The moment when Chutney reveals that she had gotten a perm the morning of her father’s murder, so she couldn’t have been washing her hair in the shower… Elle Woods is the only one to realize her slip-up, knowing at that moment that she will win the case. Who doesn’t get goosebumps? Despite the Hollywood flare, the empowering message behind Legally Blonde is certainly inspirational, and, in 2019, we hope to see more women than ever breaking barriers and fighting stigma. On the subject of inspiring women and kick ass lawyers… Meet Marisa Feil, the senior attorney and founder of FWCanada immigration law firm.

By Daisy Mellar

Marisa Feil has always wanted to be a lawyer (or ballet dancer). Montreal-raised and educated, Marisa was working at one of Canada’s largest immigration law firms when she spotted a gap in the market and the opportunity to offer a specialized service surrounding particular areas of immigration: “I really wanted to be a specialist. I think that most successful entrepreneurs are.” Marisa’s firm, Foreign Worker Canada (FWCanada), is now established as one of Canada’s most-trusted immigration law firms, and Marisa is frequently contacted by government officials and other Canadian immigration lawyers for her expertise. 

The topic of immigration consistently attracts many opinions, so I was interested to know how Marisa thought Canadians should view the current situation: “I think that while Canadians have in general been very welcoming of refugees, I would hope that people understand that most of those who immigrate to Canada are not refugees. They are people married to Canadians or born abroad to Canadian parents or people coming to work or start businesses in Canada. I think a lot of Canadians mistakenly view immigration policies as charity when in fact they contribute to a strong Canadian economy.” Since day one of her law career, Marisa’s motivation for her work has not changed, as she expresses the biggest joy of her job is “undoubtedly, helping people… [overcoming inadmissibility] is such a complicated process to navigate, being able to successfully help someone is a wonderful gift. It is great to make people happy and resolve their issues.”

On a daily basis, Marisa’s schedule is far from uniform, as the morning starts with mothering duties for her 2-year-old daughter. After the day-care drop-off, tackling email is next on the list, along with phone calls to business consultants, coordinating with American attorneys, and catching up with the daily news. In the afternoon, Marisa dedicates time to working on her book, Inadmissible to Canada, as well as focusing on the marketing side of running a law firm. Once the office day is over, Marisa makes sure there is time for a proper family dinner every night, followed by a final check of emails! To unwind, she takes a bath topped off with essential oils.

With 2018 presenting a huge stride forward in the movement for women’s empowerment, and with 2019 set to generate further action, encouraging women to pursue professional positions and entrepreneurship alongside raising a family is vital to keeping up momentum. With Marisa’s success, we asked what advice she would give young women perusing their dreams: “I think that the most important quality is knowing yourself, your strengths, your weaknesses, what motivates you, and then finding work and a life that allows you to honour it. The legal and entrepreneurial worlds can be tough and, especially so, when you are working against your natural abilities and desires. When everything is pulling in the same direction, it can be easy to be successful… If you are doing things that suit your skill set and personality and make you happy, you will always be successful, no matter what it is. Sometimes, that means recognizing that you won’t work in things that you love, that doesn’t mean they can’t be your passions or hobbies, but you should choose a profession that matches your skills, so that you can be the best at what you do.”

Marisa’s passion for her work and devotion to her family was so clear. When I asked her who one of the most positively influential people in her life was, she responded: “My Dad – [he] is the most steady, grounded, strong, unshakeable person you could ever meet… I aspire to be as unshakeable as he is and to always be able to make decisions both in business and in life that create the greatest good for all.”