Every year on International Women’s Day, Singleton Reynolds profiles a prominent female member of our firm. This year we are honoured to feature partner Melanie Samuels, a prominent employment and immigration lawyer.

Becoming a lawyer was not on Melanie Samuels‘ radar as a child – she wanted to be an actress. For anyone who has had the pleasure of meeting Melanie, that makes perfect sense. Luckily for her clients and her colleagues, however, her parents encouraged her to take a more academic approach to her future career. Thus Melanie graduated from UBC Law School in 1989 and embarked on a career in law, where the courtroom and the boardroom became her stage. With so many practice areas open to her, the fast-paced and human-centric nature of employment and immigration law spoke to her and she has spent her career becoming an integral part of her clients’ businesses and lives, thereby building a practice that she finds professionally and personally rewarding.

When Melanie started her legal career, there were few female mentors for her to emulate and learn from. Luckily, she has always had a strong sense of what she wanted and knew that she would have to forge a path that worked for her, through a profession that was often traditional and slow to change. Melanie’s advice for women entering the legal profession today – manage your own expectations and those of others, and find the workplace that supports you in achieving those expectations. That is what drew Melanie to join Singleton Reynolds (then Singleton Urquhart) in 2010. Here, she found an environment and colleagues that were supportive and provided her the flexibility necessary to pursue her desires to raise a family, entertain interests outside of the law, and engage with her Jewish community in taking on many leadership roles, all while providing excellent service to her clients. She flourished and became a member of the firm’s Management Committee in 2018.

Upon joining Singleton Reynolds, Melanie remembers quickly revealing to her new colleagues the fact that she did not golf and had no interest in doing so. At that time, golf continued to be one of the most common, if clichéd, activities through which lawyers connected with their clients. Instead, with the support of the firm, Melanie put her event organizing skills to work and developed an annual women’s client event. Centred around a different activity each year, the firm’s female lawyers and their clients gather to connect, share common experiences, and, most importantly, have fun. It has become a highly anticipated event on the firm’s calendar and provides an example of how Melanie has always sought to push the boundaries of the profession.

Influenced by her parents who prioritized community involvement, Melanie has not restricted her desire to enact change to the legal profession. For years, her mother—who was rarely seen without her signature Revlon pink lipstick—had collected and distributed items of basic need to new immigrants to Vancouver. Upon her death in 2007, Melanie and her friends wanted to honour her mother and ensure that the work she had begun continued. They formed The Lipstick Brigade, a not-for-profit organization that collects hygiene, cosmetic, and toiletry products and distributes them to a number of shelters that support women on Vancouver’s Downtown East Side. In doing so, Melanie has not only preserved her mother’s legacy but has also expanded the reach of compassion and support to empower vulnerable women in the broader community.

Like any good actor, Melanie has not always followed the script she was given. Rather than accept the status quo, she improvised her own lines. Her advice to any woman starting her career: “Find your fit, the right place, where you feel valued and validated.”

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