BY: KEISHA JOHNSON
Natalie Hope-Selkin was comfortable in her career as an in-house counsel with one of Canada’s largest insurance firms until she found herself walking in the shoes of the claimants she was commissioned to often settle with at the lowest possible payout.
Driving home from work on December 8th, 2009 she was rear-ended by two vehicles, one reportedly tunneling down the QEW at over 100kph.
“That day changed my life. One day I was walking, functioning, independent and the next day, I was in severe pain. I could not walk. My husband had to bathe me,” the young attorney recalls from the impact of the tragedy.
Resigned to two years of rehabilitation away from work due to chronic low back and neck pain, the Barbadian national said she had lots of time for introspection, to reflect on her purpose and weigh the value of life.
Typical of her resilient spirit that fuelled the academic excellence she enjoyed in law school, she tried to gradually reintegrate into work as an insurance defense litigator but soon found the physical demands of the job overwhelming for her now frail frame.
“I was on so many pain medications, it was difficult to concentrate,” shared Hope-Selkin who by then walked with the aid of a cane.
It didn’t take long after returning to work before chronic low back pains forced her off work a second time. Another stressor she didn’t experience before also began to surface.
In her primary role as an insurance defense litigator, she reviewed the legality of claims on behalf of the insurance company. “The notion among most insurance companies is that a lot of people defraud the system and there may be some who do,” Hope-Selkin reasoned. “But I began to think that a large majority of people probably had really had their life impacted like mine had been.”
This shift in perspective became a very challenging dichotomy. “On one hand I was representing the insurance company and on the other, I could empathize with the injured people and the real pain they experienced; how their life may have been upset and the strains in their relationships from the physical to the psychological impact of the accident,” Natalie explained.
“The litigation end of it was so stressful, I concluded I could not continue to do this anymore. I had to change the way I worked. I had to change the areas I practiced as well. So I thought to focus on ways to represent clients with a sense of humanity and what they are going through. That was a real catharsis!” disclosed Natalie who was confident she had now found her niche.
In 2015 she officially opened her own practice, Hope-Selkin Law, Professional Corporation and since serves as a barrister, solicitor, and notary.
“I now specialize in real estate law, wills and estate, employment law, and some litigation,” the sole practitioner shared of her intentionally client-centric practice.
The narrative of her branding material promises, “Rest assured, you will not be regarded as just a case. She [Natalie] will passionately and aggressively represent and/or defend the interests of her clients and will do so with the utmost integrity.”
Making herself accessible to clients became another signature priority of her practice. “Because of my journey, I am able to support my clients and encourage them in difficult times, assuring them that whatever the challenge ‘this too shall pass’.”
The tragedy that at face value disrupted her life and career became the catalyst to clarify her purpose and to define her niche within the legal field without compromise to her values.
She openly admits the transition from corporate to entrepreneurship was a huge leap of faith. Assuming full responsibility for the operation has accelerated the development of her business acumen. “It is the most daunting part of my job now” she shared, “but I absolutely enjoy representing my clients.” The greatest triumph in this tragedy is that “I didn’t know the experience would lead to so much growth.”