Cloverdale lawyer Cassandra Douma was always meant to pursue the law, even if she didn’t know it herself at first.
“My mom always says she knew I was going to be a lawyer from the time I learned to talk,” Douma told the Reporter in jest. “Because that was the last time she won an argument with me.”
After she graduated high school a year early, she left Surrey for Vancouver Island to study psychology and pave the way for an eventual law degree. But she soon discovered that she did not want to go down the same academic path as her peers, and put a pin in her undergraduate studies.
“I just knew what I wanted to do, so I decided to save my money and figure out a way just to do what I wanted to do.”
She worked as a manager at a wholesale nursery for two years as she made the decision of where to pursue a degree in law. She eventually settled on the University of Leicester in England after a family friend recommended it to her.
She enjoyed her time in the three-year program, partly because there was a large contingent of Canadian students at the school and because she wanted to travel.
But towards the tail end of her final year of studies, she suffered a sudden hemorrhagic stroke. Her family in Surrey, more than 7,400 km away, was terrified.
“I spent about a month and a half at the hospital in the UK,” Douma recalled. “I couldn’t talk for a week or two and it was a long process.”
Douma would end up taking a year off from work and school as she recovered back home in Surrey. She said the incident was frustrating, but left her a “more understanding” and patient person.
“I am still a little bit on the impatient side, but I was much more impatient before this happened. It put a lot of things in perspective,” she said.
“Everyone in my family said I overcame it because I [was] stubborn, just determined to get on with becoming a lawyer.”
To get back into things, the 28-year-old started working as a legal assistant at Cloverdale’s MacMillan Tucker & Mackay firm before returning to school to get her master’s degree in law from UBC.
After her studies, she came back to the firm as a legal assistant and then became an articling student in May 2017.
Now, Douma is one of MacMillan Tucker & Mackay’s staff of six lawyers, providing general litigation legal services.
She has assisted on several British Columbia Supreme Court trials, and appeared before judges or masters in the B.C. provincial and supreme courts.
She has been enjoying arguing her cases, and “finding some little kernel that can change a whole case,” she said. “Part of the trick is figuring out what details are important because you get a massive stack of papers and you have to go through all of it.”
Anyone looking into pursuing a career as a lawyer should have a penchant for debates and articulating arguments in a sensible way, she said.
A good lawyer also needs a strong work ethic, as they need to be prepared for a lot of work.