Women 2 Watch: Andrea East

Part of the reason why East finds her work so fulfilling is that it continually presents her with new challenges to solve.

Andrea East

“I studied the classics in school, and that’s when I realized law would be a great path for me,” East explained. “Ancient history is all about researching a text. I mostly studied the ancient Greeks and Romans, and I tried to extrapolate what their societies were like based on what they wrote about themselves.”

Her research skills and understanding of history made contract law seem like a natural specialty to study, and her choice to become a lawyer felt intuitively right.

“I was talking with my now-husband, trying to figure out what I was going to do with my ancient history degree, and becoming a lawyer just made sense. Law is very research-focused, just like ancient history. As soon as I joined law school, I knew I was in the right place.”

East says that working in law allows her to pursue her love of research and writing, and she’s known for drafting contracts in plain language that any party can understand—contracts that will successfully govern long-term working relationships.

East was called to the bar in 2004, after spending several years as a judicial law clerk and articling student. She says that she chose to become a law clerk in order to shorten her articling period before taking the bar.

After moving to Kelowna in 2008, she joined Pushor Mitchell as a junior lawyer in the business law department. East often works on real estate and economics cases involving First Nations groups, and she says that long-term relationships are key to her work.

“As I explored the practice area further, it gave me an opportunity to develop relationships with real estate developers and First Nations groups. It’s been a lot of fun and also very challenging. I love that I can build working relationships with my clients because it means I can understand rationales for previous decisions and give very targeted advice.”

East’s work with First Nations and in the field of economics is an all-consuming passion that extends beyond her case work at Pushor Mitchell. She serves on the Westbank First Nations Economic Development Commission, where she advises First Nations groups on business law, and the Urban Development Institute Under-40 Committee, which organizes mentorship luncheons for under-40 professionals in urban development.

East says that her studies and her law career have taught her a variety of important life lessons, chief of which is the value of good mentors.

“Finding good mentors is very important, especially in law. I’ve been very fortunate to have great mentors at every stage of my career to teach me how to build a law practice. But it’s also important to have mentors outside of law—people in the community that you can talk to and learn from.”

When she’s not doing casework, East enjoys spending time with her family and pursuing her many hobbies. A sports enthusiast, she often hikes and cycles in the summer and goes snowshoeing in the winter. She’s also passionate about arts and crafts, and enjoys sewing and crocheting as her schedule allows. In 2011, East served on the organizing committee for Breakout West, and says meeting people in the arts and culture industry was very fulfilling.

For East, a project is never just a project — it’s an opportunity to create something that matters, something that will endure.

“A lot of the projects that I work on are long-term, where we develop contracts that govern leases, partnerships, and joint ventures over a long period of time.”

Part of the reason why East finds her work so fulfilling is that it continually presents her with new challenges to solve. As a new lawyer, her first hurdle came when she started building her network. East, who says she is an introvert, found it challenging to hone her networking skills and meet business contacts. But thanks to her involvement with a variety of community organizations, she’s developed the network required to operate a law practice.

Never one to shy from a challenge, East took her networking efforts a step further when she founded the Downtown Express Toastmasters. After being invited to speak at a law conference, East started the chapter to hone her speaking skills prior to the event.

“About a year and a half ago, I called the Toastmasters International head office and figured out how to start a local chapter. We now have 25 members who meet every two weeks. Watching the group grow has been fabulous—it’s actually a lot of fun. We laugh a lot.”

East has structured her Toastmasters chapter around the needs of busy professionals, with short meeting times and fewer meetings making it easier for those with tight schedules to commit to the club—and she’s happy to have found an opportunity to build relationships with like-minded professionals.

“I’m in a great place right now, and I want to keep that going. I want to keep building my practice, keep doing good work, and keep giving back to the community.”