Precedent Setter Awards 2018: Mariam Moktar

Mariam Moktar

Associate, Lenczner Slaght Royce Smith Griffin LLP
Called to the bar in 2013

Mariam Moktar was born in Mogadishu, Somalia, during a time of peace and political stability. But in 1991, rebels toppled the state government, plunging the country into a civil war that still rages today. When her father, a police officer, died in the violence, the family fled to Egypt. In 1994, they arrived in Toronto.

Mariam Moktar

Moktar grew up in Weston, a neighbourhood with a large Somali population that was sometimes a target for police brutality. These childhood experiences informed her worldview. “I came to value political structures that are held to the highest levels of accountability,” says Moktar, now 31. “I’ve seen what life is like when that doesn’t exist.”

This sparked an early interest in law. Today, she’s an associate at Lenczner Slaght, one of Canada’s top litigation boutiques. Tom Curry, the managing partner, is impressed by how she excels on her feet. He remembers watching one motion that, at first, he thought was a long shot — until Moktar stood up to argue. “There was a noticeable shift,” he recalls. “Our side breathed easier. She has a natural gift of persuasion.”

Despite an all-consuming career and the demands of planning a wedding — this summer, she will marry her fiancé, Daren Wagar, a web coordinator and screenwriter — Moktar still finds time to volunteer. In 2015, she co-founded the Canadian Association of Somali Lawyers, which advocates for diversity in the profession and against police misconduct and racial profiling. “Growing up, I didn’t see Somali lawyers,” she says. “There wasn’t someone I could look up to and learn from.” She has become the role model she wishes she’d had.


Don’t forget to read about our other amazing winners.


This story is from our Summer 2018 Issue.


Photography by Kayla Rocca, hair and makeup by Michelle Calleja, shot on location at the Assembly Chef’s Hall

Precedent Setter Awards 2018: Atrisha Lewis

Atrisha Lewis

Associate, McCarthy Tétrault LLP
Called to the bar in 2013

As a racialized woman in law, Atrisha Lewis is used to standing out. But the litigation associate at McCarthys has never stood out quite so brightly as when she wrote an article last year that articulated what it’s like to work as one of the few racialized lawyers on Bay Street.

Atrisha Lewis

The piece went viral. Lewis, age 30, received hundreds of supportive emails from members of the legal community. McCarthys has also launched a diversity initiative and tapped Lewis to be a part of it. Given that she’s the only associate on the team, it’s a noteworthy nod. “One of Atrisha’s strengths is that she knows what she wants,” says Geoff Hall, a partner at McCarthys who works with Lewis. “She’s made sure diversity issues are on the agenda.”

Lewis’s advocacy streak dates back to her childhood in Ottawa, when she wrote letters on behalf of her parents, recent immigrants from the Seychelles who lacked advanced English skills. By seven, she wanted to be a lawyer. But as she grew older, she realized it would be a hard road. “I always felt that, as a woman of colour, I would never be taken seriously unless I had top-notch credentials,” she says. “That’s the only way to have standing.” So when she went to law school, at the University of Toronto, she studied hard. It paid off: when she graduated, Lewis won the Dean’s Key, in recognition of her academic and extracurricular work.

In her first five years at McCarthys, her caseload has ranged from medical malpractice to patent litigation. Lewis has unbridled ambition. “In the way that people think Marie Henein when they think, I want the best criminal lawyer, I want them to think Atrisha Lewis when they want the best civil litigator.”


Don’t forget to read about our other amazing winners.


This story is from our Summer 2018 Issue.


Photography by Kayla Rocca, hair and makeup by Michelle Calleja, shot on location at the Assembly Chef’s Hall