WeirFoulds associate gives lots of her valuable time and energy to arts organizations.
There are a lot of theatrics in litigation, and litigator Elisabeth Patrick is all about the theatrics — but not in the way you might think.
The associate at WeirFoulds LLP in Toronto joined the firm in 2005, after completing her articles there. While she has a broad commercial litigation practice, Patrick is heavily involved in the theatre and arts community. She sits on the board of directors for two theatre companies and on the cabinet (board) of the Royal Ontario Museum’s Young Patrons’ Circle.
Patrick got her start in theatre at Queen’s University in Kingston, Ont., where she studied drama as part of her bachelor of arts degree. “I was primarily involved in the technical side of theatre then, so I used to do a lot of stage managing,” says Patrick. Undoubtedly, her experience with being in control of the action on stage comes in handy for her litigation practice.
She’s used to having plenty on her plate — just look at her graduation dates. She completed her BA in 2003 and graduated from the law program at Queen’s only one year later, in 2004. “I finished my arts degree while at law school,” explains Patrick. “And I worked professionally at the Thousand Islands Playhouse, which is in Gananoque,” Ont.
Some new lawyers trying to establish a practice would have been swept away from the stage and submerged in legal theatre, but Patrick stayed connected to her past. “The theatre community at Queen’s is pretty close-knit and continues to be pretty close-knit as we all move on from Queen’s,” she says.
Patrick sits on the boards of two theatre companies: Theatre Smash and DreamNorth Theatre Co. They have two very different foci, she says. “Theatre Smash does new Canadian plays in Toronto, and had its first show at the Tarragon Theatre in September of ’07. And we’re now prepping for our next show in September of ’09, also at the Tarragon.”
Smash premieres new Canadian plays or international plays that haven’t yet been performed in Canada. DreamNorth brings classical theatre from Toronto into northern Canada, an area that doesn’t typically see much Shakespeare. “While summer Shakespeare is all over the place in Toronto, it’s not being done at all up North,” says Patrick. Toronto actors travel to the Yukon, taking advantage of the summer solstice and giving the residents a unique theatrical experience.
One of her other commitments, the ROM’s Young Patrons’ Circle, is modelled after the Junior Associates group of the Museum of Modern Art in New York City. “It’s to bring a sort of new blood and new interest into the ROM from the 20- to 45-year-old group in Toronto,” says Patrick.
As part of her role, she co-chairs the membership committee, which is charged with recruiting and retaining new members. The circle currently lists about 400 individuals. It hosted its third annual PROM event in March, a glittering fundraiser for the museum that attracted about 1,000 beautiful guests who danced the night away beneath the museum’s new “crystal.”
There are also a variety of smaller events, including exhibitions, supper clubs, and learning events with special speakers. All the YPC’s events are to raise awareness of the ROM and bring more young people to the museum, explains Patrick. Of course, they’ll all “hopefully raise some money for them too.”
Managing time between her many commitments can be a challenge, but Patrick says the firm is behind her all the way. “I balance it better some times than others. It can get busy — there are crunch times both at work and at the ROM and with the theatre companies,” she says. “Sometimes it gets busy, but I have a lot of support at the firm for doing what I do. WeirFoulds has taken an interest in what I’m involved in and made sure that I’m supported in doing it.” Several of her colleagues from the firm attended this year’s PROM event, and WeirFoulds was a sponsor.
Patrick’s love of the arts runs deep. She brushes off questions of networking and client-building opportunities. “Maybe eventually — that’s not my focus for right now.” While she may see the prospects for client development down the road, it certainly isn’t what sparked her interest in the first place. She seems more concerned with making relationships that will help to benefit the community and with encouraging participation in the many events they have to offer.
For anyone looking for a way to get involved in a good cause, and to make some contacts along the way, participation with the arts is a valuable choice. Patrick explains that with “the people involved in the groups, especially the ROM, there are a lot of lawyers.
So as it turns out, it’s a good way of getting to know other people — both in the legal community and the other young professionals in the city.”
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