Nicole Sarauer fights to correct inequity in the legal system

by Gregory Beatty

sw0306WHO: Nicole Sarauer WHERE: Hotel Saskatchewan WHEN: After work WEARING: Blazer (Talula from Aritzia), dress (Covet from Stella & Sway), shoes (Spring), necklace (bought on Etsy), earrings (purchased in San Diego while attending a conference for a volunteer organization called Lawyers Concerned For Lawyers).

Nicole is the programs director and a staff lawyer for Pro Bono Law Saskatchewan. In that capacity she represents low-income clients in mainly civil and family matters, and also creates and facilitates volunteer programs throughout the province and works with other lawyer volunteers to promote pro bono work in Saskatchewan. And if that wasn’t enough, she also sits on the Regina Catholic School Board.

Nicole’s office is located in downtown Regina. When she’s done work for the day she occasionally drops by the Hotel Saskatchewan for a drink. That’s where we met to talk fashion — office wear to be exact — and chat a bit more about Pro Bono Law Saskatchewan.

Chief Justice Beverley McLachlin of the Supreme Court of Canada, among others, has spoken about the growing problem of access to legal services in our society. Why is this important and what could be done to improve the situation?

We are experiencing a real crisis in our legal system. Many individuals cannot afford a lawyer and do not qualify for legal aid. In fact, many people are shocked to find out how low the cut-off is for legal aid. It may not seem like a priority until a person is in an emergency and absolutely needs legal help. Many try to navigate the system on their own, something that the court process was never set up for. Lawyers are helping to improve the situation by doing pro bono work, but this is by no means a solution. Legal aid funding needs to become a priority for both provincial and federal governments, and the entire legal community needs to take a step back and reassess how the system can be revamped to better meet the needs of today’s reality. 

When you’re in the workplace, what’s your approach to style? Are there pitfalls women in professional life need to be aware of or do you think women have reasonable freedom to make their own fashion choices?

I think it would be a stretch to say I have any sort of “style”. My office wear has gotten slightly less formal from what it was in private practice, but I still meet with lawyers, law firms, and occasionally go to court, so I have to dress in a way that’s professional but also makes my clients feel comfortable. In other words, it varies depending on the types of meetings I have that day. Dressing in a professional world can be a bit more work for women, but that’s because we have more freedom in our choices. It’s not difficult, and it’s always best to overdress and err on the side of caution. Some members of the legal community are quite traditional, and you have to be cognizant of that.

Do you have any sources like TV shows, movies or magazines that you consult for a bit of guidance and inspiration as far as fashion goes?

I probably should, but I don’t. I take cues from friends and other lawyers of my vintage and look for what best fits me. I try to find things when I travel for work that I wouldn’t be able to find in Regina.

How would you describe your style outside of work?

I’m usually going straight from work to another commitment or a school board meeting, so my style rarely changes outside of work. When I do have some down time, I dress fairly casual, but classic and natural.

What’s your biggest passion outside of law?

Reading and music! I try to catch as many live shows as possible, and I play guitar and piano poorly. I’m currently reading Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance by Robert Pirsig. While I’m sad that Buy the Book closed, I pillaged the place and now have 30 books sitting by my bed waiting to be read.