FDRIO Member Angela Princewill speaks on being an immigrant, culture, Black History Month and more
By AJ Jakubowska
I must admit interviewing FDRIO Members of the Month is quickly becoming a favourite part my job as Newsletter Editor. Here is my conversation with Angela Princewill, our featured Member of the Month. She is a family and immigration law lawyer who has expanded her toolkit for assisting with the resolution of disputes to include mediation.
AJ: Angela, as a first generation immigrant myself, I am very interested to hear your story, how you came to Canada and how the country of your birth and its rich culture have shaped who you are today and your approach dispute resolution. Let’s start at the beginning, so to speak.
Angela: I was born in Lagos, Nigeria, completed 5 years of Law School at the Rivers State University and was in a position to start practising law in Nigeria once I completed the licensing process. When I came to Canada at the age of 22, I attended the University of Windsor for a further 2 years and I was called to the Bar in 2008.
AJ: Tell us about your evolution as lawyer and FDR professional, please.
Angela: The beginnings were humble but I had confidence (at least a hope) that over time, my own practice would grow into a dynamic firm able to assist a wide variety of people in resolving their problems. In fact, it all started in my living room in April, 2015. The original firm, called A. Princewill Law Firm, was essentially just me but we have grown and I am thrilled to say we continue to grow. AP Lawyers (as we are now called) will soon be a 4-lawyer firm as we are about to welcome a new associate in March.
AJ: Angela, one immediately noticeable feature of your firm is its very diverse make up. It’s a virtual mini-cross section of Canada itself! Was this a deliberate choice on your part?
Angela: Actually, it was not. It is the result of an open-minded, objective hiring process. Our goal has been to hire the “best people for the job”, regardless of religion, age, gender or race. When you put aside prejudices and are colour blind, it’s amazing what a great team you can assemble. I am particularly proud of our diverse team as an African-Canadian woman. It’s reflective of the diverse fabric of our beautiful country and I firmly believe it helps us to better serve our clients by making us more culturally aware.
AJ: How has your Nigerian/African heritage influenced/shaped the way you practice law and approach the resolution of family law disputes through mediation in particular?
Angela: You have hit on a topic which is dear to me.
My roots have made me appreciate the justice system here, in Canada, both with respect to its excellence and its challenges. I love the way Canadian family law legislation has evolved and continues to evolve. You know, we complain for example about Ontario’s court system being slow but compared to the pace of family law cases in Nigeria, it is lightning speed so I feel grateful for that while at the same time recognizing there is room for improvement in our justice system as well. Family disputes before our courts need to be resolved quickly or, preferably, not end up in the court system at all. This is where my interest in mediation comes in. It has made me particularly proud and happy to assist people in resolving their problems through dialogue, to help them craft their own solutions, suited uniquely to their own circumstances, needs, finances. I believe that building and preserving goodwill is important as it creates a potential for longer-lasting results.
My heritage also helps me view and approach issues differently, perhaps more broadly and with more of an open mind, as I have the benefit of different world views/societal values.
I understand how much a person’s culture can shape the way they view a problem or the results they want, and I find that when people feel understood, we’re better able to help them without any mental blocks.
I am also able to appreciate the importance of alternative dispute resolution and how much more effective it can be in resolving disputes for various communities, with potentially longer-lasting results. My evolution as a professional in the direction of mediation has a lot of do with my belief that lawyers need to take a leading role in alternative dispute resolution as we know first-hand the challenges and pressures our court system is facing.
AJ: What does Black History Month mean to you, Angela? –
Angela: It’s an important acknowledgement of the black community’s long and often arduous road, struggle in fact, to get to where we are now. For me personally, it means acknowledging the past, celebrating how far we have come and recognizing how much more remains to be done. It is a celebration of the important contribution the black community itself had to make to have their voice heard. I am gratified that that my job as a lawyer allows me to ensure that other, otherwise-unheard voices, can be heard. I do that by being a zealous advocate for my clients and a dedicated mediator.
AJ: No interview would be complete without some questions about your free time and how you fill it. Tell us about that, please.
Angela: I spend most of my free time with my kids. One of them, my son, is a competitive soccer player who dreams of becoming a soccer star. I nurture that passion in whatever way I can. The other, my daughter, is creativity defined – a gifted artist in her own right and an avid pianist. I expect you can imagine how much careful time-organization all these activities require and balancing them with a professional life can sometimes be a challenge but I would not trade it for anything! I love traveling with my family and we do travel quite a bit – from exploring the parks in Moscow, to the dessert safaris of Dubai – we always have a blast.
AJ: Angela, I appreciate you sharing a bit of yourself with all of us!