This profile is part of Slaying it: Vancouver's top young professionals, a blog series about the talented young people in Vancouver who are killing it every day. #SlayingItVanTopPros
Whether protecting client privacy rights or helping her team on the basketball court, you can count on Michela Fiorido.
It’s a typical Saturday in the Vancouver neighbourhood of Kerrisdale and it’s hard to miss Michela Fiorido as she strolls down the street. For one thing, she’s 6’4. But Michela also has a huge smile and friendly glow as she acknowledges those she encounters along the way – including Frank, the neighbourhood pan handler. If there’s one thing for certain, it’s that you can always count on Michela to have your back. That’s because whether she’s on the basketball court, soccer field, or just chilling beside you on a beach in Waikiki, this young lawyer has always been inclined to look out for others.
Born in Surrey, B.C., Michela lived in Italy for many years while growing up, due to her dad’s job as an international liaison officer with the RCMP. She moved back to Surrey with her family when she was in grade 12. Upon graduation, Michela headed to Kwantlen Polytechnic University on a scholarship to play basketball and soccer.
Having always loved sports, going to Kwantlen was a no-brainer since other universities wanted her to choose just one sport to focus on. Choosing her major was a obvious as well – she obtained her Bachelor’s degree in criminology – which made sense, given how her father was a police officer. And when she wasn’t in class or playing sports, she worked as a security guard for the Vancouver Canucks.
Michela would eventually go on to get her Master’s degree from University of the Fraser Valley as well as a business diploma from Simon Fraser University. And somewhere along the way, she found time to apply and get accepted to the law program at the University of British Columbia. But Michela still assumed she would be a police officer – not a lawyer.
“I always wanted to be a police officer. It’s an active job and I like to move around a lot. I figured going to law school would further my career as a police officer,” notes Michela. “But then I went to law school and realized that you can apply law to anything you love.”
“You can work in entertainment, sports, video game law…all my favourite things. And human rights issues are important to me as well – especially for members of the LGBTQ community. So it’s an outlet for me to advise people in a way that facilitates accommodating marginalized groups and I really love that.”
Michela now works at Harris & Company LLP, the largest employment labour law boutique in western Canada. She’s the only associate at the firm that focuses on privacy law, which makes up most of her practice. On the side, she delves into a few human rights-related projects.
“Privacy law is such an emerging area and there was a need for someone at my firm to focus on it. And I love technology and data security, and surveillance,” she explains.
On a daily basis, Michela advises clients on video surveillance, biometrics (she tells me that this is anything to do with fingerprints), and the use of GPS tracking by companies. She also advises on Canada’s Anti-Spam Legislation, which when not complied with can result in thousands of dollars in fines. Just like on the basketball or beach volleyball court, nothing slips by Michela, even when she’s going through thousands of pages of documents to ensure compliance with the Personal Information Privacy Act and the Freedom of Information Protection Act.
Having always been an avid gamer, video game law is of particular interest to Michela and an area she would like to one day expand her privacy law practice to. “I’d like to advise video game companies, because privacy and surveillance are such big issues, especially when it comes to smart TVs and smart consoles,” says Michela. “Video game companies collect a lot more data than people realize – think about how lengthy the End User License Agreements are. People just want to play their games. And lots of these users are kids – they don’t know what this is all about. They just go, click.”
“So I want to be the one who’s advising companies on how we can write these End User License agreements in a way that’s in compliance, but also fair to consumers who are unknowingly giving up their privacy rights.”
Protecting people’s rights is paramount for Michela. In her spare time, she volunteers with Artists’ Legal Outreach, which offers resources, workshops and clinics on law-related topics for artists. She’s is also one of the Vancouver executives for Start Proud, a networking organization for LGBTQ professionals and students, sponsored by RBC.
And when not busy with any of the above activities, Michela devotes her personal time to sports and gaming. Just listening to Michela talk about the number of sports she plays - beach volleyball, softball, basketball and floor hockey – is exhausting. But her eyes light up when she talks about her involvement with Queer Van Hoops. “It’s the best league,” she says with a smile. “It’s a league for the queer community and it’s so much fun. It’s a place where people of all levels can enjoy playing together, and learning from the more experienced players. Everyone is so friendly and it’s such a great community.”
And while she’s always on the go, Michela makes sure to still enjoy some downtime, whether it’s a quick weekend trip to Bellingham to enjoy some craft beer and shopping at Trader Joe’s, sitting courtside at a Seattle Storm WNBA game, or vacationing in Hawaii and riding her bike to her favourite poke bowl place in Waikiki.
So if you happen to run into her on a Saturday in Kerrisdale while she’s on her way to grab coffee and read the newspaper at her favourite café, feel free to say hello and make a new friend. Chances are, Michela Fiorido will always have your back.
Check out my blog series, Slaying It: Vancouver's Top Young Professionals to read about more young professionals who are making a name for themselves.