Bay Street Lawyer turned Entrepreneur, Diversity Consultant and Author
Ritu Bhasin worked at corporate law firms on Bay street for almost ten years before starting bhasin consulting inc., a diversity consulting firm. Bhasin consulting works with organizations to create an inclusive and diverse work environment by recognizing cultural differences and focusing on leadership development and talent management. Ritu is not only an entrepreneur but also a public speaker and author, with a recently published book called “The Authenticity Principle.”
We recently spoke to Ritu about practicing law, starting a consulting firm, and living in a diverse world authentically and with self-confidence.
The Road to Law School
Ritu Bhasin pursued law school as a way of getting into human rights and social justice work. She was always interested in helping others and making positive changes in society.
“I wanted to challenge forms of oppression and back then one of the most common paths was to be a lawyer.”
However, after graduating from law school at the University of Western Ontario, Ritu got swept up in the corporate law path. Like many of her peers, she chose to practice law on Bay street in Toronto. Ritu knew that she would get great training and great mentorship at a large firm, but admits she also chose this path for the prestige.
“I was young and got swept up into it. I didn’t want to be a business lawyer but status and money were important to me at the time.”
Ritu worked at many firms on Bay street, trying out different positions to find what was best suited for her. She started out as a corporate lawyer at Torys LLP before moving to litigation at WeirFoulds LLP. After realizing that the practice of law wasn’t for her, she quit practice as a second-year associate to pursue a talent management role at Stikeman Elliot LLP. Ritu was a director of student and associate programs for seven years before leaving to start her own consulting practice.
Ritu was always interested in diversity and during her time at Stikeman Elliot, she brought Verna Myers, an American diversity consultant to Toronto to speak at the firm. At that time, nobody in Canada was doing that type of work and Verna encouraged Ritu to pursue consulting, having seen her passion for it.
Near the end of her time at Stikeman Elliot, Ritu was pursuing an executive MBA and she was given the task of making a marketing plan for a new business. She chose a consulting firm because of her interest in that field and throughout the duration of the project she only found more reason and motivation to start this business.
“As I was creating the marketing plan I was thinking I should do this, this is great, no actually I should really do this.”
At that point, Ritu left her job and finished her MBA while also starting on her new business.
Taking on a New Role
Ritu now runs bhasin consulting inc, a diversity and inclusion consulting practice out of Toronto. They provide organizations with strategic guidance, training and coaching services, as well as e-learning on diversity and inclusion. Their goal is to help organizations become more reflective of the diverse world we live in and do a better job of advancing diverse talent to senior leadership ranks.
Ritu also recently published her first book called “The Authenticity Principle: Resist Conformity, Embrace Differences, and Transform How You Live, Work, and Lead,” which teaches others how to live and work more authentically. In a world that vilifies differences, her book takes lessons from her own experiences and attempts to empower others to embrace their differences and to be their authentic selves.
“The Authenticity Principle stems from my own experiences coupled with watching people struggle with coming into work and wanting to be themselves but not knowing how to do that.”
Ritu started her business from scratch and was working on her own for the first two years. There were many challenges in changing her daily routine so drastically. She went from working in a team and having a regular income to creating her own structure and focusing on managing all aspects of her business at the same time.
“From creating the product, to selling, to servicing the client, everything is on you.”
In addition to that, Ritu mentions that there is a lot of insecurity and self-doubt that comes with starting your own business. This certainly gets better over time especially when one sees the market responding to the product and therefore gets validation that the business is going in the right direction.
Ritu was better prepared for some of these business challenges because of her background in law. Her legal mind helped her in the context of running a business, specifically her attention to detail and her analytical skills. She also speaks of the hard work ethic that is instilled in law students as well as corporate lawyers that has really helped her in growing her business so quickly.
“The work hard mentality that I internalized from being on bay street has been challenging to kick. I run my consulting firm like it’s a law firm in that the pace is intense and there’s a lot to do.”
Ritu is grateful to have worked on bay street. Not only did it provide her with the financial security to venture off on her own, it also provided her with a big network and a client base right from the start.
Ritu has a ton of advice to offer anyone that is looking to alter their career path. She notes that most people stay in jobs they don’t like because of their financial obligations. Her advice to overcome this is to decrease your financial commitments and responsibilities.
“There’s a difference between the things we really need in life and the things we think we need. We need to focus on the things we actually need as opposed to things we do for social status purposes.”
Ritu learned from her immigrant parents to always spend well beneath her means and that in turn made her financially confident enough to take the risk of leaving a steady job to start a new business.
Once you’re confident that you can survive financially, then her advice is just to take the leap and do something that you love to do full-time.