When Jean Beeler makes a decision, she stands by it. For life. She began working for the law firm now known as Weldon McInnis in 1980 when she started articling after graduating from law school. Beeler soon worked her way up to become partner, then stayed on with the firm for forty years, until her retirement in June 2020.
“I have no regrets. It’s a useless emotion. In fact, if I had it to do all over again, I would choose the same path,” says Beeler.
Beeler was born and raised in Halifax in a bustling household with nine siblings. Jean is the third eldest. She says her brothers and sisters would likely describe her as bossy but also at times the family peacemaker. She recalls that her parents led by example, working hard to build the best life possible for the family.
“My father, Louis Moir, grew up in downtown Dartmouth and later moved to Halifax. He went back to university in his forties to pursue a law degree. In fact, my mother had her tenth child just as he finished his first year. He eventually went on to become a family court judge.”
Beeler recalls her father being an especially strong influence on her life. He not only inspired her to become a lawyer, but also a politician. Jean’s father was an alderman for Halifax city council in the 1960s and 70s.
“I was always interested in politics. When my dad served as alderman, even though I was just a kid, I would go to some of the Halifax council meetings. I guess I was a nerd!”
Soon after Beeler started her law career, she ran successfully in the 1982 municipal election. She was one of the youngest people to serve on council for the former city of Dartmouth.
“I was one of only four women ever to serve on Dartmouth council. The others were Eileen Stubbs, Barbara Hart and Gloria McClusky.”
It was also in the early eighties when Jean and husband, Carl Beeler bought their first home on Canterbury Street near Maynard Lake. The couple met in high school and raised two children in their Dartmouth home. Beeler recalls that it was a challenge to balance career and family in the early years, but two things helped: living close to family and co-owning the law firm so she had some control of her schedule.
“It is stressful at times but always rewarding. I had a general practice for the first number of years and then went on to practice primarily family law. It was also a different world for women in law back then, women were just starting to break in.”
Beeler received the designation of Queens Counsel in 2005 and earned her Master of Law from Osgoode Hall Law School in 2013. Jean has also devoted her time to many community boards and committees. She served as chair of the Nova Scotia Police Commission and later president of the Nova Scotia branch of the Canadian Bar Association.
“Of everything I’ve done over the years, the accomplishment I am most proud of is building my firm.”
When asked why her name is not part of the firm name, Weldon McInnis, Beeler explained that it had been in the early years, when there were only two or three partners. However, as the firm grew, that was no longer sustainable.
“Eventually, we had too many names to fit on the letterhead! We all agreed to choose two generic legal sounding names – Weldon McInnis, both of which had been associated with the firm.”
There are more than a dozen lawyers at Weldon McInnis now, in an expanded location at 118 Ochterloney Street. In the early 2000s, the firm outgrew its original space at 19 Portland Street.
“The firm grew and became a separate entity. I knew it could continue without me, so I began to think about retirement. In 2020, when the pandemic hit, and I was turning 65, the timing was just right.”.
Beeler remains active in the community and currently serves on the board of Churchill Academy. For fun, she is learning to play bridge. Beeler says she would love to travel when it's safe to do so again, but for now she has everything she needs in Dartmouth.
“It’s transformed so much especially over the last ten years. I was the first to move here forty years ago, but now all but one of my nine siblings live in Dartmouth. I’m telling you; Dartmouth has arrived!”