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On a stage of her own

Law career won’t force Maia Bent, LLB’96, out of the spotlight

by Jason Winders, MES’16, PhD’16 | October 13, 2017

Turns out, it was a role Maia Bent was born to play – even if it wasn’t a role she initially wanted.

Today, the California-born, Edmonton-raised Bent, LLB’96, is a Partner at Lerners law firm in London, Ont., where she works on personal injury, fatality, disability and insurance cases. A former President of the Ontario Trial Lawyers Association, she has garnered a host of honours during her career, and serves as an Adjunct Professor with Western Law."

Funny thing is, this was all “the backup plan.”

Always a lover of stories – be they on stage, screen or page – Bent started studying theatre at the University of Victoria. She followed her dreams to York University on the advice of a professor/mentor, but never connected there. After a year, she went home and finished her degree at the University of Alberta.

“And then there I was, I had this endless degree and, in the end, didn’t really have anything to show for it.”

She stayed home, worked and performed in community theatre with hopes of joining a professional company. She married, moved to London to be closer to her parents, started a family and then reviewed her career goals.

“I was 28 – and I realized this theatre thing wasn’t going to happen for me.”

She decided to continue her education. She was accepted into Western’s English Literature graduate program, “but at the 11th hour, I started thinking. I had always toyed with this idea of law. My mom was a family law lawyer. So, I thought, ‘I’m going to write the LSAT.’”

For those unfamiliar, the Law School Admission Test (LSAT) is a half-day, standardized test that people study for months to take. It is not usually an impulse move.

By the time she called to register, there was only one more test being offered to qualify for fall. She called on a Tuesday; the test was that Saturday.

Taking the test in Kitchner, she nearly opted against going because of a blinding white-out making roads difficult to travel. But she went. She took the test. And she scored in the 98th percentile of all who took it.

“If you don’t know what you don’t know, sometimes that helps,” she laughed. “Going in a little blind wasn’t so bad. I had no stress. I was just like, ‘This will be an interesting thing. Let’s see how it turns out.’”

She entered Western Law and loved every moment. “When I was trying to be an actress, I wasn’t very good at it. I was always struggling, always feeling someone was doing it better or it was coming easier to them. But when I got into law, it made sense to me. Everything fit together in my brain.”

She began her career at Lerners soon after graduation. She embraced the new career, but hated leaving her theatre skills behind. “When I decided I was going to go into law, I thought, ‘Ugh, that is a lot of wonderful training wasted.’ I thought I would never use those skills again. But honestly, I use them all the time.”

You see, the skills didn’t leave her; she was simply performing for a different audience.

“I use everything I learned on stage. Theatre is about being able to stand and speak confidently in front of people. Using that in a courtroom is obvious. But a trial is also a play of sorts; you are telling a story, communicating with a jury, a judge.”

In her first year of Law school, she won the school’s client counseling competition – a rarity for someone new to the program. The competition involved interacting with actors portraying clients. To win, she needed to listen, analyze and advise. “And that’s exactly what we did in theatre – it’s improv, it’s reacting.”

Theatre also gave her the ability to get into the heads of her clients.

“I do personal injury work – working with everyone from the most educated people you can think of to those who have had very hard lives. You must be able to understand where they are coming from; you have to be able to relate on a human level. That is what you do when studying a character you may be portraying.”


This article appeared in the Fall 2017 edition of Alumni Gazette
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