By Gwyn Chapman
Carol Shirtliff-Hinds, is the powerhouse behind one of the largest law firm in Newmarket, and the largest Female and Black led law firm in the GTA with close to 20 lawyers. Shirtliff-Hinds exemplifies leadership, and over the past 20 years has developed an excellent reputation in both the courthouse and the community.
Shirtliff-Hinds is the principal and founding member of SHIRTLIFF HINDS LAW (“SHL”). Under her leadership SHL employs lawyers, paralegals, law clerks, and support staff. Together they provide a varied practice in areas such as Criminal, Family, Corporate and Estates. Equally impressive is that SHL provides its services in Arabic, Punjabi, Hindi, Tamil, French, Spanish and Cantonese.
Her desire to give back to the community and mentor others is long-standing. Shirtliffe-Hinds is also an elected member of the York Regional Law Association in Newmarket and an elected member of the Newmarket Chamber of Commerce and a member of the Canadian Association of Black Lawyers.
She also sponsors the LGQBT pride parade in Newmarket, supports Inn from the Cold by attending and assisting in preparing meals, and supports the local Newmarket Jazz Festival and Art show.
Shirtliff-Hinds was born in Guyana, the eldest of three children, “My parents had to flee Guyana when I was twelve because of the political turmoil at the time. My father was always that should he attempt to leave there would be consequences. There were consequences. My uncle was thrown in jail as a result of us escaping Guyana and the effects of that action were felt on my family, in particular my mother, as it was her brother, for years to come.”
She was the first in the family to go to University. Her father worked as a guard at the Don Jail and her mother was a secretary, “We were not wealthy. Law school was unheard of and considered an occupation of the more fortunate. Given my family history however, I was determined to go.”
Her early years as a volunteered with Harambee Centres Canada, an organization that provides culturally sensitive services to the African-Canadian Community, that teaches literacy, creates programs for Black Youth, fueled her appetite for community development and pointed the way towards the study of law. “I decided to start my own law firm as a way of further being able to give back to the community. It sounds trite but I wanted to make a difference. With the support of my family, I was able to start my own firm.”
SHL is not only one of the largest law firms in Newmarket but it’s also the largest female and Black led law firm in the GTA. “It is humbling,” admits Shirtliff-Hinds, “Not a day goes by without me being grateful and trying hard to live up to the large expectations. I have not found this to be an easy road.”
But it has its rewards and personal satisfaction, “I have been most passionate about cases that I have done pro bono. Our firm on a pro-bono basis helped with the first ever adult adoption. Also, our firm has helped many clients who have been wrongfully accused – that is most satisfying.”
Of course, running a practice such as SHL has it tough times but she handles it with a sense of humour, which she has in abundance, and overcomes the trough times with the support of her staff and family. But tough times are tempered by the joy of winning a case she feels really passionate about.
Shirtliff-Hinds avers that she would not trade her current profession for any other, and has this advice for young lawyers: “You will have days that make you question why you went into this profession. Those will pass. Seek out mentors you trust and can be honest with to guide you. You will make mistakes and you will learn from them. Be true to yourself. Don’t feel bullied into taking a position you don’t believe in – this is easier said than done.”
Carol Shirtliff-Hinds can be reached at www.shirtlifflaw.ca