Michael Ford (post until Oct. 31/19)

Settlement-oriented Tremain gets results

Whether she’s in court or not, Toronto family lawyer Julia Tremain brings a settlement focus to her work at all times.

Tremain, partner with Waddell Phillips Professional Corporation, tells AdvocateDaily.com that those looking to hire counsel may mistake some lawyers' aggressive style for effective advocacy.

“For some people, the aim is to fight over absolutely everything and screw the other side as much as you can,” says Tremain, who prefers to bring her imposing negotiation and advocacy skills to bear when seeking a resolution.

And while that means a strong embrace of alternative dispute resolution methods, she never rules out litigation if it’s required.  

“If we’re in court, I always tell my client we’re going to come in with a reasonable position, as opposed to an extreme one because it helps to leave that impression with the judge,” Tremain says.  “And then, I’m always looking into a possible settlement in the background, to see if we can have a meeting of minds.”

The effectiveness of her approach is borne out by the substantial number of referrals she receives from both satisfied clients and fellow members of the family law bar.

Still, Tremain admits clients sometimes take convincing that a reasonable approach is best, considering the high levels of emotion that typically come with family law matters. Most come around.

“But if they want someone who is aggressive and wishes to pursue a scorched-earth strategy in court, I can refer them to the right person,” she says.

Tremain came relatively late to the law, having first built a career as a social worker helping vulnerable children struggling on the streets of Toronto.  

But she was frustrated by the lack of opportunities to exact lasting change — “It felt like a revolving door at times.” Tremain decided to go to law school, inspired in part by the experience of one refugee child she was working with, whose application to stay in the country had been rejected.

“There was no lawyer working on the file and I had little idea what to do, but I drafted an affidavit in support of him,” she says.

Ultimately, the boy was allowed to stay in Canada on humanitarian and compassionate grounds, and Tremain gained an insight into the potential power of proper legal training.  

“I really liked being involved in the process to help him and, of course, the result,” she says.

Though Tremain did not initially have plans to focus on a particular practice area, she quickly found herself drawn to family law during her education at Dalhousie University’s faculty of law.

“It seemed to make sense because it translated very well from my previous experience,” she says.

After articling with Ontario’s Office of the Children’s Lawyer (OCL), she stayed on, spending seven years as in-house counsel before entering private practice.

She remains on the OCL’s panel of outside lawyers appointed to represent children in child protection and custody matters. But the majority of her practice is devoted to acting for parents or spouses in a wide variety of family law disputes, including separation, divorce, and property division, as well as custody and access issues, and mediated solutions.

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