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Constance Isherwood, B.C.'s oldest practicing lawyer, honoured by UBC

05/20/2015 03:15 EDT | Updated 05/20/2016 05:59 EDT
B.C.'s oldest practicing lawyer received an honorary doctorate from the University of British Columbia on Wednesday morning. 

Constance Isherwood, Q.C, aged 95, is being recognized for her extensive contributions to the legal community in B.C., and for helping to open doors for other women to become lawyers.

She graduated from UBC law school in 1951 as one of only eight women in her class of 200.

That year, Isherwood became the first woman to be awarded the Law Society's Gold Medal, which meant she had the highest GPA of her entire class.

In her more than 60-year career, she has received the Victoria Women's Pioneer's Award, a lifetime legacy award from the University of Victoria, and in 2013, she was bestowed the Diamond Jubilee Medal.

The case isn't closed on her career

Isherwood still has over 100 clients she sees off and on at her office in downtown Victoria.

"Very often clients say to me, 'Well, you can't retire until I get this case finished. You can't retire until I've got that estate wound up.' One lady said you can't retire until I die and do my estate," Isherwood told the CBC's Elaine Chau.

Isherwood says she still looks forward to each working day, which begins at home preparing paperwork. Then she drives in to the city in the afternoon to meet with clients.

"As I get up each day, I think about what has to be done and get on with it. The practice of law can be enjoyable because of its variety. No two cases are alike. The varied nature of it makes it interesting."

An inspiration for all

Her nephew, Robert Holmes, of Holmes and King Law in Vancouver, says she's an inspiration.

"In the 60s and 70s, she set up women's groups, more or less formal or informal in Victoria and beyond, to encourage younger women to enter the profession," he said. 

"To be able to network, get support, and find contacts. All of that has been a very significant thing in her career, in relation to promoting women in the practice of law."

Holmes' own career was inspired by his aunt Constance. He says she had a way of always making anyone she's met comfortable and valued.

"She can walk into a room of strangers, and within a short period of time, she would have found something important about each of them. She makes people feel good, and she builds people up."

Isherwood is one of five recipients to receive an honourary degrees during UBC's Spring Congregation ceremonies, held in Vancouver May 20 to 22 and May 25 to 27.

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