When Constance Isherwood enrolled in law school at the University of British Columbia, she never dreamed she would be practicing law for as long as she has.
But even now, the 96-year-old, who is the oldest practicing lawyer in the province, is still hard at work, completing cases for clients — more than 60 years later.
“I enjoy meeting clients because that’s the engaging thing about law. No two clients are the same, they never have the same problem,” said Isherwood, adding she’s helped many generations of clients from grandparents to their children over the years. “It’s just working with them (clients) that keeps it interesting.”
Isherwood’s career began just after high school. During school, she learned how to type and do short hand, and after graduating, thought it would be easy to find a job as a secretary. However, employment was low in the 1930s, making it difficult for her to find a job.
She worked as a clerk in stores selling hats and clothing before eventually finding a job as a secretary at a local firm working with lawyer Ernest Tait in downtown Victoria.
As time progressed, Isherwood quickly caught onto the business and Tait convinced her to go back to school to study law.
Shortly after, she enrolled in what was then known as Victoria College before transferring to UBC. It was here that she would also meet her husband, Foster Isherwood.
After graduating from UBC in 1951, where she was one of only six women in a class of 200, Isherwood returned to the Victoria firm as a lawyer and was named a partner, handling civil cases mostly involving titles, mortgages, land, easements, wills and estates.
Since then, Isherwood hasn’t slowed down. She has combined firms with her husband, which is known as Holmes and Isherwood, still in operation today. She begins with paperwork in the morning from her home in Otter Point near Sooke before she makes the roughly one-hour drive to the office on Fort Street to meet with clients.
From time to time, Isherwood admits she’s thought about retiring, but things keep popping up.
“People say ‘well you can’t retire until we get this case finished or we’ve got this will completed’,” she said. “There’s always something else you haven’t quite finished that you want to get done, so you just keep going.”
The accolades have begun to pour in for the mother of two adopted sons. Last year, Isherwood received an honorary doctorate from UBC. Next month, she will be the first female recipient of the lifetime achievement award from the Law Society of B.C. — something she called very special.
When asked about advice for up and coming lawyers hoping to get into the field, Isherwood said be approachable.
“Let your clients feel that they can come and talk things over and feel at ease and then they will go away feeling much more comfortable,” Isherwood said.