Fireside Chat with Erin Cowling
Updated: Jan 25
January 2, 2022
In November 2020, I was desperate for a change. I was so fortunate to have met Erin for some much-needed career advice. Erin was simply amazing! Erin not only was very supportive and provided me invaluable tips and advice, she even went out of her way to introduce me to her connections and encouraged me every step of the way.
I am so thrilled and honored to have Erin here to be our very first Fireside Chat guest! I hope you will enjoy Erin's genuine, fun, and heartwarming sharing as much as I do!
Without further ado, let's get started...
Part 1 - Introduction
Hi my name is... Erin Cowling.
Year of call to the Bar: 2005
Type of practice, your role, and where:
Currently: CEO & Founder, Freelance Lawyer @ Flex Legal Network Inc.
Previously: private practice lawyer, Corporate Commercial Litigator, Associate at McMillan LLP.
How many children do you have?
THREE: 12, 10, & 8 – Two boys, one girl (until they tell me otherwise).
What is one thing that you do for self-care or stress relief?
I read a ga-zillion murder mysteries.
Part 2 - The first “Dual 10” Challenge: within the first 10 years post-call
Equilawbrium: Did you have a master plan for your career path? What was the driving force behind your career decisions? What are the important things to consider as you are figuring out your career path?
Erin: I did not have a master plan for my career path. Rightly or wrongly, I played a somewhat passive role in my career. Nevertheless, I always worked hard at whatever job I had and gave it my all, and at the same time, stayed open to whatever opportunities the world presented to me.
I had to get to know myself (my strengths, struggles, skills, unique talents, etc.) to find the right career path. I had to learn to listen to myself and not to what others thought would be a good career for me.
Equilawbrium: Please list one soft skill that contributed to where are you now and suggestions on how to cultivate it.
Erin: Communication. Put yourself in the shoes of the person you are communicating with: What do they need to hear? How do they need to hear it? What will help them understand what you are trying to tell them?
Equilawbrium: Please list one hard skill that contributed to where are you now and suggestions on how to cultivate it.
Erin: Legal writing.
Practice. Practice. Practice.
Read. Read. Read.
Read factums, claims, defences, cases (or contracts if that’s your area of law) Read as much as you can. Soon you will be able to tell the difference between great legal writing and mediocre legal writing. Then use those examples to assist your own legal writing.
Part 3 - The second “Dual 10” Challenge: have kids in their first 10 formative years
Equilawbrium: How did you juggle work/life responsibilities? Is it possible to have it all?
Erin: Having it “all” means different things to different people. I think it is totally possible to have it “all” as long as your definition of having it “all” doesn’t mean you are doing everything and are miserable. There is a difference between having it all and doing it all.
Don’t be a martyr.
Seriously, don’t even think about doing it all. Recognize the fact that we often have a choice in what we take on in life and what we can say “no” to. If you are in a relationship and you have children, make it a 50/50 partnership - including with the “mental load”, that can be shared too, don’t be fooled into thinking only women can carry this!!!
I see too many unequal parenting situations. This is either because one partner feels that they must “do it all” because of tradition or conventions or sexist stereotypes (got to let those go, it’s 2021/2022!). Or, perhaps they do everything because they think they do everything better than their partner (give up that perfectionism it’s only hurting you). Or, they are not expecting enough from their partners or fail to hold their partners accountable (expect people to be involved and they will).
Equilawbrium: Having walked the walk, what is the one parenting tip or trick that you wish you’d known?
Erin: It’s not necessarily a tip or trick but feel free to tell people to take a hike when they tell you: “The days are long, but the years are short! Enjoy them while they last!”
Sure, it is true, I blinked, and my kids are no longer in diapers and are fully functioning human beings. But there were days when I had three kids aged 4 years and under and I hadn’t slept in days, hadn’t had a moment to myself in weeks, and had been either pregnant or breastfeeding for several years in a row, the last thing I needed to hear was: “Enjoy this time!” Because I wasn’t. And that is okay!!
But during the chaos, when you do find yourself in a quiet moment with your little ones, and you are enjoying even a small part of your day, capture that time/image in your mind and cherish it, because everything does fly by quickly.
Equilawbrium: What did you miss most about your kids at that age?
Erin: That almost every problem could be solved with a snuggle and a kiss.
Part 4 - Achieving Equilawbrium: how to survive & rise from the “Dual 10” Challenges
"I learned to ignore the naysayers, acknowledge what was out of my control, and did my own thing." – Erin Cowling
Equilawbrium: What was your biggest challenge going through the Dual 10 phase? Any advice for our readers who are living and breathing this phase and trying to survive and excel?
Erin: My biggest challenge was that I could control my life (hiring a great caregiver, sharing responsibilities with my partner, etc.) to set myself up for a great career during this time, but I couldn’t control others’ preconceived notions or misconceptions about me once I became a mother. This was very frustrating. Some people still look at women who have young children as “less-than” in the legal profession. I learned to ignore the naysayers, acknowledge what was out of my control, and did my own thing.
Equilawbrium: What is your take-home message for our readers who are trying to find their “equilawbrium”?
Erin: Find your support group both in law and at home.
Don’t try to do it all. (And those “perfect” parents on Instagram or Facebook? They’re miserable in real life. Don’t fool yourself.)
Equilawbrium: What is the one-word encouragement/support that you would want us to remember?
<<End of Fireside Chat with Erin Cowling>>
**A MILLION THANKS TO ERIN!!**
Erin Cowling is a freelance lawyer and CEO & Founder of Flex Legal Network Inc. (a company that matches busy lawyers, law firms, and in-house counsel with freelance lawyers to assist with overflow legal work on a project basis). Previously, she was a corporate commercial litigator at McMillan LLP. Erin also taught Legal Research & Writing at the University of Toronto Faculty of Law and was the Regional Alumni Advisor (Toronto) (providing confidential career coaching) for the University of Ottawa Faculty of Law (2019-2021). She has an award-winning law-blog (currently on pause) and writes for several legal publications. Connect with Erin on LinkedIn and follow her on Twitter at @Cowlingerin or @FlexLegalNet.
Disclaimer: Any views, information, and personal opinions expressed by the authors or guests are entirely their own and do not reflect or represent those of their employers or clients.