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Ingrid Minott: ‘Keep an open mind and accept opportunities’

Ingrid Minott, Legal Counsel, Officer of the General Counsel at Deloitte, is photographed on Aug 31 2016.

Fred Lum/The Globe and Mail

Ingrid Minott, 35, is a lawyer with Deloitte LLP in Toronto and a member of the bar in New York State.

I was a kid who enjoyed learning. The first concept of when I wanted to be a lawyer was Grade 12, in my first law course. I was intrigued. I loved hearing about the rules and the business aspects of law.

After Grade 12, I had an opportunity to participate in University of Toronto's faculty of law youth summer program. I was interested and liked what I learned, continuing into Grade 13 with a law course. It was still at the back of my mind [when I was] going to York University doing my political science degree. I did my master's degree in international relations and realized I really did want to go to law school.

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I did a joint JD-LL.B [U.S. juris doctor and Canadian bachelor of law degree, now the dual JD program] at University of Windsor's faculty of law and Michigan's University of Detroit Mercy School of Law. I looked at law schools and what they offered. Ultimately, I wanted to do the two degrees because it was an extra skill, an extra jurisdiction I could practise in. I thought it was a good opportunity as a woman and a minority; the more credentials, the better I would be as a professional trying to move forward in my career.

I love the work I'm doing. Since Deloitte is a professional services firm, I provide advice about issues that come up; with that comes direct exposure to the firm's clients whose businesses are in diverse industries, for example, mining, oil and gas, financial services.

While I enjoy litigating in a courtroom and being an advocate for clients, working as in-house counsel gives me the unique opportunity to provide legal advice being entrenched in the nuances and challenges of the business environment. I find the work in-house is more collaborative and team-oriented because you're trying to manage risks while helping a business achieve its objectives.

I use dispute resolution all the time, managing an issue before it becomes a larger dispute. Most often, you try to negotiate and resolve the dispute with the other side before a lawsuit gets filed, but, in some cases, negotiation and ultimate resolution occurs after litigation commences.

The best advice I use is to keep an open mind and accept opportunities, because you never know where that will take you in your career. I can see how that worked for me.

You may wonder why the Black Female Lawyers Network need their own organization. It's no secret the legal profession is significantly lacking and trails behind other professions in terms of diversity. There's been attempts to improve, generally, gender diversity. While there are intersectionalities between experiences of female lawyers of different ethnicities and white female lawyers, there are certainly differences. This organization lets the corporate and legal environment know we are here and doing great things, and lets the membership know that if they're doing wonderful things in their career, we'll showcase it and support them.

Some lawyers are more careful than others on social media. I say that because of who I am naturally, being a private person. There are ways lawyers use social media to promote themselves and their career. I don't think it's a negative, just be careful and strategic; privacy is going to become a valuable commodity.

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I've spent most of my life in Canada, emigrating [from Jamaica] when I was 12. Especially in law and professional environments, people tend to think everything they've accomplished is because of their own effort; they've worked hard, put their head down and that's why they've been able to do great things in their life. Not everything successful Canadians have accomplished are the results of their own efforts; it's the result of being born with certain advantages or having an advantages presented that may not look like advantages.

The fact I've been able to go to school and become a lawyer and had some success in my career, I don't put that above anybody else. It's important for me that people recognize not everything is of their own effort, and those things they don't think of as opportunities are, in fact, who your parents are, where you were born. I don't know what my life or experiences would have been if I had continued to be raised in Jamaica, but I certainly look at the opportunity to leave as instrumental in me achieving what I achieved with hard work.

As told to Cynthia Martin. This interview has been edited and condensed.

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