Canadian Lawyer

May 2024

The most widely read magazine for Canadian lawyers

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Page 11 of 51

FEATURE CROSS EXAMINED 10 PROVING THAT INNOVATION GETS RESULTS Leena Yousefi's female-led firm is growing fast, demonstrating how new approaches to compensation, equity, and the four-day workweek pays off LEENA YOUSEFI's firm, YLaw, describes itself as "the fastest-growing family, estates, strata, and immigration law firm in BC" and the "largest female-led law firm in Canada." While some more conservative-minded lawyers may dismiss these statements as attention-seeking hyperbole, for Yousefi, they are simply facts. Given the recognition of Yousefi and her firm by her peers, she arguably doesn't need the attention. She is just stating the obvious. "Right now, we have 24 lawyers. It could be much more than that, but we have a physical space issue. Once we lease more space, hopefully, we' ll grow more," Yousefi says. This growth includes a strategic diversification into new legal territories beyond family law. Youse fi's leadership s tyle direc tly challenges the traditional structures within the legal field, emphasizing a single, female-led leadership model over collective decision-making. "There are many women in managing partner and leadership roles in the legal community. But I haven't seen many law firms where there's a female founder and a female leader, and that woman completely leads, versus being part of a committee or a bunch of managing partners and having equity stakes like that," says Yousefi. Her style also means abandoning traditional law firm approaches, including opaque pay processes and the traditional workweek. The journey toward pay transparency at YLaw was borne out of a desire for equity. "We started with pay transparency [a few] months ago," Yousefi says, citing the unfair advantage of some lawyers in salary negotiations. "I get lawyers applying to me from other countries, and some of them say, 'I don' t even want any pay; I just want to get my foot in the door.' Even though they're super-intelligent, dedicated, and experienced, they don't get the attention some lawyers may get." YLaw's strategy sought to neutralize this discrepancy by establishing a pay structure that reflects merit and experience rather than negotiation tactics. "I find that usually, people of colour and women, minorities, and immigrants are the ones who are being discriminated against when it comes to pay. So, we said everybody with the same background, education level, and experience level should be technically treated the same." Yet, YLaw's transparency drive uncovered complexities. "There is a difference between transparency and uniformity," Yousefi says. T h e fi r m a d j u s t e d i t s p o l i c i e s , acknowledging that equal pay for equal experience doesn't always equate to fairness. YLaw's solution has been to maintain a clear and transparent base pay, with the potential for individualized bonuses. "I've come to realize that it's not a one- size-fits-all situation. When they start working here, some lawyers show a lot more initiative, loyalty, and excitement. So, even though their education and experience are the same, their potential is greater." While divulging more details about pay to her team may seem risky, Yousefi says it wasn't a difficult decision. "We will level that "I find that usually, people of colour and women, minorities, and immigrants are the ones who are being discriminated against when it comes to pay"

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