled the violence of the Burundian Civil War in search of safety abroad. Alongside her father, mother and two older brothers, she built a new home in Canada.
Senior associate, Baker McKenzie LLP
Year of call: 2016
Now 32, Mavula is a senior associate at Baker McKenzie LLP, where she has cultivated a robust solicitor practice. In her day-to-day legal work, she represents a wide range of clients, including pharmaceutical giants, beauty brands and car companies.
To assist those clients, she seamlessly moves between practice areas, such as competition and foreign-investment law, as well as marketing. “The key for me is becoming a trusted advisor for my clients,” she says, “offering practical advice and making it digestible.”
The plan is working. “Clients love her,” says Stephanie Vaccari, the managing partner at Baker McKenzie. “She’s an understated superstar.”
In 2020, Mavula took on a major leadership role: she became the co-chair of Baker McKenzie’s inclusion and diversity committee. “The committee has never been so organized,” says Vaccari. “She and her team have been able to get the entire office engaged.”
Mavula also devotes significant time to pro bono work. Over the past five years, for instance, she has volunteered with Matthew House Toronto, a charity that provides housing and social services to refugees. To prepare asylum-seekers for upcoming court hearings, Mavula works with the charity to hold mock adjudications. Pre-COVID, Matthew House held these sessions in a room at a church that had been arranged to look like a courthouse. During the pandemic, the charity moved the hearings onto videoconference. No matter the setting, however, the approach is the same. “We review all of their files, and we’re super tough on them,” says Mavula. “We act like adjudicators.”
Having witnessed her own family’s courage to overcome hardship, she is proud to donate her legal skills to the next generation of refugees. “Seeing how my parents decided to not give up and persevere,” she says, “has been my guiding light in life.”