Maria Mitousis fundraising page to help injured lawyer deal with financial insecurity
Fellow lawyers say Mitousis is encouraged by donations to GoFundMe campaign
Friends and fellow lawyers of Maria Mitousis, who was seriously hurt when a bomb exploded inside a Winnipeg law firm last week, are doing what they can to help the injured lawyer with the financial insecurity that will come with her recovery.
Mitousis, 38, suffered injuries to her upper body when she opened a package at her law firm on July 3.
Kelli Potter, a family lawyer now working at Paterson Patterson Wyman & Abel in Brandon, Man., says Mitousis is encouraged by the outpouring of support not just from the legal community, but also from strangers around the world.
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"She said, 'Life is going to be very different, but I'm optimistic for the future.' And those are her exact words," Potter told CBC News.
Amsel is the ex-husband of one of Mitousis's clients. Court documents show he and his ex-wife have gone through a long, bitter divorce.
Amsel is scheduled to appear in court again on Thursday morning.
Potter and Laurelle Harris of Levene Tadman Golub Law Corp. started a GoFundMe account over the weekend as a way of showing support for Mitousis.
"How can we help her and what is she going to need? The financial insecurity that will come from this horrific event is something we thought we could immediately address," Harris said.
As of Wednesday evening, the total pledges exceeded $52,000.
The original fundraising goal was $50,000, but after speaking with Mitousis on Tuesday, they doubled that amount.
Bringing local lawyers together
Most lawyers are self-employed and even if they have extended health benefits, those plans have limitations.
"She is so touched by how people seem to be connected by this event. It has brought the local bar together in a very unusual way because we know we work in an adversarial system, but in the last number of days we haven't been adversaries — we've been allies," Potter said.
"Maria has already said she would like to get back to work at the earliest possible date, and we would all like to see her back practising sooner rather than later. But all of that is going to take considerable rehab, and that's going to cost a great deal of money."
Potter used to work at Peterson King, the law firm where Mitousis currently works. She said Mitousis called her for advice when she was offered the job there.
'Horror-struck and terrified' by blast
Potter said she was "horror-struck and terrified" when she heard news of the explosion last week, worried about her friends and former colleagues.
She graduated from law school one year before Mitousis and describes her as a fantastic human being, bright and competent, and an ethical lawyer who cares deeply about her clients.
"We didn't know the extent of her injuries at that time but her recovery — there's no question she'd need assistance with her income and with medical expenses," Harris said.
"Knowing how much people cared made her feel really great, and the degree of support she's received has helped her be optimistic about her future, so that's an unexpected benefit and we're really glad."
Harris declined to discuss Mitousis's injuries, saying she wants to respect her privacy.
Both lawyers say they're thrilled by the response so far, and they believe the situation is something most people can relate to.
"It's not just that it could've been any one of us in the legal profession. I think it's because it could've been any one of us in general. With the exception of people who have more inherently risky occupations — military and first responders — most of us get up in the morning and we go to work, we open our mail, we sit at our desks, we do our jobs and we don't think that work is going to be an unsafe place for us," Potter said.
"It could be a disgruntled parent who doesn't like their children's report card. It could be someone turned down for a loan who has frustration with their bank or their banker. It could be any number of people targeted for a grievance, whether it's significant or it's petty. And all it takes is the wrong person with the wrong set of skills to act out this horrific behaviour," she added.
"Maria was just a person doing her job."