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Leadership instills law firm’s focus on the community

At law firm Race & Company, good leadership gets the job done

Many successful organizations benefit from a culture established and passed down from the top.

Simply put, good leadership gets the job done—and plenty more.

At law firm Race & Company, which has offices in Whistler and Squamish, its corporate identity comes in part from one of its early partners, Nancy Wilhelm-Morden, who helped bring a woman’s profile to the job.

“Nancy graduated from law school in 1983 and became a partner here in 1987.  In the 80s, there were not as many women in law as there are today,” says Kathleen van der Ree, one of Race & Company’s partners. “And to become a partner within a few years of being called to the bar was a huge deal at the time.”

Even now, the dropout rate among young female lawyers is higher than that of their male colleagues, due to the difficulty of balancing motherhood with the billing expectations of private practice.  But because of Wilhelm-Morden’s trailblazing, it’s been “normal” at Race & Company to have a strong female presence. “It’s been part of our culture for decades,” van der Ree says. “Most of our lawyers are women.”

“As a firm, one of our core values is certainly family engagement,” says Brie Reilly, another partner with Race & Company. “Plus, what we bring to the practice of law is a focus on family life outside of work, and engagement in the community,” van der Ree adds. 

“I started with the firm as an articling student, and immediately learned that the  community engagement was a big part of the firm’s culture,” van der Ree says. “It was important as a young lawyer to not only get my name out there, but to help build a better community by lending time and expertise, especially with non-profit boards.”

Support from the firm to help make this happen included being able to take time off to attend meetings with the various community organizations.

Race & Company also ensures community grants are built into the firm’s annual budget to provide an additional helping hand.

One example is the firm’s sponsorship of the Whistler Chamber of Commerce’s Women of Whistler.  Race & Company’s lawyers also support many local non-profit boards including the Howe Sound Women’s Centre, Squamish Senior Citizen’s Home Society, Community Foundation of Whistler, Pemberton Off Road Cycling Association, the Rotary Club of Squamish and the Chambers of Commerce in both towns.

“A part of the emphasis on community came from Nancy, who was a dedicated volunteer who served several terms as a municipal councillor, and then later as mayor of Whistler,” Reilly says.

Community involvement can also be a two-way street for young professionals.

“Taking on not-for-profit leadership roles not only benefits your community, but it also helps you learn and grow as a lawyer,” van der Ree says.

For more about Race & Company, visit their website at