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'Do not be dissuaded by my experience,’ Ghomeshi lawyer Marie Henein tells young female peers

Toronto Star logo Toronto Star 2016-03-31 Geoffrey Vendeville - Staff Reporter

Marie Henein was the keynote speaker at the Young Women in Law gala in Toronto on March 30, 2016. © Geoffrey Vendeville Marie Henein was the keynote speaker at the Young Women in Law gala in Toronto on March 30, 2016. Julianna Khou, a criminal defence lawyer three years out of law school, was at the Queen St. courthouse on day one of the Jian Ghomeshi trial and watched in admiration as Marie Henein picked apart the first complainant’s testimony. She liked what she saw.

“She’s unapologetic. She speaks with such conviction and she takes her job seriously,” Khou said Wednesday night, when she was among the crowd of hundreds who went to listen to Henein speak at the Young Women Lawyers gala on Bay St. The venue, Arcadian Court, overlooked Old City Hall, where Ghomeshi was acquitted on charges of sex assault and choking last week.

Henein’s muscular cross-examination of the women who brought charges against Ghomeshi made her a target of criticism on social media. A minority accused her of being a traitor to her sex.

In her speech, Henein urged young female lawyers never to lose confidence in themselves or the Canadian justice system.

“Throughout your career in this profession, you will be told what you should do, how you should act, which way you should bend. Do not listen to any of it,” she said. “Do not be dissuaded by my experience. Do not for a moment be disheartened. I am not.”

Her advice follows a report by the Criminal Lawyers’ Association suggesting that women are dropping out of criminal law practice at higher rates than men. Most respondents to a CLA survey in December cited the unpredictability of work hours and income, and the difficulty of having kids while working in criminal law as probable reasons for quitting the profession.

At the gala, many of the young female lawyers said they look up to Henein.

“I was saying I want to grow up to be her,” said Christen Cole, another criminal defence lawyer.

“I think if a man had done it no one would have batted an eyelash. That’s just good lawyering. The fact that she did it in heels and a designer dress is icing on the cake for me.”

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