Law

It’s not like Suits

Jennifer Huygen.
Jennifer Huygen.   Danielle Cameron

No, it’s not like Suits. “I have a younger sister and she watches Suits. She asks me, ‘Jenn, are you always working when it’s dark?’ ”

Jennifer Huygen wants to dispel some myths about lawyers’ mad ambition.

Huygen, a young Halifax-based lawyer, practises in a variety of legal areas from insurance, to labour, to civil and human rights law. However, her path to practising law wasn’t always a forgone conclusion.

When it comes to being a junior lawyer in Nova Scotia, it’s nothing like the cheesy television dramas that passively unfold every night at suppertime.

She spent four years as a page in the Alberta legislature and was deeply fascinated by how Canadian law and politics works. Drawn in by the bedlam of political theatre, she studied political science at the University of Alberta.

Turning the Starbucks coffee cup in her hands, she briefly reflected upon the moment she realized her own power. While working as a page, Huygen also saw the ugly side of things. She wasn’t satisfied with the system in place.

”I also disliked a lot of the aspects of how our political system works. And so I thought, well, if I wanted to make a difference in that area, maybe the way I could do that was through law,” she said.

Supreme Court of Nova Scotia, Halifax.
Supreme Court of Nova Scotia, Halifax.   Danielle Cameron

Huygen struggled with the next few steps between deciding whether she wanted to jump into the workforce or return to academia for more specialized training. She decided to shuffle her deck, apply to law school and leave Alberta.

“It’s kind of like reverse migration,” Huygen jokes about being an Alberta native coming to the Maritimes.

When she graduated from the Schulich School of Law at Dalhousie University in 2013, she stayed in Halifax and she still calls the East Coast home. She’s been an active member of the legal community, having also been the editor-in-chief of the Dalhousie Journal of Legal Studies. She was called to the Nova Scotia Bar in 2015, after articling for a year.

Huygen practises human rights law, among other fields. Her firm, Burchells LLP, even works with the Nova Scotia Human Rights Commission.

“That’s one area where you do really have a hand in making a difference on the ground,” Huygen says of her recently affirmed sense of duty.

There are so many types of lawyers; it’s unfair to paint them all with a single brush.

As a young woman in law, Huygen focuses on making legal aid more accessible to vulnerable people and believes society cannot function at a high level until the needs of those less fortunate are met. Though she believes she’s never been disadvantaged, as a woman in the workforce, she worries about the future.

“The hard part is looking to the future and seeing how there’s still a domination by men within the higher ranks of the profession,” she said.

Down the line, she hopes to prove herself and ultimately make a difference, regardless of her young age and gender.

“I just want to be good at my job,” she said — with a smile that stretched ear-to-ear.