From Winning Applause to Winning Cases

Posted on: 2016/06/20

Léonie Gagné had high hopes for her second career. “I wanted to find something I was proud of and that matched my ambitions,” the former ballet dancer revealed. While her career transition is characterized by careful planning and incremental career changes, she has found all the passion and excitement she was looking for in her new career as a litigator.  In 2014/2015, Léonie became an associate at Lavery De Billy, a prominent Quebec law firm, practicing in the areas of insurance law, civil and professional liability as well as product liability. 

Léonie began her dance career in the corps de ballet at the National Ballet of Canada before performing for nearly a decade with Opera Atelier. In 2008, she made the decision to explore careers outside of dance and enrolled in the Certificate in Public Relations program at Ryerson University with the assistance of a DTRC retraining grant. While her sights were set on a bachelor’s degree, part-time studies allowed her to continue taking freelance performance opportunities. “It was my way to transition softly and not to shock myself,” she explains. 

With her certificate in hand and a strong desire to continue studying, Léonie enrolled in a law degree at the Université de Québec à Montréal. The program has a small number of students and the flexibility in class scheduling made it a great fit. It was only as she began her degree that she remembered all of the times her family, friends and colleagues suggested she should be a lawyer.  She quickly accepted that law “suits my personality, it suits my interests and it’s what I want to do.”

Now that she is a practicing lawyer, Léonie is amazed at how “the daily life translates” from her career as a dancer to her new life as a lawyer.  The discipline and rigour of dance assists her greatly as she prepares cases, and then there is “the adrenaline of being in front of a judge” not unlike stepping on stage at show time.

Few people consider the finely tuned communication skills that dancers possess, but Léonie emphasizes how her experiences of collaborating and negotiating with various stakeholders in the dance world – sponsors, fellow ballet dancers, and casting directors – have helped her in her capacity as a litigator.  With a diverse range of cases and clients, she values her ability to focus on the smallest of details in every interaction. 

“I’m not starting from scratch,” she says of her transferable skills. As an associate at Lavery – a firm with more than 200 lawyers – her experience navigating the complex relationships within a professional ballet company continues to be a source of support. 

Léonie received a Retraining Grant and a Full-Time Study Subsistence Grant (FTS-I). The FTS-I grant is reserved for dancers retiring from performance.


Helping dancers make necessary transitions into, within, and from professional performing careers since 1985.