Lifelong passion for justice leads to legal profession
By AdvocateDaily.com Staff
Toronto employment and human rights lawyer Mika Imai grew up with a passion for social justice but found herself at a crossroads after completing her International Development Studies B.A.
“I wasn’t really interested in continuing in academia, and I struggled to see an exact path in terms of pure activism,” says Imai, an associate with Karimjee Law. “The law seemed like a way to try to do some good, by using a specific and tangible skill.”
And that pragmatic streak still shines through in Imai’s dealings with clients.
“Most people only have to go through this process maybe once in their lives, so you’re guiding them through a system that is pretty unfamiliar,” she tells AdvocateDaily.com. “I try to be empathetic, but also realistic in terms of the limits of the justice system, the burden of legal costs, and the challenges of trying to negotiate to get an employer to pay up.
“Whether it's a minimum-wage worker or a senior executive, together we’re able to make the strategic decisions that work best for their situation,” Imai says.
The roots of her future practice area developed quickly during her time at Osgoode Hall Law School, where Imai participated in the intensive program in poverty law at Parkdale Community Legal Services.
“Working with low-income workers gave me a great deal of focus and passion, and helped me narrow my options,” Imai says.
She also collected the Dean’s Gold Key Award for outstanding contribution to the life of the law school, where she also co-chaired the Osgoode Feminist Collective.
Imai's law practice has included working at a large union-side labour law firm and an employment law boutique. Now at Karimjee Law, the bulk of her files see her acting for employees in a variety of matters, including wrongful dismissal, disputes over employment standards, and human rights complaints.
She also works with employers, offering creative and practical advice on workplace policies and procedures, as well as a developing niche in workplace investigations following allegations of harassment.
In the relatively short time since her call to the bar in 2015, Imai has made an outsized impact, acting as co-counsel on two high-profile human rights cases — representing a Grade 6 student challenging the Ministry of Education’s recent decision to re-institute the 1998 sex-ed curriculum, and for a person challenging the Ministry of Government and Consumer Services’ refusal to provide the option of choosing male, female or non-binary on Ontario birth certificates.