BY: DELLIA RISMAY
“Put your money where your mouth is.” It’s a saying all of us are familiar with. It’s a firm reminder that if you’re going to talk a big game, you had better execute it too. A cue that while dreaming, discussion and planning are vital when it comes to accomplishing a goal, nothing will happen until you buckle down and really do something. It’s thinking like that, that has gotten Dahlia Bateman very far in her career as a lawyer, and it is sound advice that she gives to others.
Born and raised in Manchester, Jamaica, Dahlia is one of seven children. Her mother, who was the biggest influence in her life, always taught her the importance of a good education. “Discipline was number one in our household,” says Dahlia. “Discipline not only in terms of what we achieved in school but outside of the classroom as well. She really emphasized making a difference where you are, in your community.” Dahlia’s family members, including her mother and grandmother, didn’t just preach philanthropy, but they practiced it too. “I saw them doing it, so for me, it was a natural thing to do. I never thought of things any differently,” she says.
Dahlia is so committed to giving back to several causes that she was recently inducted into the Bertha Wilson Honour Society, presented by the Schulich School of Law at Dalhousie University. Induction into the Bertha Wilson Honour Society requires an alumnus or alumna of the school to have made significant contributions in areas such as non-profit or charitable organizations, the legal profession, and their communities. In Jamaica, Dahlia’s efforts include a program that helps make education more accessible to youth. She helps provide financial assistance to some students from low-income families, so the cost of tuition, transportation, and lunch is less of a barrier. Here in Canada, Dahlia sits on the board of a transitional home in Peel region, as well as a charity organization which offers seminars, workshops, and free home care for seniors in the community who are on a fixed income.
Her desire to help those who need it, along with her love of a good debate are what steered Dahlia towards a career in law. “I like to have a good debate, a good argument, and to hold a good point,” she says. Before she got started as a corporate lawyer, Dahlia was involved in extra-curricular activities during her studies at Dalhousie. She was involved with the Indigenous Blacks & Mi’kmaq Initiative, which aims to reduce discrimination in the legal profession by increasing representation in these groups. She also served as ombudsman for the entire university for two years. “I enjoyed every bit of it,” says Dahlia. “I felt like I was really able to make an impact, and make a difference in the Dalhousie community.”
For those who are considering going to law school, Dahlia says go for it. She was on the admissions committee for Dalhousie’s law school, and encourages those who are interested to “stick to your guns and don’t back down!” She suggests speaking to lawyers you admire and going to courtrooms to get a feel for what proceedings are like. She also stresses the importance of volunteer work. “You don’t just want law as a career on paper, and the title of ‘lawyer’. Show that you really want to apply that legal training to help others. That’s what it should be about. [On applications] you get these grand personal statements of people going to change the world…and then they don’t once they get what they want. On paper, it’s all good, but in practice, put your money where your mouth is.”
What are Dahlia’s words of wisdom for all women? Help each other. “Sometimes, we don’t do as much as we can to promote each other, to uplift each other […] lift each other up, don’t tear each other down.” She wants to see more women helping each other climb up the ladder, in whatever field that may be. “Don’t just do the feminism talk. Walk the walk.”