Maude Choko is both an artist (author and actress, member of ACTRA and UDA) and a labour law expert (DCL from McGill University, 2015 and Quebec Bar, 2003). She has been teaching in law to undergraduate and graduate students and has been using the pen (or keyboard!) for many years. Driven by a desire to tell stories, she has written several short films presented at festivals, including Trop... trop tard(2018) presented at the Cinémathèque in June 2018. She has also made an incursion into dramaturgy by writing Trois fois passera, la dernière y restera?, selected at the Espace La Risée and presented in 2018 as part of their event Paroles de femmes.
Writing in the context of academic researches, Maude Choko has obtained the support of several institutions for funding (SSRH, CRIMT, Fondation du Barreau, Chambre des notaires). Her researches have focussed on freedom of association and the promotion of collective autonomy for self-employed workers. Convinced by the interest of the specific legal regime regulating artists’ work relations for other atypical workers, Maude Choko has studied this regime, which continues to stimulate her thoughts and curiosity. Her work has been published in Canadian and International journals, and presented at different conferences in Canada, Italy, UK, Australia and Mexico.
Let’s start with the basics. What are you doing now? In a sentence or so, describe your work/practice(s).
My time is shared between teaching (both at McGill Law Faculty and at Université de Montréal Law Faculty in Labour Law), writing artistic projects (more specifically, right now I am finishing a little book for children I had in mind for a long time now and I want to submit it to editors in the next few weeks AND I am expecting news for funding for the writing of two feature films, one short film and one play), producing a film for professors (for their teaching), practicing my acting craft, researching in labour law … and taking care of my three boys.
Did you always imagine yourself going to law school?
The honest answer is not at all! When came the time, in Cégep, to decide, I ended up applying only to two programs: law at McGill and law at Université de Montréal… My plan was to start with that degree as a « general » first step towards another program once I knew better what I wanted to do. I saw it a bit like going into philosophy or history, for basic general knowledge… I was also very attracted to communication. I am still not sure why I settled for law, and why I only applied to that. Certainly the influence of a cherished uncle had something to do with it. I was accepted to both programs… and ended up studying law forever!
At what moment did you realize you wanted to take your legal education and career in your own direction?
I never realized that. I still don’t… but I do know I want to do more than only practicing and/or teaching law, because when I do, I feel there is something very important missing in my life. And it is the same when I am only working on creative projects. I have come to realize I need both part of my professional life, present in it, at the same time. It is challenging because I don’t have all the time I would like to become as good as I want in every aspect of those professional activities. So… I struggle! And do my best.
What were the steps you took and opportunities you seized in order to get where you are?
I don’t think I can answer entirely your question since I don’t see myself being where I want. Not yet. Taking a different path, where you don’t have any idea how to get where you want, and where the only thing you know is that it’s not straight ahead, and where not many people understand where you are going, (because the truth is that often you don’t even know yourself!) means you don’t « get there » really quickly… if you ever get somewhere. But that’s part of the discovery, the journey, the adventure (and the troubling uncertainty, and stressing moments as well).
What makes your current practice “lawfully uncommon”?
You tell me! My guess: mixing academic research and teaching in law with pursuing an artistic professional career (or at least, trying to) at the same time.
Is there anyone influential in your life that helped you realize your goals? Mentors or role models in the field that inspired you?
You are implying I have achieved my goals, which I have not… not yet. But, I do have many people inspiring surrounding me who have helped me progress along the way and achieve some goals. First, I will name Adelle Blackett, known here at the Faculty. I had the chance to have her as a supervisor for both my master and doctoral degrees. She has gave me so much support along the years (and still does!!!) and has brought me to sharpen my ideas, enhance my writing, gave me many opportunities to open some doors, … I could continue forever. She is the best! There is also Guylaine Vallée, who, in the labour law field, is just absolutely inspiring. The kind of mind you would be happy if you only had half of it. On the artistic side, I had great acting coaches who led me to understand what I had deep down in my heart and why I needed to continue acting, even when it is tough and no roles are showing at my door. I will name Robert Favreau, who’s « jeu et gym » training is a must.
What got your juices flowing or tickled your fancy while at law school?
Listening to passionate professors telling stories contained in the caselaw from the Supreme Court (in Constitutional Law, in Human Rights Law - François Chevrette was famous for that) or attending unconventional classes from dedicated professors who made us do something different than just listening to a lecture (Roderick MacDonald class on Legal Education was a revelation for that). And also, strangely, getting the immediate satisfaction of solving a legal problem, just like a puzzle, in civil law classes and understanding the (almost mathematical) logic behind the civil code with the help of amazing pedagogical abilities of great teachers (in Obligations courses from Louise Rolland for example).
What made your blood boil or made you snooze while at law school?
Having a professor reading out loud his own book during class as a way to convey the material to us…
Were there challenges you faced in the transition from law school to the profession?
The challenges did not occur during that transition. They occurred once I had children.
Do you still see the law all around you?
Always! And I think even before my training in law, I saw it. When I was interviewed at McGill (just after Cégep), I was asked to draw a comparison between Volleyball (a sport I used to play at a competitive level at the time) and law. I thought it was the most natural question ever, and I had several points to make to explain how a volleyball game was in fact full of rules. The players had to follow them otherwise the ref would impose a sanction. I did not know law, as a discipline and was not aware of the concept of « norms », yet I already had the intuition that our life was full of it. Everywhere…
What advice would you give to a first-year law student?
READ the readings assigned. You will be amazed to realize how better you are at your studies when you do… And stop stressing. It’s not about grades. It’s about life experience.
If you were given the blessing and curse of an extra hour every day to do whatever you wanted, what would it be?
Wow, a blessing. Definitely a blessing. Tough choice… I hesitate between writing, playing volleyball, taking that hour with my husband to see him more, going to an acting gym or learning Spanish and Italian.
Being too kind towards my kids and actually listening to their desires when comes the time to organise our vacations instead of obliging them to travel with me to discover new countries! Or all of the above due to the lack of that extra hour…
The Lawfully Uncommon initiative is supported by the McGill Career Development Office.