Building relationships with clients and establishing a positive office culture based on teamwork.
Those attitudes have been pervasive in the daily workings of the Touchstone Law Group’s growth since it was founded in October 2012 by local lawyers Una Gabie and Jennette Vopicka.
Gabie says running a law firm enterprise embraces both her life passions for the law and business.
“I’m actually enjoying it more than I expected,” she said of co-owning the firm. “I put in a large number of hours each work but I do love the work so that helps. I started my own firm with my partner for the purposes of having more flexibility and control over my time, but the reality is I’m working more hours.
“There can be a big misconception out there that if you own your business, you don’t have to work as hard. But for me it’s an ideal mixture to run a business and practice law.”
Gabie grew up in the Lower Mainland but her family household didn’t have any particular bent towards entrepreneurial pursuits. “My dad was a pilot and he wasn’t a business person per se. But my two brothers and I today are all running our own businesses so we’re not sure where that came from,” she said.
Gabie’s legal specialty is in business law, real estate transactions, and wills and estates. She says her legal practice allows her to work with clients as a referral resource on both personal and business related issues.
“There are legal implications that go along with starting your own business that we help with as lawyers, but my goal is to be more than just an external legal counsel resource,” Gabie explained. “Our goal is to be part of the team helping someone to establish their business, to be able to offer our experience and guidance to fully explain the legal implications of decisions that business owners face.”
Gabie says she enjoys the relationships this kind of legal work provides between her and clients, while the real estate aspect involves her in a process with many other professionals—accountants, mortgage brokers, bankers, lawyers etc.—to help facilitate the purchase or sale of a residence.
Gabie’s legal roots date back to her graduation from Earl Marriott Secondary School in Surrey. She attended Simon Fraser University to get her undergraduate degree, a Bachelor of Arts with a major in criminology.
From there, Gabie left B.C., moving to London, Ont., to attend law school at Western Ontario University. She would be offered a position as a summer law student in 2006 with a Kelowna law firm, where she subsequently did her articling requirements in 2007-08 to obtain her law degree. She began her career as a licensed lawyer here in April 2008.
A mutual lawyer friend brought Vopicka and Gabie together in 2012, as both were looking for an opportunity to start their own law firms. Their mutual interests came together to create Touchstone, with the objective of creating a distinct legal firm culture that would be beneficial to both clients and their staff.
“We have grown from a staff of three to 14 since we opened. That has been an interesting process to go through,” she said. “We wanted to create an office culture that focuses on teamwork and to build a group together that puts a high level of focus on client service. Much of our business growth can probably be attributed to positive word of mouth.”
On the employee side, Gabie says the staff meet once a month to discuss workplace issues. “We want to talk about how our staff are enjoying their jobs, what we can do to make the office a better place to work. We spend a lot of our time here so we want it to be a positive working environment.”
While co-owning a law firm and working as a practicing lawyer takes up a lot of her time, Gabie says she still makes time to enjoy the Okanagan lifestyle with her husband, a retired lawyer, along with their two dogs, Marlee and Murphy.
She is a regular fixture on the links at Predator Ridge Golf Course during the spring and summer and enjoys skiing at Big White in the winter.
While she grew up in the Lower Mainland, Gabie says she can’t imagine a better place to live than Kelowna. “I’m not really interested in the bigger city anymore and Kelowna is just one of the most beautiful places in the world to live.”
She said working in the real estate field may not have the high profile of criminal law, but she enjoys the challenges it brings of working with different people and situations on a daily basis. “There is always an opportunity to learn from those experiences so it never gets boring.”
Gabie says she also wants to give back to her community, which she does by volunteering her corporate law expertise and serving on the board for Community Futures, sitting on the Kelowna
Chamber of Commerce board executive and being involved with the Okanagan Mortgage Funders Association.
Crowe MacKay’s Women to Watch program is a weekly feature that profiles remarkable women in our community. This feature series is a joint initiative between Crowe MacKay, the Kelowna Chamber of Commerce and the Kelowna Capital News. To nominate the exceptional woman in your life, email firstname.lastname@example.org.