As It Happens

B.C.'s oldest practising lawyer just turned 100 and isn't retiring yet

It takes a lot to slow down Constance Isherwood, British Columbia's oldest practising lawyer.

Constance Isherwood of Victoria advises people to stay healthy and keep working

Constance Isherwood celebrated her 100th birthday on the weekend in Sooke, B.C., near Victoria where she practises law. To stay vital, she advises people to take care of themselves, to keep working, and to keep smiling. (Bruce Hogarth)

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It takes a lot to slow down Constance Isherwood, British Columbia's oldest practising lawyer. She took only a few days off work after the city of Victoria was hit with a snowstorm last week that forced schools and businesses to close.

The lawyer, who turned 100 on Sunday and was feted by family and friends, doesn't feel her age, saying 100 doesn't seem much different than 70, 80 or 90. She credits her intrigue with the law for her longevity.

"So that keeps you interested, and of course, going to work keeps your body active and mind active, which is a good thing at any age," Isherwood told As It Happens host Carol Off.

A gathering of family and friends was held for Isherwood over the weekend to mark her 100th birthday. (Laura Cummings Bryant/Facebook)

A graduate of the University of British Columbia in 1951 and one of only eight women in her law class of 200, Isherwood practises general civil law, which she said "means a bit of everything," including real estate, family law and corporate law. 

"I never went in for criminal law much," she said, about running the Holmes & Isherwood law practice with her late husband. "I left that for the boys to do, and I did a bit of everything else."

Isherwood said she was fortunate because she didn't face the same difficulties of breaking into a male-dominated profession that other women encountered in the 1950s. She had been a legal secretary and worked for a lawyer before attending law school, and returned to the same firm when she graduated top of her class. 

"So, I do feel that I was lucky in that respect," she said.

However, she said many women back then found it difficult even to complete their articling after graduation and to be placed in a law firm. But times have changed.

She advises those just getting into law to be approachable.

"Let people feel they can come and talk things over with you without being entirely intimidated or worried. That helps them, and actually, it's quite rewarding for the lawyer," she said.

Isherwood was feted on Sunday by family and friends at a church hall in Sooke, B.C. (Laura Cummings Bryant)

To stay vital and young, she advises people to take care of themselves and to keep working — and to smile and be optimistic.

"The person who wrote, When You're Smiling (The Whole World Smiles With You), he knew what he was talking about."

Many people still keep asking her when she'll retire, and her line has always been: "Maybe next year."

"But now that I'm 100, I don't know whether that answer is quite suitable, and how many next years there are," she said. "So I am winding down, trying to get matters completed to a point where you can eventually think about retirement."

Written by Showwei Chu. Produced by Yasmin Gandham.


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