Photography, courtesy of Amanda Fowler's team.
As a woman in a fast-paced, male-dominated industry, Amanda Fowler is no stranger to working under pressure (and thriving while doing it).
As a Toronto-based sports lawyer, Amanda Fowler has been in the game for seven years and isn’t afraid to play hardball. She represents a range of athletes, both Canadian and international, and tackles a variety of cases, from human rights to safe sport complaints.
As a woman in a fast-paced, male-dominated industry, Amanda Fowler relates to the struggles we all face at one point or another: how do we deal with double standards? Where do we draw the line between personal and professional lives? How to set up boundaries?
To get the answers to these questions, we had a chat with Amanda, asking just what a day in her life looks like and how she manages to win in all areas. (Hint: it takes teamwork).
Canadian Living: What made you want to pursue law in the first place?
Amanda Fowler: Growing up I had a natural interest in advocacy and human rights. I learned about law in my first year studying Politics at Queen’s and knew it was for me. I saw it as a worthy, challenging career with smart people making a difference.
CL: How did you end up in sports law?
AF: I was a competitive athlete and always associated with that identity so, naturally, I was drawn to sports law. In law school, I met a law professor representing Olympic athletes with sport disputes and he was kind enough to bring me into one of his doping cases. Shortly after I started representing athletes in sport litigation, I was asked by an MLB prospect to advise him through the professional draft. What started as a passion turned into a law practice, and I was really good at it.
CL: How do you pick your cases?
AF: I tend to pick cases based on merit (i.e. a winnable argument) or an interesting legal issue, like gender discrimination or doping.
CL: What does a day look like in the life of a sports lawyer?
AF: It involves a lot of emails, as you can imagine! If I’m preparing for a sport arbitration, my day might involve drafting a motion, working on cross-examination questions, or mapping out opening or closing submissions. On other days, it could involve a strategy call with a client, reviewing new case law, researching, or writing an article. I’m regularly connecting with the law students I supervise at Western’s Sport Solution Clinic. On special days, I will watch my clients compete at the Olympics, PanAm Games, Nationals, World Championships, etc. It’s humbling to see them succeed knowing all the hard work they put into their sport.
CL: As a woman in a male-dominated industry, what are some struggles that you have faced and how have you overcome adversity?
AF: From the beginning, I felt welcomed and respected as a sports lawyer. I’m grateful for the male lawyers who have mentored me, gave me opportunities, and helped me succeed. In my experience, the best legal teams have involved both male and female lawyers. However, there have been times when I am not taken as seriously and have to do more to get the same credit, acknowledgements, or career breaks than others. I’ve also been held to a higher standard and subject to double standards. Adversity is not new to me, so I know how to be resilient, persevere and move forward.
CL: What lessons did you learn from these moments?
AF: I learned that I’m at my best when I’m being myself. I can’t change who I am or what people think of me, but I can continue to do good work and build a name for myself.
CL: How do you deal with the pressures of such a fast-paced industry?
AF: I only say yes to opportunities that excite me. When I do get overwhelmed, it’s usually when I feel a lack of control over my life. In those times, I prioritize the most urgent work, delegate, and complete tasks ahead of time. I also find it helpful to have supportive, reliable people around me. My husband, for example, is my biggest cheerleader and he will often take over responsibilities during busy work periods.
CL: What advice can you give women who are also trying to balance their work and personal lives?
AF: My son is always my top priority. My advice is not to overthink the balancing; if you feel like one area is taking over, make some shifts and don’t feel bad about it. Balance is when you feel fulfilled at work and in your personal life—it’s always shifting and hardly ever a 50-50 split.
CL: What do you think is in store for you in the future?
AF: I am hoping to join another board, do more work in professional sport (eg. in women’s professional sport or the MLB). Eventually, my lifelong career goal is to become a judge.
CL: Do you have any wellness practices you like to implement to help combat any stress in your job?
AF: I do the usual things like go to therapy, takes breaks throughout the day, exercise, spend time outside, avoid too much social media and go to bed before 10 p.m. Other practices include coffee dates and styling my outfits. When I don’t prioritize wellness, I find the stress will often develop into migraines or burnout.
CL: What boundaries do you put in place to separate your personal life from your work life?
AF: I built stronger boundaries once my son was born last year. I work from home as much as I can, maintain control of my schedule, take vacations regularly and totally disconnect when I’m not working. These boundaries give me down time, and—surprisingly—made me more productive and an even better lawyer.
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