Michael Ford (post until Oct. 31/19)
Family

Daudlin embraces challenges of family law

Toronto family lawyer Jennifer Daudlin loves a challenge in both her professional and private lives.  The lifelong athlete persevered through a series of debilitating injuries to become a high-level competitive swimmer and, since her retirement from that sport, has taken up a number of new activities.

Daudlin has been active in boxing and springboard diving, a discipline that recently took her to Montreal to compete at the FINA Masters World Championships. In addition to all that, for the past decade, she has run her own salsa school and has travelled and performed around the world.

Daudlin’s determined nature was also on display during the first six months of her career in family law, following her appointment as bilingual staff duty counsel for Legal Aid Ontario (LAO) back in 2009.

“Frankly speaking, it was a really trying time in those early days,” she tells AdvocateDaily.com

“People are coming to you at the absolute worst point in their lives, with their world crashing down around them and with very little control over it. Emotionally, I had to learn to dissociate from the very real issues my clients were facing on a daily basis.”

But the hard work paid off for Daudlin, founder and principal of Daudlin Law.

“What I’ve found is that because of the very human nature of family law, when you can assist a person, it is incredibly rewarding,” she says. “By being creative in your problem-solving, you can help improve the lives of clients and their children who are in a bad situation.

“There’s nothing more satisfying than that moment when you witness a client come to the realization, ‘It gets better and I’m going to get past this,’” Daudlin adds.

Although her father trained as a lawyer, Daudlin initially resisted following him into the profession, preferring to focus on coaching and physical therapy for swimmers. After starting out in kinesiology at McMaster University, she switched her undergraduate specialism to philosophy, but her legal pedigree shone through to one professor after Daudlin tore apart his theories in an answer to an essay question.

“He put this question on the paper every year that challenged students to tell him why his doctoral thesis was wrong, but he said I was the first one to have the guts to actually attack it. He also picked up a theme in my class papers, which were all entitled ‘In defence of so and so,’” Daudlin explains. “He told me, ‘You were meant to be a lawyer.’”

She followed his advice and, determined to be accepted to law school, Daudlin decided to make the eight-hour drive to Ottawa from her home in Lighthouse Cove, Ont. on a Wednesday morning in order to boost her case in person.

Daudlin landed a meeting with the common law dean who was surprised to learn she had not applied to the university’s French common law program since she was raised in a bilingual household and schooled in French. With final decisions imminent, the dean gave Daudlin until that Friday to put together an application for consideration.  

“I drove back that night and scrambled to translate my application into French, before going to meet my old high school teacher to review it, and turned the whole thing around in 24 hours,” Daudlin says. “The next week, I received my acceptance.”

Daudlin got a taste of family law while articling at a small firm in Sudbury, Ont. before taking up a role as bilingual staff duty counsel for LAO in the Greater Toronto Area in 2009.

In 2013, she left to start her own firm, where she acts for clients in a wide range of matters, including division and equalization of property and the negotiation of domestic contracts, and high-conflict custody and access disputes. A number of her clients are victims of domestic violence, referred from shelters that Daudlin became familiar with during her spell at LAO.

“I’ve developed a reputation as someone who can handle their most difficult, high-conflict, and challenging cases,” she says. “I see many shattered shells of individuals coming into my office, people who have experienced a lifetime of abuse and really have no sense of self, independent from their spouse.

“Watching them learn how to become independent, grow strong, and understand their own self-worth, is a challenging, but incredibly rewarding experience,” Daudlin adds. 

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