Women in Law – Patience Omokhodion on running her own race

Cassels partner explains how she propelled herself to the forefront of her field

Patience Omokhodion doesn’t fixate on competition — she finds her finish line and pushes herself toward it.

Omokhodion, a partner at Cassels Brock & Blackwell LLP who focuses on financial services and banking law, says she has propelled herself to the forefront of her field by reminding herself to run her own race.

“It just means celebrating when others succeed, without always comparing yourself to the speed at which other people are going — or what they might be achieving or obtaining. It’s the sense of accepting this life, this career, this work— whatever we have — is my race to run,” she says. “It’s my business to grow. My practice to nurture — that I might build something that I might hopefully be proud of. A notion of knowing that I can do things my own way.”

Like a cross country course, Omokhodion’s path has been winding, and her success has taken work, she says. Coming from a family of lawyers and entrepreneurs, Omokhodion had long had an interest in business but also felt the pull of passions like literature, and later, litigation.

“I had the opportunity to try project finance, general finance and securitization. And it was funny — for someone coming from an arts background, with a love of languages and literature, I really took to business law, much to the surprise to some of my colleagues, friends and family. It challenged me, it interested me, it excited me.”

Again, her path took an unexpected turn when she ended up in Canada after growing up and launching a career in the UK.

“I’m now someone living in my third culture. I’m Nigerian — I’m the child of immigrants. I moved to the UK when I was a baby, and I grew up steeped in Nigerian culture. And I’m now an immigrant again to Canada, and a proud new Canadian as of last year,” she says. “All my professional life I’ve grown so used to being ‘the only one’ in a meeting, seeing very few people who looked like me . . . . as a woman and even more so as a woman of colour.”

Watching her parents go back to school and build a business has shaped her perspective on her career, says Omokhodion, who will be speaking about executing diversity and inclusion strategies at Canadian Lawyer’s Women in Law Summit on Feb. 12, 2020 in Toronto.