Law Matters People Q&A
In honor of and in celebration of International Disability Day, Law Matters interviewed Calgary attorney Taylor Grantham to discuss her book, Play Your Way, and lessons for the legal profession.
Talyor Grantham is an associate in a litigation and family law boutique in Calgary. A graduate of the University of Calgary Law School, a passionate social justice advocate, and a volunteer, she was diagnosed with mild spastic diplegic cerebral palsy at age 16.
She is the author of the “Play Your Way” book series, which promotes the inclusion and empowerment of children of all skill levels. The series is available now for purchaseand the proceeds from the series will eventually fund the Play Your Way Foundation.
Kate Millar: In the past 12 months, you have reached several key milestones in your legal career (completing your articles, appointing the Alberta Bar Association, and starting your legal practice). Why did you decide to write a book in the middle of the action?
Taylor Grantham: I am very happy to have the support of my company, family and friends so it was an easy decision. The pandemic gave me the motivation and the opportunity to write the series.
I wanted to create something that would encourage inclusion and empowerment while funding an independent foundation that could support families and people with disabilities on low incomes in the future.
KM: Why do you think it was important to write a book to promote the inclusion and empowerment of children of all skill levels?
TG: I think it’s important that all children see themselves in the books they read because inclusion ultimately leads to empowerment.
KM: What lessons do you think the legal profession can learn from your book series?
TG: The importance of kindness. In an opposing profession, it’s easy to forget that we all fight illegal battles.
KM: What barriers do you think students and junior lawyers with disabilities face in entering the legal profession?
TG: I think the biggest barriers for people with disabilities in general are accessibility and stigma. In the legal world, this can mean anything from access to an office for someone with a physical disability to adaptive technology for someone with a visual or acoustic disability. When it comes to stigma, I think most people with disabilities underestimate what could be beneficial in the legal world.
KM: What role do members of the Bar Association play in removing barriers to entry for disabled students and young lawyers?
TG: I think the best way to remove barriers in your career is to encourage lawyers with disabilities to share their experience. Lawyers feel immense pressure to be perfect even though neither of us is. These pressures are especially challenging for disabled students and lawyers.
I also think that our role goes a little beyond removing barriers at work and extending barriers to access for people with disabilities to justice. As lawyers, we generally enjoy a very privileged position in society because of our education, experience and socio-economic status, and it would be wonderful to see more lawyers use their privilege to help others.
KM: You often mix your great sense of humor with frank discussions about your disability. How has that been reflected in conversations with your customers?
TG: I’m glad that someone besides me thinks I’m funny. I work mainly in the areas of family law, employment and human rights. My files are often very personal and emotional for customers. I’ve found that a sense of humor helps in building a relationship with your client and can be helpful in providing necessary and honest advice or having a difficult conversation.
KM: Do you feel that as a trial attorney you have been exposed to stigma because of your disability?
TG: I did not. The Calgary Bar is so wonderful.
I’d like to thank a number of active members who have helped make the Play Your Way series and foundation possible, including Natalie and Tate Reeder of Stonetree Law, Vince Semenuk of Dunn and Associates, Kate Millar of Dentons, Jeffrey Holloway by Burnet Duckworth and Palmer and Rami Pander of Field Law.
International Day of People with Disabilities has been celebrated annually on December 3rd since its proclamation by the General Assembly of the United Nations in 1992 to promote and raise awareness of the rights and well-being of people with disabilities in all areas of society and development to strengthen their situation in all aspects of political, social, economic and cultural life.
Kate Millar is a member of the Litigation and Dispute Resolution group at Dentons’ Calgary office.