Thompson Rivers University

Law alum keeps connected to TRU

January 17, 2023

Sara Hilliard enjoys the creativity in law. Although not necessarily front of mind when one thinks of a lawyer’s work, Hilliard says the opportunity to be creative is a huge draw, particularly in family law, where lawyers can find innovative ways to solve their clients’ problems.

Born and raised in Kamloops, Hilliard attended TRU for undergrad and then law school. She articled with MJB Lawyers in 2020 and was called to the BC Bar in 2021. Since then, her practice has focused primarily on family law, along with some civil litigation.

She finds creative opportunities most often in negotiations and mediation, where lawyers are free to explore as many options and resolutions as possible to determine what works best for their clients (within the confines of the law). She says the legal profession is rewarding.

“You are helping your clients get through some of the most difficult periods of their lives, and very often they truly appreciate all that you have done for them whether or not they get the outcome they desire.”

As a recent call to the bar, Hilliard occasionally battles with the dreaded, but inevitable, imposter syndrome. She reminds herself that what she is feeling is normal — many of her newly graduated colleagues share these occasional insecurities. However, senior lawyers understand what it’s like to learn the practice and welcome opportunities to mentor. Hilliard often knocks on senior counsel’s door to run a strategy or position by them and inevitably is reassured that her instincts are right on track.

Mentoring goes both ways

Even as a recent call, there are lots of chances to be on the other side of the mentorship relationship. This year, Hilliard is co-coaching the National Family Law Negotiation Competition, which takes place in Edmonton, AB. Mooting was an important experience for Hilliard during law school, and she welcomes the opportunity to pass on some of her insights.

“I gained some very vital skills, primarily working in a team environment, researching, advocating for a position, negotiating, and thinking creatively,” she says.

It is inspiring to see many TRU alumni come back to the university to enhance the student experience. For Hilliard, meaningful engagement between the law school and the legal community is crucial for student success. “I think it’s really important for TRU Law alumni to share their knowledge and experience with current law students at TRU. We all have so much to share, and as a student I remember I loved to hear all about the practice from actual practicing lawyers,” she says.

This engagement can help ease the transition from school to practice — and perhaps minimize that imposter syndrome.

“It’s important for current students to feel welcomed when entering the legal profession. If they know there are lawyers in their community willing to listen and give them advice, I can guarantee it will help alleviate a lot of the fear and stress they will certainly feel when entering the profession.”

Interest can begin in high school

Hilliard recently participated in TRU Law’s Discover Day with School District 73 high school students, volunteering as a coach for a mediation exercise.

“I was astonished by the passion and interest that these young individuals had in the law. I could tell the students all had a lot of fun with the exercise, and it was great to see how creative they got with their problem-solving and negotiation skills. It was an excellent opportunity for young people to learn more about the profession and what the practice looks like.”

As she reflects on her time at TRU Law, Hilliard is grateful for so many experiences. At the top of her list is working at the Community Legal Clinic and being a part of the Indigenous Law Students Association. When asked about her biggest takeaway from law school, Hilliard says it was the collegiality among her fellow students that made a lasting impression.

“There was no unnecessary competition between students — we were all there to get through law school together and didn’t mind helping each other out along the way.”

Hilliard looks forward to future opportunities to engage with TRU Law students and connect with her fellow alum.

Sara Hilliard


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