Planning for Success: Building Trusts For Indigenous Communities
“I've planned the success into my life.” Jaimie Lickers always wanted to be a lawyer from when she was a little girl. The first person in her family to attend university, let alone attain a professional degree, Lickers is a member of the Onondaga nation from Six Nations of the Grand River. Most people assumed she would practice Indigenous law, but her career path has been somewhat unexpected.
“I decided to show everyone that Indigenous people can practice any kind of law and we can be good and we can succeed anywhere.”
Lickers left law school and joined a Bay Street law firm, practicing corporate commercial litigaton, representing massive corporations with household names. While she enjoyed the competition, she found she was not getting personal fulfillment from her work anymore and she found herself drawn into the idea of practicing Indigenous law.
She switched firms and worked with First Nations across the country that were settling large-scale claims and wanting to put their settlement funds into trust. It was a new area of law and there weren't a lot of lawyers that understood the needs of First Nations and Indigenous communities.
Drafting and structuring their trust agreements in a way that met the needs of the community was something no one else was really doing. She set up trust funds and worked closely with major banks who would invest those assets. It was through this work she became connected to CIBC and was asked to come join their team.
These days Lickers is Vice President Of Indigenous Markets for CIBC. She explained how law and banking fit together:
“One of the things you're trained to do as a lawyer is to really read and think critically. What we do at the bank is evaluate financial situations, evaluate transactions, and you have to read pretty complex banking and credit agreements.”
That level of complexity appealed to Lickers, a self-proclaimed nerd. “Be nice to the nerds. They'll be your boss one day,” she joked. She talks about being a nerd as having a real passion for learning, loving to read, understand things, keep up on general news and what’s happening in the world.
I've always been one of those people that maybe has one foot in both worlds, which can be challenging at times, but it can also open a lot of doors.
Lickers pursued her dreams in a measured way, with small steps and careful planning. She had the support of family and friends who encouraged her to look at the big picture and not be so hard on herself. She also had good friends and mentors cheering her on and she tries to reach back and lift others up like others did for her. That support helped her get through the challenges that would come her way.
Lickers became a single mom when her daughter was two, when she was a senior associate at a national law firm, on the verge of the years that started to matter if she wanted to make partner at her firm. The pressure was setting in and numbers and billable hours mattered a lot. She was juggling a two year old and a incredibly hectic work schedule.
“I'm not really sure how I made it all work. I'll remember the day that I made partner and it was worth it. It might not be the path for everyone, but it was worth it for me.”
Habits and careful planning got her where she is today and her advice to her younger self is one of compassion - to be gentle with herself. Lickers thrives on pressure but has to balance that to reduce overwhelm and accept the best she can do.
“Perfection cannot be the goal every day. it's about finding that balance and making time for it.”
Balance is crucial for her as a single parent. She says, “it's not double the work, it's exponentially more work because when you don't get those little breaks or you don't have a supportive partner to give you a break, you've really got to force it on yourself. You've got to treat yourself the way you would treat your best girlfriend. Because you'd be telling her to take a break.”
While she finds a way to excel as a single mother, she has also excelled professionally. She was named one of Canada's 25 most influential lawyers in 2019, to the under 40 rising stars in 2020 and was granted a Zenith award from Lexpert for her work advancing women's issues through her legal practice.
“I had a really blessed career path and that's not to say that I didn't work hard for it. I worked very hard for it, but I think there is a certain amount of good luck and good fortune and good support networks that shape anyone's career.”
Jaime Lickers’ path to law school to Bay Street and to banking as a determined single mother was unorthodox but inspiring. From the law of the land to investing in the people of the land, Lickers’ efforts have added up to being a benefit to her people. She went from planning success into her life to planning success into the lives of countless Indigenous communities across Canada, by working hard and doing her best. To learn more about careers in the financial industry with CIBC, please visit their careers website here: https://www.cibc.com/en/about-cibc/careers.html
Thanks to Alison Tedford Seaweed for authoring this article.
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Funding is generously provided by the RBC Foundation in support of RBC Future Launch, and the Government of Canada's Supports for Student Learning program.