Lawyer, mother, mentor: meet Grainne Grande



When Grainne Grande was a teenager in a small northern Manitoba community, she worked several part-time jobs and waited with great anticipation for the ringette tournaments that took her team south to Winnipeg, where she could spend her hard-earned cash on shopping “beyond the limits of the Sears catalogue.”

On one such trip, she spent the entirety of her savings – $70 – on a pair of leather shoes that fell apart almost immediately upon her return home. The national chain store refused to refund her money because the time required to ship the shoes back to the city would exceed their return policy.

“My mum was absolutely furious,” shares Grainne. “To this day, I carry with me the vivid memory of her sitting down with me at the kitchen table and hand-writing a five page letter in which she detailed the injustice and threatened to mail a second copy to the Winnipeg Free Press if the store didn’t refund my money. And of course, they did! The power of advocacy hit me at that moment; so did the importance of customer service.”

That formative moment inspired Grainne to leave home and pursue an education and subsequent career in law. Today, she’s Payworks’ General Counsel and Privacy Officer, bringing over two decades of public and private sector leadership experience to her role and serving as our in-house legal expert, consulting on risk management, governance, strategy development and privacy across the business.

After high school, Grainne determined that the University of Ottawa would be an ideal location for her to explore her varied interests in political science, journalism, history and education over the course of her Bachelor of Arts degree. She also came to realize that pursuing a secondary degree in law would be the perfect way to incorporate all of these interests within a future career.

Grainne’s “deep connection” to Manitoba called her home to complete her Bachelor of Laws degree at the University of Manitoba.

“Manitoba is a special place, full of positivity, community and opportunity,” says Grainne. “I really couldn’t imagine starting my professional life and my family anywhere else.”

After graduating, Grainne articled at one of Manitoba’s oldest and largest law firms, gaining broad experience but ultimately identifying business law as the area of practice where she could most meaningfully contribute.

“The transactional nature of business law is a great fit for the type of legal analysis I enjoyed and excelled at most,” Grainne explains. “Being able to quickly narrow down issues to their most salient points and provide practical solutions has been a great asset throughout my career.”

This specialization led her through private practice, onwards to a publicly-traded organization where she added privacy, technology and regulatory law to her repertoire and then to a Crown corporation to broaden her legal vantage before coming to Payworks, a privately-held company. In those two decades, Grainne has seen significant changes in her field.

“The evolution of technology over the past 25 years has impacted the practice of law in a fundamental way,” says Grainne. “While the traditional categories of law remain the same, we’ve seen the advent and formalization of important areas of law like privacy and data/cyber security, which have a huge impact on businesses and individuals alike. It’s also made it possible to work remotely and efficiently, which I believe is an important contributor to the increase in women growing their careers in law.”

When Grainne completed her articles in 1998, 24% of active/practicing members of The Law Society of Manitoba were women. When Grainne’s oldest son was born 18 years ago, she cut her maternity leave short because the limited available technology combined with the era’s traditional law practice was not conducive to carrying out her work offsite. Perhaps not coincidentally, as of 2002, only 26% of active/practicing lawyers in Manitoba were women. As technological developments have contributed to more flexibility and choice in work-life integration, this ratio is improving: by 2017, that percentage had increased to 38%. Grainne sees technology as a positive contribution to the practice of law and for women in particular.

“Whether women are raising a family or not, work in-house or privately, we bring unique and extremely valuable practical skills to our clients and the boardroom table,” she explains. “We also bring a completely different perspective on deciphering the world around us, based upon our lived experiences as women. And we’re natural advocates – after all, we’ve been advocating for ourselves our whole lives.”

Grainne’s fortunate to have been surrounded by inspirational female leadership her entire life, from her mother showing her how to stand up for herself that day at the kitchen table to strong mentors through every stage of her career.

“I’ve always been blessed to work with brilliant, hardworking women who I considered mentors and now friends,” Grainne says. “They helped me overcome some old-school bias where I encountered it and shared their knowledge to help the women around them to succeed.”

Grainne feels a similar responsibility to the women following in her legal footsteps.

“I think all women have a role to play in helping the next generation navigate the practice of law and everything comes along with it,” she insists. “I’m a fierce proponent of mentoring others and passing along your knowledge and experience. Ultimately, what greater gift can you give than guiding someone in building a life that they love?”

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