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Great Lakes Law
It was always Chelsea Cooper’s intention to return home to Sarnia to practice law upon earning her Juris Doctor (J.D.) at Lakehead University’s Bora Laskin Faculty of Law in 2017.
However, running her own law firm wasn’t necessarily in the cards. Funny how things work out, though.
“I always imagined I would work for a company as an in-house counsel,” Chelsea says. “I just wanted to do corporate work for one business, but I quickly realized I liked the hustle and bustle of business owning and being my own boss.”
She began doing real estate transactions and feeling the excitement of her clients.
“I got to see people going through a monumental time in their life. That was when I started to realize that was bringing me life and that’s what I wanted to do.”
So, after two years of working for a more experienced local lawyer, Chelsea started her own firm – Great Lakes Law. Working with another lawyer provided plenty of learning opportunities; one of the most important is to get involved in the community.
“I learned that a lot of the practice of law in a small community is about community involvement and networking and making connections,” Chelsea says. “That is something I am passionate about. I also learned quickly that I wanted to do things a little differently so that is how I transitioned into starting my own business.”
Chelsea is on the board of the Sarnia-Lambton Business Development Corporation, the committee for the Sarnia-Lambton Kidney Foundation, the committee for the Inn of The Good Shepherd, and the Sarnia-Lambton Physician Recruitment Task Force.
In the beginning, when Chelsea stepped out on her own, it was just her and one other employee, but Great Lakes Law has since grown to 12 employees – all women.
Being in a male-dominated industry, Chelsea struggled to be taken seriously.
“There was a little bit of frustration at the start being a young female business owner, but I feel very fortunate to have proven everybody wrong and I feel it’s not even an issue anymore.”
With her eleven women staff members, Chelsea is creating a culture that encourages more young women to get into the field of law and provides them a space to do it in.
Chelsea admits that opening her own firm was nerve-wracking at the start.
“I was terrified,” she recalls. “It was the most stressful time of my life. The newness of being my own boss and making sure I could provide for all of my team and keep the lights on. It got a little easier when I realized we had really good people who cared about the business as much as I did.”
Chelsea started out small with her own office space, and it wasn’t long until she achieved her goal of purchasing her own building to house Great Lakes Law, located at 236 Napier St, Sarnia.
Great Lakes Law specializes in real estate, wills, estate planning, and business law, and proudly serves individuals and businesses. The firm’s approachability sets it apart from the others.
“You can tell we really care about our clients and we’re not just trying to push people out the door,” Chelsea says. “We’re actually trying to help and support them.”