For two Ontario lawyers, playing softball on the same competitive team headed for the Women’s Fast Pitch Canadian Championship isn’t just a hobby — it is a means of building relationships, relieving stress and networking.
It turned out to be a coincidence that Stephanie Manson, staff lawyer at Legal Aid Ontario in Chatham, and Erin Durant, senior associate at Borden Ladner Gervais LLP in Ottawa, ended up on the same softball team.
“Stephanie founded the team last summer and she knew some of my friends from softball, even though she and I had never met,” says Durant. “They were looking for an extra player and a friend of mine introduced me to her.”
Now, having been on the team for a year, they have recently placed second at the Ontario Provincial Championships, which guaranteed them a spot to compete at the 2017 Women’s Fast Pitch Canadian Championship in Brampton, Ont. Aug. 16-20. Members of the team come from across Ontario, so they don’t typically practice, only meeting to play at tournaments.
Both lawyers have been playing the sport since they were children. But the difference now is that they’re playing as bona fide legal professionals. Durant, who is a few years older than Manson, served as her mentor as she was articling and starting out as a lawyer.
Durant says she has also informally networked throughout her time playing softball.
“I’m still very close with the girls that I played with when I was in university. We keep in touch and it’s amazing how many of us have ended up in very high-end professions,” says Durant. “It’s an informal way to get clients that have been these former teammates.”
Playing softball is “second nature” and “part of life” for Manson. She’s so passionate about the sport that she juggles volunteering as a coach for the Wilfred Laurier University team with playing on her own team and serving as the vice president of the Ontario Intercollegiate Women’s Fastpitch Association together with her busy legal career.
“It’s a great athletic activity to help keep you in shape,” says Manson.
Managing a busy legal career with playing and coaching softball (which Durant also does for the University of Ottawa’s team) might be tricky, but it is not impossible. Durant and Manson attribute handling their responsibilities with staying focused and staying organized.
“I take the same approach to whatever I’m doing. I give my full focus to that time,” says Manson. “So if I’m at work, it’s work; I’m at court meeting with clients. When I’m at softball, it’s pure softball.”
For Durant, organizing her busy schedule is key. She says it helps that she receives her softball schedules well in advance, even though sometimes her career makes her schedule unpredictable.
“I’m a litigation lawyer, so sometimes emergencies come up that I have to deal with,” she says. “In two years, I’ve only had to miss a team event twice [due to work commitments]. But for the most important tournaments, I’ve always been there. My work [at BLG] is understanding what we’re doing.”
Both lawyers agree that playing on the team, even though it is competitive, is great a stress relief and is something they love being part of.
“I think if lawyers have hobbies, especially young lawyers, if there’s something that they loved to do in the past and they’re concerned about finding the time, I think that it’s a good idea to just give it a try because I found it hasn’t been that difficult and it’s been really helpful for me,” says Durant.