This month’s spotlight is on longtime CLEBC volunteer Stacie Ayukawa (née Gin) of Heritage Law. Stacie is a paralegal who practises in the areas of wills and estates as well as family law.
How did you first get involved with CLEBC?
I was first approached by Mary Kingston of CLEBC, who was looking for an estate paralegal to join a CLE-TV panel to speak on undue influence, alongside Michele Ross and Dr. Elterman. I was happy to offer my assistance and made some strong connections along the way. I was then fortunate enough to chair the course for Wills and Estates Basics for Paralegals and Legal Support Staff. I subsequently also chaired the course on Advanced Wills and Estates for Paralegals.
What are you are currently working on (or have most recently worked on) with CLEBC?
I chaired and presented at the Wills and Estates Basics for Paralegals and Legal Support Staff last year for the second time. I feel honoured every time I’m asked back!
What inspired you to become a paralegal?
I fell into the legal industry haphazardly by fluke. My father knew an accountant who shared office space with a lawyer who was in need of an assistant. The first day on the job, I had to ask what an affidavit is. My knowledge and experience spiraled from there and I knew quite rapidly that this was the type of work that I wanted to be involved with as a career. That first lawyer that I worked for taught me incredibly and I can only say that I have the career that I am passionate about because of her own passion. She worked exclusively in family law—seeing the difficult sides of marriage—meanwhile, she has been happily married for almost 50 years now. That is inspiration.
What are the rewards and challenges of your work?
My work is rewarding because it has a significant and definite impact on the people I am trying to assist.
My work is challenging for the same reason. I strive to be someone who is knowledgeable and sensitive, and have both those assets show through my work, even though sometimes they are at odds with themselves. I work in both family law and wills and estates law, and both being very emotional at times can have a substantial influence on me personally. There are harrowing stories that we work through, and the personal aspect has to be set aside to successfully manage certain circumstances. But in the end, I know that my job is to help people who are in some of the worst situations of their lives, and anything that I can do to alleviate some of the pain and sometimes confounding nature of the law is something that I can pride myself on.
In addition to being a paralegal, you also hold a Member, Trust Institute (MTI) designation. What does the MTI entail and how does the designation assist your practice?
The MTI is a professional designation from the Canadian Securities Institute. It is designed for advanced estate and trust professionals in trust companies, law firms, or accounting firms. Through the various required courses, I was able to gain valuable insight into estate and trust management, managing estate and trust accounts, understanding corporate executor and trustee risk management principles, and work as a trust officer. This assists not only as a wills and estates paralegal by integrating those practices and knowledge into my daily work, but I also use the designation as a trust officer with Heritage Trust.
Tell us more about your project to help temporary foreign workers in British Columbia.
I assisted the Law Courts Center’s Amici Curaie Paralegal Program in developing a workshop targeted at temporary foreign workers. I helped in preparing the precedent documents and in training sessions for the paralegal volunteers. The workshop is designed to help temporary foreign workers complete applications for uncontested divorce orders with the Supreme Court of British Columbia, as well as to help those who have children in their native country and are in the process of applying to include their children, but not their spouse, in their application to become a Canadian permanent resident.
In addition to your temporary foreign workers project, you also volunteer for other programs including the Law Courts Center’s Amici Curiae to assist self-represented litigants and also CLEBC. What motivates you to share your time and expertise?
I distinctly feel that if it is in my power to assist someone or an organization that I believe in, then I will do so, and do so happily. I always want to share the knowledge and education that I have been fortunate enough to receive, and if that can benefit others who need help, then I am completely in. My Law Courts Center experience has also led me to co-manage the paralegal workshop with the Battered Women’s Support Services. I have also recently been involved in making seminars for the Indigenous Community Legal Clinic, in offering training to their UBC Law School students in estate administration and probate applications. I have had many people throughout my career who have taken the time to explain things to me and share their experience with me. I have a mentor in our firm who still spends time with me to work through issues that I might come across that leave me stumped, and who inspires me to no end. If I can be that person for anyone else, I’d be happy to.
What advice would you give to newcomers interested in becoming a paralegal?
Don’t be discouraged by mistakes. I’ve made many, but I haven’t given up yet. They are bound to happen and foreseeable, but offer us new perspectives to learn from, and also give us an opportunity to learn how to react when others make mistakes in turn. And also, don’t ever underrate yourself. I have countless people ask me if the next step for me is to become a lawyer, almost as though being a paralegal wouldn’t satisfy. Being a paralegal is an important and fulfilling career in and of itself.
Other than law, what are you passionate about?
I just finished successfully defending my Masters in Liberal Studies from Simon Fraser University. I am passionate about education in general, and arts and social sciences in particular. I love literature of all kinds, cooking, and am also extremely fond of animals. And tea. There must be tea.