Clients motivate pragmatic Hendrikx

By Staff

Results are the name of the game for Toronto family lawyer Kathryn Hendrikx.

Hendrikx, principal of Hendrikx Family Law, tells she’s keenly aware of what’s at stake any time she acts in a family legal matter.

“Very often we’re dealing with the future of a person’s family, children and their homes — the most important things in their lives,” she says. “That puts a very big responsibility on me, and as a result, I’m very invested in best practices and being the best lawyer I can be.

“Mine is a pragmatic approach. I’m aware of my own skill set. I know if and when I can help. If there isn’t a good client fit, then we won’t work with that person,” adds Hendrikx, who is unafraid to think outside the box to find a solution that will work for her clients.

Although she considers herself primarily a litigation-focused family lawyer, Hendrikx has also trained in various methods of alternative dispute resolution, including collaborative family law mediation and arbitration.

“I’m very settlement and resolution-oriented,” she says. “Court is only one tool for resolving disputes."

And bold thinking has never been a problem in the realm of professional development for Hendrikx, whose path to family law was anything but conventional.

Inspired by a childhood spent largely abroad with her parents, Hendrikx originally trained in international relations, but graduated in the early 1990s in the wake of a recession and public-service hiring freeze that killed off any hopes of a diplomatic career.

“Everything shifted, and I had to be resilient,” she explains.

Hendrikx then started afresh in the field of marketing and public relations, excelling in her work for one of Canada’s oldest and most diversified property management firms to the extent that colleagues suggested she return to university to study law.

She followed their advice, and eventually graduated from Osgoode Hall Law School in 2001, when she parlayed a litigation-heavy class load and victory in a mooting competition into an articling position at Lerners LLP, one of the province’s most respected litigation boutiques.

However, it would be another few years before Hendrikx found the practice area and subject matter that matched her passion for helping real people with complex issues.

“I did corporate-commercial and securities work, but it didn’t really resonate with me,” she says.

After establishing a general litigation practice with a family law element, Hendrikx narrowed her focus even further when she joined another law firm whose founding partners went on to become Superior Court judges.

By 2006, the sole focus of her practice was family law, handling a wide variety of complex litigation files touching on issues including custody and access of children, parenting plans, high-conflict separations, child support, spousal support, property division, pension division and separation agreements. And she hasn’t looked back since.

“It’s a complex multidisciplinary area. There are approximately 30 statutes that touch upon family issues, and you have to be mindful of these areas,” Hendrikx says. "Issues such as tax, pensions or family held corporations require specialized legal advice."

Having successfully launched her own firm three years ago, Hendrikx has now turned her mind to a fresh challenge — family law’s access-to-justice crisis.

“As someone who is in court frequently, I have seen the impact the huge number of self-represented parties make on the family law system,” she says. “The profession, the regulator and the government have all added services and information, but the problem has not abated.”

In addition to her campaigning on the issue, Hendrikx recently partnered with a product developer to create an online tool for use by unrepresented litigants, lawyers and other legal professionals designed to take the complexity out of court forms and processes. Recently showcased at an event hosted by Stanford University’s law faculty, the product is set to launch in Ontario later this year.

“The feedback has been fabulous so far, and we’re excited to keep growing,” she says.

Hendrikx has also taken an active role in the legal community since her call to the bar in 2002. She is a past president of the Women's Law Association of Ontario, and also belongs to the Toronto Lawyers Association, The Advocates' Society, Toronto Family Lawyers Association, and the Ontario Bar Association.

As well as moderating panels with Osgoode PD and speaking at events, Hendrikx is also active with mentoring and boosting young lawyers.

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