Carol Shirtliff-Hinds worked with the federal government for almost two decades before deciding to go out on her own. Fifteen years of her time spent working for the federal government was spent prosecuting cases dealing with a wide range of tax issues. The remainder of the time was spent prosecuting drug offences.
When she finally made the transition out of the government job and on her own, Carol did not travel too far from her government roots. In her current role as the head of her own firm, she continues to do prosecutions for the Canadian government in far out suburban areas where there are few resident government prosecutors. Although the majority of her work is for the Canadian government, Carol has expanded her practice to include representation in a wider range of litigation matters (including defense work) that do not conflict with her current client files.
What do you enjoy most about your job?
Being a sole practitioner. I love the feeling of running my own business. This is something I’ve always wanted to do. Being on my own allows me to work on a wide range of cases. I can work on drug prosecutions or tax evasion files.
What would you be doing now if you didn’t become a lawyer?
I would probably have been a French teacher. A few years ago I started a school to teach children French. I am really passionate about educating children about the value of a second language and the impact gender has on this process. Boys and girls learn differently and this impacts their ability to learn a second language. I am interested in these little nuances and would like to do more work in this area.
Where do you see yourself five years from now?
I really enjoy what I do now. So, in the next five years I will likely be doing the same thing.
What is your biggest challenge?
Balancing home life with work life. I work out of an office away from home, but I also have an office at home. In addition, there are periods when I spend at least 75% of my time in court. This makes it very hard to keep up with housework and other family commitments.
Who are your mentors?
I have had so many mentors. There are a lot of people who have taken me under their wing. I actually have a mentor from articling whom I became close friends with. At the time I didn’t even realize that it was a mentoring relationship, but it became one as we got to know each other better. I’m an advocate of informal mentoring relationships that develop out of shared interests and respect. In my experience, they are easier to manage and tend to last longer.
What advice would you give to a young lawyer interested in pursuing a career in tax?
Express your interest to people you work with and to your mentors. If you are still a law student and if it’s available at your law school, take as many advanced tax courses as possible. If have started working and your are in a large firm with multiple practice areas, remember when you do get tax work to work hard and produce good work.
What book(s) are you reading now?
My kids gave me a Kindle for my birthday so I downloaded a few books that I want to read. The two that I have started are: Cutting for Stone by Abraham Verghese, and Pulitzer Prize winning Cleopatra by Stacy Schiff.
Describe yourself in three words or less?
Keen. Hardworker. Proud (of my work).
Describe your ideal vacation?
An exploratory vacation somewhere with my children and my husbands. I love seeing the world from my children’s perspective.
If you could have dinner with one person in history (no longer living), who would it be? Why?
Mahatma Gandhi. I would want to know what was going through his mind when he said “go peacefully” when most people’s natural inclination is to be rebellious.
Written by Marsha Henry