Feb. 15, 2022
UCalgary alumna blazes trail for Black female lawyers
There are many reasons for someone to want to pursue law. For Patricia Sealy, LLB’98, the first Black woman in Alberta to receive a Queen’s Counsel (QC) appointment, the reason was simple: helping people.
Sealy had always wanted to be either a lawyer or a psychologist, and she had a lengthy history of working with children and families as a counsellor. “You get a sense that families need help,” she says.
It was these experiences that inspired Sealy to get into family law, where she has spent her entire legal career. She has been at the firm of Daunais McKay + Harms for the last 19 years and served as the managing lawyer for several of those years.
In 2020, she made history by receiving her QC appointment. Such appointments are awarded to lawyers who demonstrate legal leadership and have made contributions to the administration of justice, the community, and the legal profession.
Sealy received a range of reactions, from those who were pleasantly surprised because they didn’t know she had applied, to those who were overjoyed because it was about time a Black woman received a QC.
Sealy has mentored young female lawyers throughout her career, and she says many of the young, Black female lawyers ask about how she survived in the legal field as a Black woman.
Sealy admits that her path in the law has been difficult.
It’s hard to live with some people looking at you and assuming things about you because you’re Black.
So, when it came to the QC designation, Sealy says it is a good thing because it shows up-and-coming Black lawyers that this is something attainable.
“They need to see possibility,” she says. “They need to see themselves in others who have received honours such as this.”
In March 2022, Sealy will also receive the Lillian Ruby Clements Trailblazer Award, which will be presented at the Women’s Legal Forum — another recognition she hopes will unveil possibility for young Black lawyers in the province.
Of her chosen field, Sealy says family law is an area in which you see people in challenging circumstances, who may be lost and afraid, or searching for change, and she strives to support her clients in attaining their goals, despite their difficult circumstances.
I want to help people see that, no matter where you are now, by the end of this you are going to take control of your journey.
To those people who are looking to her as a mentor, especially women seeking to enter and make their way in the legal field, Sealy says not to be afraid to be themselves.
She says to find excellent colleagues to be allies and, in turn, be allies to them, because one can’t survive the legal system alone.
“Don’t be scared to reach out because there will always be someone who will want to hear you,” says Sealy.
“And, if you can’t find someone, call me because I’ll always pick up the phone.”
About Black History Month
During Black History Month, people in Canada celebrate the many achievements and contributions of Black Canadians and their communities who, throughout history, have done so much to make Canada the culturally diverse, compassionate, and prosperous nation it is today.
The theme for 2022 is February and Forever: Celebrating Black History today and every day.