Tuesday, 08 August 2017 09:00

The Top 25 Most Influential 2017

Canadian Lawyer’s top 25 Most Influential in the justice system and legal profession in Canada is now in its eighth year. The Top 25 is always the magazine’s most-read and most-commented-on feature. Its popularity — both in terms of the number of nominations we receive as well as the number of votes in the public poll — highlights the engagement and pride in their colleagues that lawyers, judges and others in the legal profession have.

Salvatore Frisina, senior vice president at President’s Choice Financial, accepts the Community Builder Award on behalf of the George Weston Ltd. Company. The award was presented by Mary Ellen Bench and Fernando Garcia.
Salvatore Frisina, senior vice president at President’s Choice Financial, accepts the Community Builder Award on behalf of the George Weston Ltd. Company. The award was presented by Mary Ellen Bench and Fernando Garcia.
Some in-house counsel were recently recognized for pro bono projects geared toward helping communities in need of access to legal services in the Greater Toronto Area.
Published in Latest News
Thursday, 08 September 2016 22:00

Meet our in-house superstars

It’s been five years since I started in this job, writing about the challenges and successes of in-house counsel across Canada. While it seems to have flown by, I have noted the remarkable change that has happened in that short time in the way legal departments are becoming incubators for change in an effort to improve the lives of their clients and the organizations for which they work.
Published in Issue Archive
Thursday, 08 September 2016 22:01

Innovatio Awards

Disruption in the name of greater value

It has been just three years since we first launched the Innovatio Awards but, in that short time, we have seen an impressive increase in sophistication of nominations from some top legal departments from across the country — both large and small. In fact, it is often some of the smaller departments tackling projects that net big results and top marks from our judges.

If this is your first introduction to the Canadian Lawyer InHouse Innovatio Awards, it is a program designed to showcase the innovative work of Canadian legal departments and their legal service providers in Canada.

Over the past few months, I have, together with our stellar team of in-house judges, had the pleasure of reviewing the nominations from a range of in-house departments including big public companies, various levels of government from municipal, provincial to federal and non-profit organizations.

This year, we added the category of Law Department Leadership to recognize senior leaders who foster innovation in their departments. In the following pages you will read about the inspiration people like Monique Mercier, chief legal officer of Telus, and Tony Linardi, general counsel of Golder Associates bring to the people they work with.

Linardi, nominated by Nicole Clark, senior legal counsel at Golder, spoke highly of Linardi’s approach to leadership and innovation for the business — fostering a culture that makes his legal team want to stay and grow with the organization.

The overall winner this year from all categories was the legal team at Aecon Group Inc., which impressed the judges the most above all the other winners in the final round of review and was selected to receive the Innovation of the Year award for the rollout of Project Excelsior. Excelsior is a multi-pronged initiative to bring excellence in risk management to every level of Aecon. A series of programs was created to change the risk management standard of the organization: a commercial risk committee (to review significant risks and provide guidance); training of project execution personnel; collecting lessons learned across projects; a risk evaluation committee (to monitor projects during execution); enterprise risk management to identify risks, generate a heat map and assign risk weightings; risk committee of board of directors; and to ultimately develop a compliance function.

As judge Lorne O’Reilly of Dow Chemical noted in assessing this final award: “My determination on Innovation of the Year is based on how comprehensive a change was made by the legal department, and how innovative the outcome was in comparison to their previous practice and other organizations. I believe that to be innovative you have to be a game changer; disruption of present practice is a base requirement and the ultimate goal is greater value for the organization. It is always more than someone saying that something is innovative.”

Lorne really nailed it when he said: “Disruption of present practice is a base requirement.” Many of the nominations we received this year went to that next level of creating greater value, even finding new business for the organization or facilitating cost savings and efficiencies.

I hope you enjoy reading about the winners in the following pages. Change is possible and can be rewarding in so many ways.

Fernando Garcia, general counsel, Nissan Canada - Lynn Korbak, general counsel and corporate secretary, Morneau Shepell - Julia Shin Doi, general counsel and secretary of Board of Governors, Ryerson University - Dorothy Quann, vice president and general counsel, Xerox Canada - Lorne O'Reilly, senior counsel, Dow Chemical Canada ULC - Dean Scaletta, director, information and litigation, Manitoba Public Insurance - Robert Piasentin, general counsel, corporate secretary & privacy officer, Sierra Systems - Constance Crosby, Senior legal, Cisco Systems Canada - Josh Death, AVP legal, TD Bank Group

Aecon scales new heights in risk management

Legal department overhauls how risk management is handled with creation of Project Excelsior.

  • Category:Risk Management
  • Department Size:Small
  • Company:Aecon Group Inc.

In the last five years, the business of big construction has changed dramatically and the level of risk has spiked.

It wasn’t so long ago that 10 per cent of projects undertaken by Aecon Group Inc. were valued at less than $150 million — today, more than half are valued at more than $150 million.

“They are bigger, more complex and take longer to complete,” says Brian Swartz, executive vice president, legal & commercial services with Aecon Group Inc. “The teams work a lot more diligently in putting together the bid proposals in order to be prepared for such complex projects.”

  • L to R -
  • Yonni Fushman, deputy general counsel
  • Brian Swartz, executive vice president, legal & commerical

Aecon Group Inc. is engaged in large, often multi-billion-dollar construction projects across Canada. The more complex the project, the higher the risk profile — projects covering tens or hundreds of kilometres can confront any number of issues in the ground, including problematic soil conditions or buried utilities. Critical structures such as bridges or dams and technically complicated systems such as Light Rail Transit systems require integration with teams of designers. Receiving equipment and materials procured by the owner from offshore creates co-ordination and quality management challenges.

Against that backdrop of extremely complex operations, the industry in recent years has moved to more aggressive contracts that shift risk to the contractor while providing only very narrow avenues for relief.

Although Swartz says there is a thorough job done in reviewing the projects at the project review committee level at the senior executive level, as the projects have became more complicated, the same level of detail was not always available from those involved at the project control level as well as insurance, finance, the estimating team and bid team.

Swartz decided a more complex process should be put in place and he met with Aecon’s deputy general counsel Yonni Fushman with the idea to enhance the risk review process.

“There’s been exponential growth in the complexity of projects,” says Fushman. “When I started 10 or 11 years ago, it was a big deal to get a $100-million road job in rural Ontario, and last year, we were awarded the $5-billion Eglinton Crosstown job. You can imagine the difference in complexity between a road job and a complex transit job running right through the middle of Toronto.

“You go from a 100-page contract to a 3,000- to 4,000-page contract. We needed to evolve in terms of our communication of risk to senior management so that they were completely informed as to the risks that we were entering into,” says Fushman.

He envisioned Project Excelsior and the following programs were created to change the risk management standard of the organization: a Commercial Risk Committee (to review significant risks and provide guidance); training of project execution personnel; collecting lessons learned across projects; a Risk Evaluation Committee (to monitor projects during execution); enterprise risk management to identify risks, generate a heat map and assign risk weightings; a Risk Committee of Board of Directors; and to ultimately develop a compliance function.

Excelsior is seen as being innovative in the construction industry — a sector that doesn’t necessarily embrace change. It involved the organization from the board and senior executives through to those who execute the projects. Risk review committees, training and risk management invites participation of personnel with multi-disciplinary backgrounds from throughout the business, and the legal department takes the lead in the education development and enterprise risk-management analysis.

“I think we’re at the cutting edge in terms of leading the way in communicating risk to the organization and bridging the gap between legal, technical risk, and construction field experience,” says Fushman.

He says the goal is simplicity. “What we’re trying to do is take thousands of pages of contracts and complicated commercial agreements negotiated during tens of hours of calls with dozens of lawyers and simplify it on to a heat map showing what the risk profile is and showing the delta between what you consider a standard risk and what the new reality is. I think that’s where the innovation is — in the simplicity of communication,” he says.

In the short term, Fushman says, it is expected that the risk identification function of the Commerical Risk Committee will ensure that projects are priced properly and resourced as required to handle the identified risks. In the medium and long term, the training component of Excelsior will develop the next generation of project personnel to have a more sophisticated commercial skillset than their predecessors, which will help the organization identify and mitigate or avoid risk at a granular level each and every day. Overall, in the long run, they expect the program to make a significant contribution to reducing disputes and enhancing profit margins.

To date, the CRC has reviewed 16 projects with values totalling more than $20 billion since launching Excelsior in 2015.

“I think we’ve proven our value to our operational partners, and on a significant project we will staff a lawyer to a job either half or full time, and the lawyer really is there from a risk management perspective, not a purely legal perspective. Having them sit across the hall from the construction execution team — being able to put on their boots and go into the field and see the issue really enables them to perform that risk management role and enhance controls on the project,” says Fushman.

Fushman says what the Aecon internal department has created with Excelsior is not something external counsel could achieve for a client. “This is the value proposition of the in-house lawyer, that we’re so integrated with the business it’s impossible to draw a distinction between risk management and compliance and legal advice — we’re all just rowing in the same boat and sitting in a different seat and I would say this is something external counsel couldn’t assist with because what we’re doing is making risk assessments based on our understanding of the organization’s risk tolerance and temperature. That’s what we do,” says Fushman.

Swartz says the board is now getting more detailed analysis of risk management and a more complete map of the entire risk management across the organization.

The next phase of Project Excelsior will be to spin off into developing a compliance function in 2016.

Departments combine efforts to tackle criminal risk

  • Category:Risk Management
  • Department Size:Large
  • Company:BMO Financial Group

Criminal activity can harm a company’s reputation, result in financial loss, increase regulatory and compliance risk and erode customer confidence.

With that in mind, the security team within BMO Financial’s Legal and Compliance Group implemented a Criminal Risk Management Framework in July 2015.

The team leader was Milva Recchi, director, enterprise fraud risk management, who worked closely with BMO’s legal team to create a framework to address the evolving nature of criminal risk across the bank.

  • L to R -
  • Ed Rosenberg
  • Marian Rutherford
  • Milva Recchi
  • Diana Brydon
  • Siobhan Dooley
  • Simon Fish

Three years ago, Recchi was hired to take responsibility for fraud management across the enterprise. “Soon after I was hired, it was pretty evident we had to think a little bit more broadly in terms of fraud so we expanded it to criminal risk so we were dealing with what was evolving in the world today,” she says. “This framework helps BMO Financial Group understand criminal risk across the whole organization.”

The framework focuses on governance, identification, mitigation, measurement and reporting.

The culmination of a multi-year initiative, the framework is designed to enhance BMO’s criminal risk management capabilities, optimize resources and improve efficiencies and effectiveness. It provides an integrated view of how the bank manages criminal risk, with engagement from all business areas and key business partners.

“Key to the success of the framework has been the collaboration across the business groups,” says Recchi. “It allowed groups like anti-money laundering, fraud, security and privacy to really collaborate and define processes and look at data integration opportunities.”

Work on the framework began when bank leaders identified the need to implement an enterprise-wide framework at a time when the management of criminal risk at BMO was viewed as decentralized.

The bank’s executive vice president and general counsel Simon Fish tasked the vice president and chief security officer Ed Rosenberg with implementing the framework after extensive benchmarking that included a survey involving more than 60 leaders from a dozen organizations globally, as well as much discussion with stakeholders and leaders at BMO.

The findings demonstrated that organizations that moved to a centralized and integrated model were able to enhance risk management and create efficiencies when handling criminal risk.

The framework follows the three lines of defence and establishes a clear engagement model that defines BMO’s criminal risk culture based on governance, identification, measurement, management, mitigation and reporting. Additionally, its focus on developing criminal risk integration helps to provide a 360 view of criminal activity by enabling BMO’s anti-money laundering, information security, fraud and privacy teams to work together to identify processes, technology and data integration opportunities to enhance overall criminal risk management.

The projected outcome is a reduction in risks — criminal, reputational, operational and legal — as a result of the legal group handling this area of risk management.

Leading with the business top of mind

  • Category:Law Department Management
  • Department Size:Large
  • Company:Siemens

In-house counsel are always being encouraged to think and act like business people, but at Siemens Canada general counsel Richard Brait takes that philosophy to another level. He has developed a comprehensive suite of business initiatives that increase regulatory compliance, improve business process efficiency and reduce overall legal and non-legal costs.

Siemens in Canada employs about 5,000 people and has $3 billion in annual revenue across nine different business groups. The lawyers Brait leads support all of those business groups.

“I think anyone who joins a corporate law department is interested in more than just law — they want to get involved with the business as well,” says Brait. “In everything we do, we try to take that business orientation and look at it strategically and be results oriented and efficient.”

  • Back Row - L to R -
  • Dean Novak
  • Laura Etherington
  • Jonathan Strong
  • David Haughton
  • Natalie Cefaratti
  • Mike Beaumier
  • Sabrina Ceccarelli
  • Dan Dagan
  • Front Row - L to R -
  • Arlene Alvares
  • Cristina Schieda
  • Richard Brait
  • Carol Buckton
  • Kathleen Orysiuk

Commercial law is the largest area both for the sale of Siemens products and projects Siemens delivers to customers.

“We also have a fairly big practice in M&A, finance and all the standard staff legal work that goes with the business such as real estate and pensions,” says Brait.

On the commercial law side, the legal department launched an initiative to eliminate low-value work and introduced tools and processes to get involved much less in low-value contracts but still try to eliminate most of the risks.

“That has freed us up to do some more important work such as claims management and change management on major projects,” says Brait.

Reducing involvement in low-value work has allowed the legal department to increase attention to high-risk/high-reward situations. In one case, the leadership in identifying and structuring a change claim delivered more than $50 million to the profitability of the project.

Siemens Canada has a strong M&A capability in Toronto where the lead corporate lawyer is one of the two members of the global M&A group that doesn’t come from Germany. Brait himself has also done a fair bit of M&A.

Last year, Brait decided to make it a priority to assist the business in seeking out domestic M&A projects.

“I was thinking we weren’t getting enough M&A sourced from Canada — we get global projects, but we should be looking at the needs of the Canadian businesses and what they are looking for,” says Brait. “We thought it would be a good idea to let the Canadian businesses put their ideas in for M&A and help guide them through the M&A process.”

Siemens’ corporate lawyers have been innovative in developing Siemens’ Mergers & Acquisition Practice in Canada, by (i) soliciting feedback from the businesses as to potential acquisition candidates and pursuing such opportunities; (ii) developing templates for transactions; (iii) completing M&A process training; and (iv) hosting legal colleagues from other regions as part of an M&A secondment program to increase collaboration with other countries.

It fits with the company’s culture to have everyone act like an owner and seek out opportunities to benefit the organization.

“We encourage the lawyers to go out to the businesses and take a business-like approach. It’s not uncommon to see the lawyers come back with an idea for the business that doesn’t have to do with just legal work,” he says. “You’ll never hear us say ‘You’re the lawyer, why are you doing this?’ says Brait.

The department keeps abreast of developments by using a dashboard management system that tracks strategic, operational and transactional issues. “We keep those up to date on a quarterly basis and it gives a wonderful example for people to realize we are behaving like a business when we run the law department,” he says.

The Siemens Commercial and Technology Law Practice Groups grow expertise within the group and develop improved business processes, including: standard terms and clauses; contracting policies and processes including work-saving measures to streamline “low-value work”; regular training for internal business clients and new lawyers; and knowledge management initiatives such as sharing lessons learned from existing projects.

Siemens legal also developed processes for its real estate business partners, including: (i) guidance documents for negotiation of leases; (ii) a record-retention policy; (iii) a checklist for property vacancy issues; (iv) training on privilege in environmental matters; and (v) a facilities operations review checklist.

As well, savings with external law firms have increased by more than 600 per cent over the last five years. In addition, the law department internal budgets have remained flat despite substantial growth.

Developing claims management expertise in-house

  • Category:Law Department Management
  • Department Size:Small
  • Company:Chubb Insurance Canada

A few years ago, the professional claims line at Chubb Insurance Canada had a team that was comprised mainly of lawyers handling specialized actions against its insureds such as class actions against public companies, cyber matters and data breaches.

But Chubb’s clients were looking for a different kind of customer relationship that was more prevalent on the consumer side of the business. “We found that our insureds just wanted superlative customer service. We thought that we could pull non-lawyers who were working on the auto claims side to bring an innovative way to handle claims,” says Laila Brabander, senior vice president, head of claims for Chubb Insurance.

Brabander’s team includes about 100 lawyers, managers, adjusters and examiners across Toronto, Montreal, Calgary and Vancouver.

  • Top - L to R -
  • Alexandre Juneau
  • Madeleine Dinnissen
  • Katherine Moraca
  • Margaret Mede
  • Catherine Rayle-Doiron
  • Andrea Fisher
  • Bottom - L to R -
  • Paula Kargas
  • Marie-Claude La Ber
  • Aaron Veerasingham
  • Laila Brabander

The team developed a program to have lawyers train non-lawyers to handle various elements of claims management.

“We decided to create an experiential articling program within the team,” she says.

The team restructured to be made up of one-third lawyers and two-thirds junior employees coming up through Chubb’s career pipeline to handle claims.

“Our lawyers could provide an articling experience teaching them skills such as negotiation of mediations, drafting coverage letters and policy interpretation. There would be a symbiotic relationship where the junior people would also bring their wonderful customer service skills,” says Brabander.

The professional lines claims team at Chubb is currently comprised of five senior examiners (formerly insurance defence litigators) who mentor and work with five examiners (non-lawyers) to assess coverage and handle complex commercial claims.

The team handles claims brought against Chubb’s commercial insureds across all lines of specialized business and it works with outside defence counsel and in-house counsel to ensure the best results for its clients.

Employees, who are employed as either first-party adjusters handling auto claims or trainees who have joined Chubb from university who have excellent customer service skills are brought in as junior associates, akin to an articling student. “For example, one member of our team went to the Supreme Court of Canada on a leave of certification last year with our insured. I think things like that are a testament to what we’ve created on our team and the relationships we can build,” says Brabander.

The Chubb examiners handle everything internally and are encouraged to have frequent meetings with the insured, its broker and defence counsel and to accompany the insureds on any mediations or settlement conferences. “We’ve found that we have cut our external legal costs by approximately 30 per cent,” says Brabander.

That’s because within the insurance industry claims departments often hire external lawyers to handle the claims or provide coverage advice. “We handle all of our claims internally and work with our insureds to develop this close relationship and we obviously save the cost of hiring external counsel,” says Brabander.

That’s not to say Chubb doesn’t engage external counsel. It has a list of counsel such as Hicks Morley Hamilton Stewart Storie LLP, who nominated Chubb for the Innovatio award, retained on behalf of insureds to litigate claims. For example, Chubb and lawyer Maureen Quinlan from Hicks Morley partnered on “Workplace Law in Canada: A Primer,” a guide launched in 2015 for insureds and brokers that contains information on the legal basis for key terms and conditions of employment, basic law governing terminations, the most significant employment-related statutes and claims examples based on Chubb files. It is this relationship with outside counsel that creates strong levels of trust and assists in the smooth handling of litigation files, Brabander says.

Telus CLO Mercier offers strong mentoring, team-building skills

  • Category:Law Department Leadership
  • Department Size:Large
  • Company:Telus

A focus on mentoring and a determination to help women climb through the corporate glass ceiling helped Telus’s chief legal officer Monique Mercier to victory in the law department leadership category of this year’s Innovatio Awards, with a nomination that described her as “without question one of Canada’s most influential women.”

Mercier, who studied in Montreal and in Oxford, has been at Telus since 2011 and is also the telecommunication giant’s executive vice president for corporate affairs and its corporate secretary. She’s in the Hall of Fame of the Women’s Executive Network, is an active member of Women at the Top, which pushes for more women in corporate boardrooms, and is a strong backer of her company’s initiatives to increase the number of women in leadership roles.

“I know first-hand the challenges women face in the workplace, and I am very proud to be part of an organization that values the development of women and encourages me to foster talented female leaders on my team,” she says. “I strongly believe in career development, promoting internally, expanding roles and lateral moves.”

  • Monique Mercier, chief legal officer

That includes a focus on mentoring, which Mercier sees as a way to help colleagues identify their strengths and overcome their weaknesses.

“As a mentor, I am often asked how to advance one’s career, or hear from colleagues that feel dissatisfied, but aren’t sure where to begin in making changes. The first thing I always say is that you have to take ownership of your own career. Define your aspirations and goals, and take calculated risks to achieve them. You must find your passion, not necessarily what you are good at,” she says.

“I have been fortunate to have many great mentors, both men and women, who have provided valuable guidance at turning points in my career. I always felt they had my best interests at heart, and stood behind me 300 per cent. Your mentor should always be your best ally.”

Nominating Mercier for the Innovatio award, Robert Yalden, partner at Osler Hoskin & Harcourt LLP, highlighted her leadership skills, her performance on difficult files and her strong team-building skills. “Monique is a real leader, one who has in turn fundamentally transformed the role of the legal department at Telus and ensured that it has an important seat at the executive table when strategic decisions are made,” he wrote.

“She has created a work environment that is consistently rated as one of the most satisfying within Telus. Her leadership skills are therefore evident not only in the external legal arena, but also in her managerial philosophy and the pride she takes in seeing her team members succeed.”

Mercier, who nominated one of her own team members for the law department leadership Innovatio award, says corporate legal departments now do much more than simply offering legal advice, with a strong focus on governance, ethical issues and reputational risks.

“The CLO has to move beyond the question of ‘Is it legal?’ to ‘Is it right?’ and ‘Is it ethical?’” she says. “The foundation to success now is the trust you build with your shareholders, customers and employees. An activity may be legal, but if it is perceived as unethical, it can be very damaging to a corporation’s reputation.”

Team focused in a global environment

  • Category:Law Department Leadership
  • Department Size:Small
  • Company:Golder Associates Ltd.

When you listen to the people who work with Tony Linardi you quickly understand why his nomination was selected by the judges as the winner of the Law Department Leadership, small departments category.

“From thoughtful handwritten notes to ‘shout outs’ during legal team calls, Tony has mastered the art of appreciation,” says senior legal counsel Nicole Clark who put forward the nomination on behalf of the legal team at Golder Associates Ltd. “Tony regularly recognizes the achievements of his team members. His masterful ability to recognize his team boosts morale and increases productivity.”

Linardi is general counsel, corporate secretary and principal of Golder Associates Ltd., a global organization providing consulting, design and construction services.

  • Tony Linardi, general counsel, corporate secretary

In Canada, Linardi leads a team of eight across the country, which is made up of lawyers, contract specialists and a law clerk.

He has also recently been asked to lead the provision of legal services for the company’s global mining region, which is supported predominantly by five lawyers and one contract specialist located in the United States., Chile, South Africa, and Australia.

The team in Canada that he is directly responsible for provides a range of legal services including procurement, contract review, employment law, real estate, corporate/commercial, insurance, litigation management and more to the Canadian operations.

Linardi recently led a “Making Legal Services Even Better” campaign to serve Golder better.

“The legal team in Canada was unique amongst the corporate service departments, as all team members reported up to me as head of legal, as opposed to other corporate services departments, whose members reported to the operations vice-president or local office manager,” says Linardi. “When Golder initiated a ‘nationalization’ of their corporate services, I asked myself, how can I keep this high-performing team differentiated? I chose to focus on ‘metrics that matter’ and to do that, we needed to understand what really mattered to the company.”

The first step was to develop a mission statement, with involvement of every team member, considering what legal services added the most value to Golder. The second step involved the development of a five-page questionnaire, which was used in a survey with every member of the legal team, speaking and interviewing seven people of various levels within the company.

“This way, each member surveyed a cross-section of authority levels at Golder. Our survey focused on developing what mattered most to the corporation. When we analyzed the data, it was quite clear where Golder found value in the legal team’s available services, so I was challenged with developing a structure that would maximize the value that the legal team could bring to Golder — and still provide challenging and meaningful work to each team member.”

The Making Legal Services Even Better Campaign, combined with the increased pressures on the business due to the decline in the resource sector, led to a new structure that focussed legal resources where they could add the most value, while at the same time unburdening some consultants from the lost opportunity costs that were incurred when they would perform quasi-legal functions.

This allowed them more time to take part in client-facing activities and bringing in revenue.

“But it wasn’t just about freeing up the time of our consultants. The new structure and processes also enhanced how Golder undertakes projects and mitigates claims,” says Linardi. “The contract review process ensures that project lawyers and contract specialists are involved at an earlier stage, and, more importantly, we have dedicated specific legal personnel to our top 20 key client account teams. This allows for a deeper understanding of the project and client needs, which helps our legal team better explain the risks to our internal decision makers, and help design methods to mitigate risks, whether it be in the contract or through scope definition. This has led to increased engagement and acceptance between the legal team and operations, and it is likely that this model will be rolled out globally in 2017.”

Linardi was Golder’s first lawyer in Canada, and over the past 15 years, he says he has built his team. He meets every two weeks with each team member individually at “Focus on You” sessions to make sure they have personal alignment, and that each member is feeling challenged by the quality (not quantity) of their work.

Linardi admits building a remote team has unique challenges, but most of them are overcome by encouraging consistent sharing of information and collaboration of ideas, until the process becomes a natural part of team dynamics.

“This creates a collaborative team dynamic that is not for all lawyers, but for those that believe in trust and collaboration, it provides a great mechanism for growth and leadership.”

BMO asset management legal team works with BLG for improved AFAs

  • Category:Working with External Counsel
  • Department Size:Large
  • Company:BMO Financial Group

BMO Financial Group’s Legal, Corporate and Compliance Group has adopted a new approach when hiring external counsel with the ultimate goal of matching the value of legal services to the fees paid to the law firm.

This approach has the secondary goal of rationalizing the cost of external legal spend. As a result, the legal group has transformed the way it engages in discussions with external counsel about the value of advice, not just on one project but by looking at the overall relationship with its chosen legal service providers.

The BMO legal group has become an avid supporter of preferred external counsel who incorporate technology and alternative resourcing models into their delivery of legal services. It seeks to create a culture that encourages thinking about the delivery of legal services in new ways, including the use of project management and value-based billing models and ongoing work with the legal group’s business partners to develop an appropriate price for each legal matter.

  • Back Row - L to R -
  • Angela Nikolakakos
  • Kathryn Fuller, BLG
  • Chris Javornik
  • Carol Derk, BLG
  • Rosaleen Piluso
  • Mark Pratt
  • Front Row - L to R -
  • Valerie Lockerbie
  • Victoria Bergie
  • Laurel Turchin
  • Francesca Smirnakis, BLG
  • Missing -
  • John Hall, BLG

As part of this initiative, the asset management legal team within the legal group set a target of 40 per cent appropriate fee arrangements with its external counsel during 2015, with the goal of reaching 100 per cent in the next few years.

BMO worked closely with Borden Ladner Gervais LLP, one of its preferred external counsel to move toward this goal.

The transition has resulted in a variety of AFAs between BMO and BLG, including flat fee arrangements, capped fee arrangements and fixed retainer arrangements, for all aspects of its business involving securities regulatory advice to the various areas of business that the asset management legal team supports.

For example, BMO has more than 100 mutual funds that must be prospectus-qualified every year. Through discussing all aspects of the renewal project with BLG, a project that takes a number of months each year, the asset management legal team was able to determine the areas where it assigned value to external counsel providing services and those areas where the tasks and processes would be better undertaken within BMO.

“We saw that there were areas we absolutely needed support of external counsel, but there are other tasks that we’re better able to do ourselves,” says Chris Javornik, associate general counsel and managing director, BMO Financial Group. “We thought it was important to sit down with our external counsel and map out who should be doing what. Once we did that, we were able to come up with a plan and ascribe value to the tasks external counsel were going to do and agree on a price for those services before we embarked on the project.”

The legal team then negotiated AFAs with BLG. The lawyers from BLG who worked with BMO on the initiative included Kathryn Fuller and Francesca Smirnakis for the prospectus renewal project and many other projects, plus John Hall, Rebecca Cowdery and Carol Derk for various AFAs with the asset management legal team.

BMO initiated the change, based upon its new vision of how the relationship with law firms should work. BLG has been an active partner in supporting the legal group’s desire to change to a value-based billing model and has extensive experience, both with BMO and with other clients, in arriving at billing arrangements that move away from the billable hour model and satisfy the needs of both parties.

Using AFAs for the majority of projects between BMO’s asset management legal team and BLG’s investment management group has led to greater alignment between the price paid for, and the value received from, BLG’s advice. During 2015, the asset management legal team negotiated AFAs on 47 different matters with BLG, representing 67 per cent of all matters for which the team has engaged BLG.

The overall price paid by BMO to BLG for the prospectus work related to its retail mutual funds was reduced by 50 per cent from 2013 to 2015, while supporting approximately the same number of mutual funds. “It’s been very successful for us and I think it’s been successful for the law firm. It’s one thing for organizations to say they support these alternative fee arrangements and pricing things before the work is commenced, but it really depends on the individuals working on those tasks and working together to have goodwill and trust each other and learn from each other,” says Javornik.

Mediation-arbitration approach saves OPTrust time and money

  • Category:Working with External Counsel
  • Department Size:Small
  • Company:OPTrust

Faced with a complex and potentially protracted arbitration process, Tamara Johnson, director of labour relations for OPTrust, decided a new approach was needed to not only expedite the process but save on legal costs.

Last year, together with her external counsel Michael Sherrard of Sherrard Kuzz LLP, Johnson co-created with the Ontario Public Service Employees Union an expedited union grievance resolution process to successfully resolve 29 employment reclassification grievances.

The grievances covered a period of more than four years, were governed by two different collective agreements and involved 12 different positions within a department.

  • L to R -
  • Lisa Bolton
  • Michael Sherrad
  • Tamara Johnson
  • John Walsh, managing director, general counsel

The process was developed with the following guiding principles in mind. The process should be:

Mutually agreeable, promoting buy-in from and collaboration with the union and creating improved labour relations.

Inclusive, facilitating employee participation and representation.

Equitable, utilizing a single neutral adjudicator jointly selected by the parties.

Efficient, implementing an accelerated hearing schedule and co-operative procedure for submitting evidence resulting in significant time and cost savings for the union and employer.

The parties met for one day to discuss a time-restricted mediation-arbitration process and develop a guideline agreement. Some of the key strategies included:

A single arbitrator appointed to adjudicate all grievances.

Twenty-nine grievances proactively grouped into 12 classifications.

A representative union witness was appointed for each classification group.

An inquisitorial process was adopted, permitting the arbitrator to obtain evidence directly from each representative witness, with the assistance of a written synopsis of issues and list of questions submitted by each of the parties prior to the hearing.

A single employer representative provided responding evidence for all 12 classifications.

Examination and cross-examination of representative witnesses was limited to key issues.

An early evaluation session enabled the parties to discuss the legal issues and evidence with the arbitrator in advance of a decision.

As a result of this process, all of the 29 reclassification grievances were completed in less than three months with just six hearing days required. Using a traditional arbitration hearing model, OPTrust had anticipated about 60 hearing days would have been required and the entire process would likely have taken several years to complete.

External counsel Sherrard and Lisa Bolton from Sherrard Kuzz assisted Johnson in the process.

Johnson recognized the significant impact the outstanding grievances were having on employee morale not only in the affected department but also across the organization.

“She was also concerned about the length of time it would take to complete all of the grievances using traditional arbitration procedures and the significant financial cost and business interruption resulting from lengthy individual hearings,” says Sherrard. “Tamara also recognized the need for a consistent approach to determining the appropriate classification of positions, which she believed could not be achieved if different arbitrators adjudicated the grievances in isolation.”

Finally, Johnson believed that a different, collaborative approach to promptly resolve the grievances was essential to foster positive labour relations as the parties were preparing to begin renegotiations of the collective agreement.

Johnson initiated the change with OPSEU as a way to resolve outstanding classification grievances that had been pending for several years.

There were several positive business outcomes for the company including swift, consistent resolution of all outstanding grievances:

  • • Enhanced employee morale not only in the affected department but across the organization.
  • • Considerably cut down the time and cost (financial and personal anxiety of witnesses) to complete the grievances, relative to a traditional arbitration procedure.
  • • Minimized disruption to daily operations.
  • • Ensured a consistent approach to determining the appropriate classification of positions, which could not have been achieved if different arbitrators adjudicated the individual grievances in isolation.
  • • Promoted collaboration and co-operation between the union and employer regarding reclassification, which had traditionally been a contentious issue between the parties. This was particularly important as the parties were preparing to begin negotiations for the renewal of their collective agreement. By proactively resolving the grievances, the parties were able to remove a significant impediment affecting future labour relations.

There was a significant legal cost savings for both the employer and union, but above all was the saving of time and workplace disruption.

Driving efficiency and practicality in a complex environment

  • Category:Tomorrow's Leader
  • Department Size:Large
  • Company:BMO Financial Group

When Jennifer McGoey started in her role with BMO Financial Group as senior counsel, the first order of business was to implement the Volcker Rule across the businesses that she supported.

“I didn’t know anything about the Volcker Rule,” says McGoey, with a laugh.

But McGoey, now director, compliance and supervision, BMO Capital Markets, and deputy lead for the Volcker Rule program within BMO Capital Markets, is a quick study. She soon learned about the rule — which essentially prohibits banking entities from engaging in proprietary trading and certain private fund activities, with some exceptions — and managed to oversee its implementation across BMO’s various businesses.

  • Jennifer McGoey, director, compliance and supervision

McGoey is a winner of the 2016 Innovatio Award in the Tomorrow’s Leader category for large legal departments. Her nominator Simon Fish, executive vice president and general counsel of BMO Financial Group, raved about her ability to keep her finger on the pulse of developments affecting her businesses and her knack for simplifying processes.

“She tries to drive efficiency and practicality, as well as collaboration, so everyone has a say. She believes in taking full accountability and ownership of her work, and expects the same of others,” Fish said. “She strives to engage others around her and works to ensure everyone, no matter what their role, is respected and included. She believes in working hard and efficiently, while also giving back to others around her, and having a strong role at home with her family.”

McGoey was called to the bar in 2009, and worked at McCarthy Tétrault LLP before joining BMO in 2012. Mark Lobsinger, Managing Director and Program Lead for the Volcker Rule Program Development Office said her work at the bank “demonstrated maturity beyond her tenure.”

McGoey stepped up to lead the legal and compliance group’s yearly innovation challenge initiative, which seeks to do away with inefficiencies in the department. “It’s really something that you thought could make an impact in your life and really make your job easier,” she says.

Most recently, McGoey and her team tackled a common pain point that slowed all of them down: redacting information from years and years of board materials and minutes whenever they were asked to produce it. The task involved an archaic process of blocking out paragraphs with sticky notes and copying pages.

Now, the team has switched to an electronic redaction and archiving process, a system that’s saving approximately 16 days of lawyer time and 20 days of legal assistant time per year. The new process significantly mitigates the risk of human error in corporate records as well, McGoey says. As part of the innovation challenge, McGoey’s team also moved to a secure electronic document-sharing system, which meant BMO’s external counsel no longer had to fly in from the U.S. to collect the files they needed. For the company, that translates to a saving of at least $13,000 per year.

McGoey is also an avid volunteer with particular interest in work around mental health.

“As someone who knows what it feels like to struggle with mental health, I think it is hugely important for there to be resources and support services available to individuals who need them,” she says, adding she is also specifically interested in children’s mental health.

Along with her colleagues, she held a seminar of hidden disabilities at BMO, where people opened up about everything from mental health issues to vision problems.

“I think that opening the conversation and reducing the stigma associated with mental health allows others to seek help more easily,” McGoey says.

Innovating for a healthier tomorrow

  • Category:Tomorrow's Leader
  • Department Size:Small
  • Company:Grand Challenges Canada

It was Jocelyn Mackie and 12 others in the room. The 12 represented the federal government; Mackie represented Grand Challenges Canada, which would be heading toward a wind-down in early 2017 if she doesn’t convince the government to sign a deal providing a $160-million funding agreement to support the organization’s work in maternal, newborn and child health innovation.

No pressure, right? Luckily, Mackie, vice president of operations, general counsel and corporate secretary for Grand Challenges Canada, thrives under pressure. Thanks to her top-notch negotiation skills, the organization will continue its work of funding innovations with potential for big impact in global health.

The government-funded organization has existed in Canada for seven years and funded some 700 innovations in 80 countries since its launch in 2010. As of the end of 2015, GCC was looking for renewal funding and “had it not come in, we would have been winding down,” says Mackie, a winner of this year’s Innovatio Award for Tomorrow’s Leaders, small legal departments.

  • Jocelyn Mackie, vice president of operations

Mackie’s nominator Peter Singer, the chief executive officer of Grand Challenges Canada, said the agreement Mackie achieved was a complex one involving programs affecting the entire organization.

The agreement involved components affecting the entire organization, a 10-year budget with difficult cash flow scenarios and complex legal constraints relating to intellectual property and others.

“Throughout the process Jocelyn engaged with our finance and program teams in an efficient and effective manner so that all of our responses to the government were returned within two to three days, without the need for external legal support,” Singer said. “Her approach was practical, efficient and positive. It was a very complex process requiring many judgement calls in order to achieve the best possible result for our organization, while also maintaining a positive relationship with the government throughout.”

Mackie’s negotiation also means instead of simply granting funds, the organization can now provide other forms of financing to innovators such as loans and convertible debentures.

“Jocelyn led the ambitious project of developing convertible loan agreements that needed to bring together grant-like constraints with a more commercial approach to appeal to private investors. In this negotiation, she worked with the government to achieve a result that was acceptable within their funding constraints but still achieved our common policy objective of providing more sustainable and commercial forms of funding,” says Singer.

Mackie also led the development of GCC’s policy on “global access” which is about ensuring innovations will be made accessible, in terms of cost and availability, in the developing world. She does this by way of various legal mechanisms, including licence and distribution agreements.

“The associate general counsel at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation has commented that Jocelyn has led the development of global access to a new level,” Singer said. “Jocelyn is recognized as a leader in global access policies in development innovation, which requires carefully balancing constraints on innovators to ensure global access with encouraging innovation and partnerships with the private sector.”

It was a complex but fascinating process, Mackie says, noting she drew on her strengths to get through the pressure of the process.

“I’ve always been quite resilient,” she says. “Resilience is a skill you’re lucky to be born with but you also learn throughout your childhood and young adulthood. I think to be successful in any difficult, challenging, fast-paced environment (which ours certainly is), you have to be resilient,” she says.

Called to the bar of Ontario in 2008 and to the New York State Bar in 2009, Mackie joined Grand Challenges Canada after working as an intellectual property and litigation lawyer at Gilbert LLP. Mackie offers secondments to legal counsel from external law firms, particularly in the area of IP, to help bring in innovative ways of doing legal work. This approach also meant she was able to test out a legal associate before bringing him on board full time this year.

Singer praised her “participative, or democratic” style of leadership. Whenever she’s unsure how to handle a personnel matter, Mackie says she tries to put herself in the shoes of the other person.

“I rely incredibly on my team,” she says. “When something goes wrong or we make mistakes, I imagine myself on [their] side and say, ‘OK, I make mistakes; I make mistakes all the time. How would I want to be talked to or how would I want my superior to help me through this?’ As much as I can, I try to do that,” she says.

RBC M&A group handles mega deal on ‘bank to the stars’

  • Category:In-house Dealmakers
  • Department Size:Large
  • Company:RBC

When it comes to mega deals it doesn’t get much bigger than this for the in-house M&A team at RBC.

On Nov. 2, 2015, RBC announced the completion of the acquisition of Los Angeles-based City National Corporation for a total transaction value of about US$5.4 billion (approximately C$7.02 billion) in a combination cash and RBC stock deal.

The acquisition had been previously signed and announced Jan. 22, 2015, subject to customary closing conditions, including the receipt of required regulatory approvals and the approval of City National’s common stockholders.

  • L to R -
  • Anthony Pagano
  • Sonia Cardillo
  • Erin Dion
  • Catherine Stephen
  • Matthew Bassani
  • Hoori Chitilian
  • Vincent Murphy
  • Panagiota Dafniotis
  • Javier Gonzalez
  • David Onorato

The acquisition of City National was the largest transaction in RBC’s long history and will create a powerful platform for long-term growth in the U.S., RBC’s second home market. As well, the acquisition of City National was the largest transaction in the financial services sector globally since the financial crisis in 2007-2008.

It also represented an acquisition of a U.S. bank by a foreign bank.

Known as the “bank to the stars” to celebrities such as Jay Leno and Keith Urban, City National is considered a leader in private and commercial banking and wealth management in the U.S., serving high-net-worth individuals and commercial clients.

The transaction was a milestone in RBC’s history that will be a significant driver of new and future business in the U.S.

The City National transaction was led by RBC’s dedicated and centralized M&A Law Practice Group — a specialized function within RBC’s general counsel group that is accountable for all acquisitions, divestitures, joint ventures and strategic investments considered and entered into by RBC, its subsidiaries and business platforms on a global basis.

The M&A practice has a core group of five lawyers led by Anthony Pagano, chief counsel, M&A at RBC.

“We have developed a roster and an expertise of how we like to do transactions. Even though this was the biggest in our history, we have done so many over the years we were comfortable doing it and finding the right balance of how we work with our external advisers,” says Pagano.

“The reason we wanted to do it like this, and not have it decentralized like some of the other banks, is you want consistency in approach and how you do M&A around the globe. You want to respect the cultural nuances in different jurisdictions and be true to the risk appetite in your home market,” he says. “If we had the City National deal led by a U.S. group of lawyers, it wouldn’t have that same consistency, so we control M&A activity around the globe through a small group of people and the decisions are all made at the top of the house so our senior executives in the core always know what we’re buying or selling.”

With respect to the City National transaction, the M&A Law Practice Group was responsible for the legal work and mobilized the involvement and legal support of other GCG members and external service providers. In total, more than 20 GCG members were involved to provide legal support for the City National acquisition leading up to the transaction announcement on Jan. 22, 2015 and the completion on Nov. 2, 2015.

It was a complex cross-border M&A transaction that required innovative and efficient measures given that approvals were needed in Canada, the U.S. and the UK.

There were different, separate and extensive approval processes required for the Office of the Superintendent of Financial Institutions (in Canada), Federal Reserve (in the U.S.) and Financial Conduct Authority (in the U.K.) approvals by virtue of the challenging regulatory environment that financial institutions have been operating in since the financial crisis.

RBC M&A Law’s innovative and efficient approaches ensured a smooth and successful completion of the transaction. In addition, the fact that City National’s acquirer was a foreign bank instead of a U.S. bank entailed complexities, difficulties and issues that would not otherwise be present. M&A Law effectively co-ordinated and evaluated different priorities and issues present in Canada, the U.S. and the UK.

It mobilized internal and external counsel and banking resources in these jurisdictions to achieve the result in accelerated time frames as issues and requests for additional information and meetings around the transaction were required.

As well, M&A Law adopted an innovative RACI (responsible, accountable, consulted, informed) model in completing the City National acquisition.

Essentially, the approach involved a review of each task in the M&A cycle to determine (1) who was the “responsible” resource to complete a particular task, (2) who was the resource “accountable” for the task being completed by the “responsible” resource, (3) who needed to be “consulted” for advice, counsel or escalation purposes, and (4) who needed to be “informed” for a “need to know” or informational purposes.

In the end, the approaches adopted for the City National transaction resulted in efficiencies and quantitative and qualitative benefits. The quantitative benefits were derived from actual dollar cost savings from more efficient use of external providers and the qualitative benefits included better role clarity, alignment of resources, minimized duplication, lower internal costs (resource level, hours) and increased predictability.

The acquisition of City National resulted in external legal cost savings of approximately $1.3 million against the budget for external legal costs established for the project.

“It was a combination of a number of things. What we do at the outset with our external advisers is identify what work we will do and what they will do and have a budget set up. In working to that budget, it’s more of an art than a science, but we try to think about what parts we can lead internally,” says Pagano. “We work toward a budget and try to stay under it.”

Grimaldi led charge in reverse takeover

  • Category:In-house Dealmakers
  • Department Size:Small
  • Company:Progressive Waste Solutions

In the waste management business, it doesn’t get much bigger than these two giants. So when the reverse takeover was launched earlier this year, the challenge this year for Loreto Grimaldi was how best to manage the deal to add value for shareholders.

In January, Texas-based Waste Connections, Inc. and Vaughan, Ont.-based Progressive Waste Solutions Ltd. announced that the two companies had entered into a definitive agreement to merge in an all-stock transaction worth $2.67 billion — combining to become the third largest waste management services provider in North America.

Upon the completion of the deal, Waste Connections stockholders will own approximately 70 per cent of the combined company and Progressive Waste shareholders will own approximately 30 per cent.

  • L to R -
  • Alim Lalani, associate general counsel
  • Loreto Grimaldi, general counsel

Progressive Waste Solutions Ltd. provides non-hazardous solid waste collection, recycling and disposal services to commercial, industrial, municipal and residential customers in 14 U.S. states and the District of Columbia and six Canadian provinces. Progressive Waste provides its customers with vertically integrated collection and disposal assets and its shares are listed on the New York Stock Exchange and the Toronto Stock Exchange under the symbol “BIN”.

Waste Connections, Inc. is an integrated solid waste services company that provides waste collection, transfer, disposal and recycling services in mostly exclusive and secondary markets. Through its R360 Environmental Solutions subsidiary, the company is also a leading provider of non-hazardous oilfield waste treatment, recovery and disposal services in several of the most active natural resource-producing areas in the United States, including the Permian, Bakken and Eagle Ford basins. Waste Connections serves more than two million residential, commercial, industrial and exploration and production customers from a network of operations in 32 states.

The lead lawyer on the deal from Progressive Waste was Loreto Grimaldi, executive vice president and chief legal officer, along with Alim Lalani, associate general counsel. Prior to announcing the deal, the company struck a special committee of its board of directors to review strategic alternatives with the objective of enhancing shareholder value.

Grimaldi worked closely with the special committee over a number of months to ensure the transaction was adding value for Progressive Waste’s shareholders.

Although Progressive Waste had retained outside counsel throughout the process, the company was able to rely on Grimaldi and his excellent communication, judgment and analytical skills to guide the company through myriad legal and regulatory matters.

Grimaldi was able to provide sound advice to his board of directors, which resulted in the company being able to execute on a complex and value-enhancing transaction for shareholders and other stakeholders of the company.

The deal is expected to bring a number of advantages including: (i) an expanded operational footprint including pro forma revenue of $4.1 billion for the combined company; (ii) strong and diversified revenue streams; (iii) SG&A savings of approximately $50 million in the first 12 months; and (iv) tax-effected synergies and cash flow benefits, which should result in $625 million of adjusted free cash flow generation in the first year of the combined company.

Grimaldi was nominated by his associate general counsel Alim Lalani, who says, “While it is difficult to project the actual costs savings resulting from Grimaldi’s contributions to the transaction, he was a key member of the deal team and his ability to provide sound legal and business advice to the board of directors and the special committee it struck resulted in a transaction that was value enhancing for all shareholders and stakeholders involved.”

At the time of signing the merger agreement, Grimaldi was promoted by Progressive Waste’s board of directors to the position of executive vice president and chief legal officer and tasked together with the interim CEO and CFO to lead the organization through to closing.

Bringing POWER to Pfizer

  • Category:Diversity
  • Department Size:Small
  • Company:Pfizer Canada

What happens when a company’s legal department takes a proactive role in an area far outside its normal scope of business? Something pretty powerful, as it happens.

all business areas of Pfizer Canada, the program is open to anyone interested in developing leadership and competencies in the workplace, advancing business objectives, empowering and developing colleagues, creating and maintaining an inclusive culture, recognizing the benefits of diverse perspectives and what they bring to financial performance and leveraging the important role women play as decision-makers in the marketplace.

Tretiak’s Montreal-based legal department has been critical in the development and ongoing performance of the network. Beyond being behind the push to create the network in the first place, the legal department placed a high value on developing the department’s female employees and to this end takes full advantage of what the POWER Network has to offer.

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  • Gabriela Pedroso
  • Tania Tretiak
  • Jonathan Cullen

All members of the legal department, from vice president to support staff, are members and actively participate in the network’s different events and learning programs. Through their participation in these various events, the department has learned about the business and been able to strengthen their network with other colleagues across business functions. This has improved its reputation as a business partner and facilitated important conversations.

Since its launch, Pfizer has seen a steady increase in membership growth through the hosting and promotion of events such as networking opportunities for colleagues from different departments and levels; hosted development sessions such as “Successful Self-Promotion Strategies,” “How to Read a P&L,” “Taming Adrenaline — Sure-fire Strategies for Overcoming Speaking Anxiety,” and luncheon discussions with top female personalities such as Yolande James, a former Quebec politician and now media personality.

“It has allowed colleagues to be exposed to new opportunities, which encourage reflection on their career paths, and has created a network or an environment where colleagues can get together and share their ideas on leadership and development,” Tretiak says.

Telus team controls costs in competition bureau litigation

  • Category:Litigation Management
  • Department Size:Large
  • Company:Telus

It had the potential to be an extremely costly and damaging matter to Telus and its brand, but the internal team in the company’s litigation department tackled it with an innovative approach in a high-stakes claim involving customers.

In September 2012, following a protracted investigation, the Competition Bureau commenced an enforcement proceeding in the Ontario Superior Court against the three leading wireless companies in Canada — Rogers Communications Inc., Bell Canada and Telus Corporation — as well as the Canadian Wireless Telecommunications Association, under the deceptive marketing provisions of the Competition Act.

The bureau alleged the defendants had permitted misleading representations to the public by facilitating access to “premium-rate digital content” marketed by third parties (such as ringtones, quizzes and trivia) that consumers “did not intend to purchase and for which they did not agree to pay.”

  • Alan Dabb, vice president, litigation and legal services

“This claim against Telus in some respects went to the heart of our ‘customers first’ approach,” says Alan Dabb, vice president, litigation, legal services. “It was also significant in that the bureau was seeking significant claims against Telus in addition to an order that Telus refund its customers.”

The bureau’s enforcement proceeding tested the limits of the responsibility of the wireless companies for statements made by independent third parties over their networks, and it had potential broad implications for the marketing of digital content in Canada. The stakes were high. In its statement of claim, the bureau sought the maximum civil penalties available under the Competition Act from the three companies — $10 million each — as well as full customer refunds and $1 million from the CWTA.

Telus planned a vigorous defence and assembled a legal team that consisted of both internal resources and outside counsel. The Telus defence team was led by Dabb and included representatives of Telus’ senior legal leadership (including Monique Mercier, chief legal officer, and Andrea Wood, senior vice president, legal services, Ted Woodhead, senior vice president, federal government and regulatory affairs) as well as members of Telus’ litigation team (Jaclyn Leong, counsel, legal services, and Kate Sokolan, litigation paralegal, legal services).

“We had to be particularly innovative in this case in relation to the settlement discussions we had with the bureau,” says Dabb. “In my experience, there are two ways to managing our external counsel — one is where external counsel can largely run the file and we have just an oversight role. The other is to become more directly engaged in a particular litigation matter, working hand in hand with external counsel to resolve the litigation.”

In this case, Dabb says given the implications for the Telus brand he decided to take a very direct role in negotiating terms of settlement with the bureau.

From the beginning of the bureau’s proceeding, Dabb and the Telus team were focused on achieving an innovative path to resolution — including the implementation of creative protocols for managing the discovery process as well as the exploration of ideas for resolution that avoided civil fines and penalties.

“With significant foresight, leadership and diligent execution, Alan and the Telus team were able to manage an enormous discovery project and were able to find a path to resolution through a creative settlement structure — and their innovative efforts are worthy of external recognition,” says Chris Naudie, partner, litigation with Osler Hoskin & Harcourt LLP, who nominated Telus for the award.

In particular, in defending this matter, Naudie says Dabb and the Telus team were able to demonstrate innovation in litigation management in three particular areas.

Efficient handling of discovery

The complex case involved an enormous pool of documents. To meet the commissioner’s document demands, roughly a million documents had to be collected, reviewed and screened — a process that had the potential to be not only time consuming but expensive. Dabb and the Telus team succeeded in controlling and managing these costs by leveraging their internal resources effectively and engaging an external service provider to screen the documents based on pertinent search terms. The number of relevant documents was whittled down to approximately 48,000 — a much more manageable figure from both a strategic and cost perspective.

During negotiations, Dabb personally engaged the commissioner’s management team and explained Telus’ history of implementing measures to protect consumers in respect of these services, as well as Telus’ steps in terminating its relationship with certain third parties that were the subject of certain complaints.

“In contrast to some in-house counsel who sit on the sidelines, Alan and members of the Telus team played a direct role in settlement negotiations with the commissioner,” Naudie said.

Dabb had an active hand in steering the matter to a successful resolution and achieved a settlement that did not include any penalties and was premised on a refund process.

“We were faced with a few challenges in coming up with a solution. One was in record keeping — many of the records we needed to process refunds to customers were in the possession of third parties, so we had to get creative in terms of figuring out how to put money back in the hands of our customers in a manner that put our customers first and satisfied the bureau’s concerns,” says Dabb.

As an integral part of the settlement, and as an alternative to other remedies, the TELUS team proposed the payments to charitable organizations that conducted research on issues such as consumer education regarding wireless providers and the collection of personal data in the wireless industry, as well as the role that the law plays in ensuring that consumers receive accurate information.

Ultimately, by negotiating the settlement, Dabb and the Telus team were able to avoid a costly and contested litigation proceeding based on a creative settlement that was premised on a refund process for current and former customers as well as based on charitable payments that were specifically targeted to address cutting-edge issues relating to digital privacy in the wireless industry.

This was a significant matter for Telus, one that had the potential to result in lengthy, costly court proceedings. By reaching an agreement with the bureau, Dabb and his team managed to avoid exposing Telus to a substantial penalty as well as the legal fees that would have been incurred in a protracted proceeding.

The settlement was announced at the end of 2015. Under the terms of the agreement, Telus will provide refunds for current and former wireless customers for certain premium text messages programs subject to a detailed claims process.

In its press release, the bureau stated the refund program is the largest ever reached by the bureau. In addition, Telus will donate $250,000 for research on consumer issues related to the wireless industry to three institutions. Telus is not required to pay any fines, penalties or legal costs under the agreement.

Vaughan uses mediation to tackle appeals to OMB

  • Category:Litigation Management
  • Department Size:Small
  • Company:The City of Vaughan

The Vaughan Metropolitan Centre is the new downtown core for the City of Vaughan, one of the fastest-growing municipalities in Canada.

The VMC comprises more than 179 hectares located around the intersection of Hwy. 7 and Jane Street. The completed development will offer a vibrant urban centre. The VMC will also contain the northernmost subway station in the Greater Toronto Area.

Claudia Storto, deputy city manager, legal and human resources, is responsible for seeking approval from the Ontario Municipal Board of the VMC Secondary Plan (among other official plans and secondary plans), which outlines and defines the elements that will make up the VMC.

  • Claudia Storto, deputy city manager, legal and human resources

The VMC Secondary Plan was the result of a planning process related to city council’s adoption of the Vaughan Official Plan 2010 in September 2010. The VMC Secondary Plan was adopted by Vaughan’s city council in 2010 and modified in 2012.

In response, 26 appeals were filed by landowners with the OMB. Other parties to the litigation include the Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing, the Region of York, the Toronto and Region Conservation Authority, the York Region District School Board, the York Region Catholic School Board and CN Rail.

Recognizing that the sheer number of appeals and litigants could significantly hamper progress in developing the VMC, Storto sought a new approach to manage litigation on this scale. Working with Michael Toshakovski, legal counsel, and a city staff team of about 40 professionals from various other departments, she embarked on a plan to use mediation to come to a resolution.

“We decided mediation was the way to go with this particular project because we wanted as much agreement and support from all of the stakeholders in the area. We used it as a tool to bring everyone to the table and discuss all the outstanding issues in a collaborative way resulting in as much buy-in for the plan,” says Storto.

The VMC Secondary Plan is a critical element of the city’s new plan as the province has identified the area as an urban growth centre, with ambitious density targets. Litigation-related delays would result in significant tax dollars having been invested in a subway line and a bus rapid transit system without the necessary influx of development to support them.

Storto selected mediation, a form of assisted negotiation involving a third party skilled in dispute resolution.

“Litigation is a very lengthy and costly process. We selected mediation to move matters along as quickly as we possibly could and to limit the costs and resources used to pursue litigation in the traditional sense,” she says.

After a year and a half of formal mediation, the city was able to present a settlement to the OMB in Dec. 2015 and achieved a partial approval of its plan. “That was very significant — it was a huge milestone in having the VMC Secondary Plan come to life,” she says.

Mediation presented the opportunity to resolve the appeals before the matter escalated to an expensive and lengthy hearing before the OMB.

Numerous informal meetings were held with the appellants between formal mediation sessions, with both the large group and smaller groups based on common issues.

Under Storto’s direction, the city undertook several negotiations without the assistance of the OMB mediator. Storto led all meetings, along with external counsel Lynda Townsend, partner at WeirFoulds LLP, whom Storto says was “instrumental” in assisting the city with the process.

While the city had undertaken mediation related to OMB appeals in the past, it was limited to small matters with only one or two parties. Negotiations will continue in 2016 with hearings to be scheduled in late 2016 and into 2017.

Vaughan’s experience with mediation speaks to the benefits of ADR, and as a high-profile success, may help reduce the need to reform the OMB.

Streamlined approval process for managing conflicts at BMO

  • Category:Compliance
  • Department Size:Large
  • Company:BMO Financial Group

In 2015, BMO Financial Group wanted to reduce its overall risk and increase efficiency by implementing an automated approval process to identify and manage potential conflicts of interest arising from its employees’ personal activities.

BMO’s compliance group transformed 13 paper-based processes for approving employee activities and private investments into a single electronic system. The bank now uses a new Managing Conflicts of Interest system to review requests from North American employees for such things as outside employment, directorships in outside organizations, volunteer activities and certain personal investments.

Employees access MCOI to complete an online questionnaire tailored to the type of activity for which approval is sought. Once complete, MCOI automatically routes the request to the employee’s manager for review.

  • Front Row - L to R -
  • Valeria Sarkisova
  • Catherine Musselman
  • Tara Styles
  • Jackie Wei
  • Back Row - L to R -
  • Terry McCaig
  • Alicja Moryk
  • Adrienne Kossman
  • Carlo Pacheco
  • Tanuja Chei
  • Missing -
  • Eric Moss
  • Richard Fitzgerald
  • Robert Hyde
  • Robert Harcar
  • Melissa Mooney
  • Brett Black
  • Karen Shuff
  • Dennis Brown

The manager is provided with the questionnaire and guidance on what to consider when approving or rejecting the request. If the manager approves, MCOI routes the request to the compliance department for review. MCOI then communicates the approval decision by e-mail back to the employee and manager. Approvals are also sent to other support areas for regulatory and reporting purposes.

The previous paper-based processes and data retention methods operated in silos with different levels of scrutiny and no ability to provide aggregate reporting on the types of activities that were approved. The MCOI system simplified, standardized and automated the process and provided a consolidated book of record.

Employees have a single access point to seek approvals and are provided a questionnaire tailored to the type of request.

The project was led by Eric Moss, senior vice president, deputy general counsel and chief compliance officer with BMO Financial Group.

“It’s incredibly important for BMO Financial Group that we manage our conflicts of interest, and that we don’t overly restrict employees from engaging in activities that are beneficial to them and the bank,” says Moss. “Having the automated process allows us to have more consistent results across the bank and enables us to prevent the employees from having to enter the information multiple times.”

The automated process moves the workflow through the approval stages. MCOI uses the enterprise HR hierarchy to identify which managers and compliance reviewers should receive an employee’s approval request. To ensure timely review, each request is given a priority based on the nature of the activity.

  • • Record of requests: MCOI communicates decisions by e-mail and archives approval requests so that employees, managers and compliance can review approval history.
  • • Consolidated reporting: MCOI allows compliance to create reports showing the types of activities being undertaken in the enterprise or in individual groups.
  • • Targeted reporting: MCOI routes approval decisions to registration, insurance and regulatory reporting departments that require notice of approval decisions to update other records.

MCOI’s common process and approval guidance enhances oversight and reduces the likelihood that the approval of an activity in one operating group could create conflicts with clients for another operating group.

The enhanced oversight also improved efficiency by eliminating the need for employees to provide the same information to different stakeholders related to the same proposed activity or investment. MCOI improves monitoring and testing capabilities for various supervision groups by providing a consolidated record from which to create periodic oversight activities.

Other BMO groups responsible for insurance, governance and registrations are now directly connected to approval decisions and the information collected by MCOI, rather than relying on independently collecting the same information through different processes.

The MCOI platform that moves workflow from employees to managers and compliance groups was used to build another enterprise system that required similar workflow patterns. A quarterly attestation process for operating groups was based off the same MCOI platform for use in regulatory reporting.

Overall, BMO’s MCOI system has achieved consistent and consolidated management of potential conflicts of interest.

Making document management CoRe to the business

  • Category:Compliance
  • Department Size:Small
  • Company:Pfizer Canada

Document management and file retention procedures are critical to Pfizer Canada’s compliance team. The department must be able to locate documents at any given time and know that the document they are looking at is the most current.

Due to the specialized roles of individuals in the group, collaboration is a critical component within the process of creating and approving documents. Communication and information sharing across the group is essential to ensure common alignment.

Therefore, a year ago, the team initiated a project based on finding a document management system that would meet the following requirements:

  • • A repository to house all compliance-related documents with relevant security and visibility (permission levels);
  • • A mechanism to support the version history in the creation of documents;
  • • A platform to ensure it complies with archiving and retention requirements;
  • • A means to enable colleagues to quickly and efficiently locate documents;
  • • A process to support team communication, collaboration and alignment.
  • L to R -
  • Lori Barrett
  • Jonathan Cullen
  • Sylvie Perigny

Working in collaboration with a technology supplier, a document retention interface was developed using the Microsoft SharePoint platform. The resulting document management system implemented for the compliance department was named Compliance Repository or “CoRe.”

CoRe is a document repository system with enhanced search capability that improved team efficiency by:

    • • Reducing duplication of effort;
    • • Leveraging the use of metadata filters to locate documents;
    • • Providing a central hub for team communication;
    • • Providing tailored links to facilitate access to internal and external information;
    • • Allowing for cross-functional visibility managed through permission levels.

Although it was designed to meet the needs of the compliance department, it can be adapted to any business unit in the company. Using metadata assignments, Pfizer separated the site into the following sections:

      • • Policies (local, global, external);
      • • Policy templates;
      • • Job aids;
      • • Leadership documents;
      • • Projects;
      • • Team process and procedures;
      • • Minutes;
      • • Administrative documents.

“Given the nature of the business we do in our department, we implemented a system that would allow us to have communication and a centralized repository to be able to access documentation and help the team send a common message to the business,” says Lori Barrett, senior manager, process optimization in the corporate governance team.

The team took the basic repository system of CoRe and enhanced it with customized metadata — project name, author and category.

“It’s very important that CoRe has the ability to maintain a security and file integrity of documentation. In compliance, we need to be sure that access to documentation and communication is consistent across the business,” says Barrett.

One main feature of CoRe is that it has an enhanced search function. “The other very important aspect of CoRe is the fact that the documentations held within it have an authenticity validation,” she says. “The version that is used is always maintained. If a user modifies a document, the original is maintained as well as subsequent modified documents, which is important for audit purposes.”

The CoRe system:

        • 1 Supports aligned guidance and communication;
        • 2. Improved inquiry response time;
        • 3. Facilitates knowledge transfer;
        • 4. Meets the requirements and standards set by the corporate auditors. During the life of a project many documents are created. Some of the documents turn into revised policies, new job aids, new procedures, etc. It is important for audit purposes to be able to retrieve all final deliverables related to a specific project.

After the launch of CoRe within the compliance department, the company’s executive committee supported the rollout to the business to store electronic company records tailored to each functional area.

After it received support from Pfizer Canada’s executive committee, it was adopted as a best practice by several business units within Pfizer Canada and is continuing to be implemented throughout the organization.

Published in Innovatio
Monday, 01 August 2016 09:00

The Top 25 Most Influential 2016

Canadian Lawyer’s Top 25 Most Influential in the justice system and legal profession in Canada is now in its seventh year. The Top 25 is always the magazine’s most-read, and most commented-on, feature. Its popularity — both in terms of the number of nominations we received as well as the number of votes in the public poll — highlights the engagement and pride in their colleagues that lawyers, judges, and others in the legal profession have.

As we do every year, we put out a public call for nominations to legal groups and associations representing a variety of memberships and geographies; last year’s Top 25 honourees; our readership; and our internal panel of writers and editors.

Likely due to the introduction of the new “young innovators” category, this year, we far surpassed all previous years, receiving more than 200 nominations, which the internal panel whittled down to about 160 candidates who met our criteria. The pool of nominees was so strong in the young influencers category that it alone had 70 candidates. It truly was amazing to see what these lawyers under 40 are accomplishing — in all areas of the law and from all across the country. As the editor of Canadian Lawyer for almost a decade, and someone who is constantly impressed with the work lawyers do, even I was blown out of the water by the quality of the candidates.

Once we had the long list of candidates, we posted it online and polled our readers for their votes — and you let us know in droves what you thought. The number of voters increased by 22 per cent over last year, with 11,071 people participating and commenting on those who they thought made their mark over the past 18 months. The final list of 25 honourees is based on that poll with input and the last word from the Canadian Lawyer editorial panel.

Being named as one of Canadian Lawyer’s Top 25 Most Influential highlights the important and significant work jurists have done in the last 18 months or so. Some of them may have steered big deals or made the most splash on the news pages — but it’s about their leadership and influence in a larger sphere. It is not a recognition of lifetime achievement, but inclusion in the Top 25 speaks to a level of respect, the ability to influence public opinion, and to help shape the laws of this country and others; contribution to the strength and quality of legal services; involvement and impact within the justice community; and social and political influence and involvement.

The Top 25 is split into five areas of influence with five winners in each of the following categories: the new young influencers; government, associations, and non-profits, including: courts, public inquiries, and officers of Parliament; changemakers; criminal and human rights law; and corporate-commercial law. Nominees were put in the category in which the individual exercised their influence during the time period, which at times may differ from their main area of practice.

A number of previous honourees are back this year: Senator Murray Sinclair’s work on the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, whose report and recommendations were released last fall, continues to be an integral driver to changes in the way First Nations people, lives, and law are perceived and treated in Canada. Human rights and immigration lawyer Lorne Waldman continues to be involved in cases that are an integral part of the dialogue in Canadian society. Ontario Superior Court Justice Paul Perell reappears on the list once again due to the influence and importance of the decisions that he’s penned.

Marie Henein, who first appeared on the list last year, was almost guaranteed a spot again as a result of her work on the Jian Ghomeshi trial and the ripple effect of the case in both the legal community and beyond. She was, by far, this year’s top vote getter. She was lauded by voters for, among other things, withstanding “tremendous pressure and negative feedback, yet represented the profession admirably,” as well as for being “an inspirational lawyer and a role model for young female lawyers.”

With the introduction this year of the young influencers category, we see a group of extremely talented and dedicated lawyers under 40 who are making a real impact in the profession and their communities. To a certain degree, every single one of the 70 nominees deserved to be on the list because their stories are so varied and incredibly impressive. We had candidates from practically every province in a wide variety of practice areas and industries. From leading their local bar associations, to arguing precedent-setting cases in their first years of practice, to embracing new ways of practising and blazing trails in their communities, all of the nominees are setting the bar high and poised for ongoing success. Five of the most impressive candidates are highlighted in this year’s Top 25.

While only 25 of the incredible nominees can make the final list, every single one of them has had an impact, and their accomplishments are many and varied — not to mention many of them done behind the scenes or on a pro bono or volunteer basis. It’s these lawyers and judges from across Canada and many different areas of practice who uphold the greatest ideals of the profession and are worthy of recognition.

Below we present the Top 25 Most Influential for 2016. They are listed with the top vote getter in each category first, followed by the others in alphabetical order.

Want to add your own kudos? Disagree with the choices? Did we miss someone obvious? E-mail it to cl.editor@thomsonreuters.com. We’ll be doing it all again next year.


* This article was prepared with the assistance of Mallory Hendry.

Young Influencers

Ranjan Agarwal Partner, Bennett Jones LLP Toronto

Last year, Agarwal was counsel for Pro Bono Law Ontario in the Supreme Court of Canada’s decision in Hinse v. Canada (Attorney General) on the issue of indemnification for legal costs in private pro bono litigation. He is president of the South Asian Bar Association of Toronto, Canada’s largest minority bar association and North America’s largest South Asian bar association. He encourages legal leaders, judges, and policy-makers to think about diversity as integral to access to justice. Agarwal consistently calls for a more diverse bar and judiciary, saying it is fundamentally important to increasing public confidence in the justice system, especially among visible minority communities. Agarwal regularly acts for diversity-seeking groups in pro bono litigation. He is a member of the Ontario Bar Association’s equality committee, where he is spearheading the initiative to gather diversity statistics from all CPD presenters with a view to making it more reflective of the bar and the community. Agarwal is also an adjunct professor at the University of Toronto’s Faculty of Law and regularly speaks on class actions, commercial litigation, employment, human rights, and constitutional law.

What voters had to say:

“Is an inspiration to all, with his tireless commitment to the law, including through many pro bono cases.”

“Amazing advocate on raising diversity in the law and access to justice.”

Aimée Craft Assistant professor, University of Manitoba, Robson Hall Faculty of Law Winnipeg

Craft is an emerging intellectual leader working on Anishinaabe and Canadian aboriginal law. Her research and advocacy work is grounded in valuing and living indigenous knowledge. Craft is currently doing research for the Anishinaabe nibi inaakonigewin project, working with Anishinaabe elders to better understand legal principles relating to water. She has worked with aboriginal organizations to organize conferences, develop strategic litigation, deliver public education, and engage in advocacy initiatives. She also developed a strong working relationship with the Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs. Her ongoing work on the Federal Court Liaison Committee on the development of practice guidelines for aboriginal law matters and oral history evidence has been an important and substantive contribution to Canadian law.

What voters had to say:

“Helping our too-often neglected aboriginal nations.”

Nadia Effendi Partner, Borden Ladner Gervais LLP Toronto and Ottawa

Effendi is chairwoman of BLG’s Supreme Court of Canada agency group and a member of BLG’s commercial litigation and appeal and review groups. She recently acted for an intervenor in World Bank Group v. Wallace, which represents a significant development in the law, standing as one of only two SCC decisions addressing the scope of international organizations’ immunities and privileges. She represented the Law Society of Upper Canada in appeals in Trinity Western University v. The Law Society of Upper Canada. In June, she was before the Court of Appeal defending the Divisional Court decision that unanimously upheld the LSUC’s decision to deny accreditation to TWU’s prospective law school. The case engages fundamental issues of Constitutional and human rights and administrative law — including the delineation of equality rights, religious freedoms, and the LSUC’s jurisdiction as an administrative decision-maker.

What voters had to say:

“Nadia is one of the brightest and hardest-working advocates I know. Her passion for her clients’ causes and advocacy skills makes her one of the most influential young lawyers in Canada today.”

Louis-Alexandre Guay Counsel, Aboriginal Law Directorate, Quebec Regional Office, Department of Justice Canada Ottawa

Most recently, Guay was responsible for the multi-million-dollar settlement of Indian Day School litigation initiated against Canada. With his young team, he advanced the law of Crown responsibility and fiercely worked to change views from within government, selflessly working in the dark for the greater good of facilitating reconciliation of the Crown with First Nations. Guay has been working on Indian school files for more than a decade, contributing to the beginnings of the settlement of the Indian Residential Schools class action litigation against the Crown, and paved the way for the IRS dispute resolution process and thereafter the Indian Residential Schools Settlement Agreement and its day-to-day implementation via an independent assessment process. In this context, he has single-handedly participated in as many as 500 individual hearings.

What voters had to say:

“He’s a hard worker, one of the nicest people I know, so easy to work with and always there to help a colleague. He’s defending his cases with heart and passion! He is the young most influential Canadian lawyer!”

“A great lawyer and a great guy.”

Jessica Prince Senior policy adviser to the Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada Ottawa

Prince was a top-tier Bay Street litigator who worked on high-profile cases including intervening for the Canadian Medical Association on the recent Carter case at the SCC. Since last November’s election, she has been working as senior policy adviser to Minister of Justice Jody Wilson-Raybould, who is working on many hugely influential issues at this time, including the inquiry into missing and murdered women, marijuana laws, and physician-assisted death. Prince’s work there is making a strong impact on her community. Prince is a very well connected lawyer and serves as a mentor to many young lawyers, particularly young women.

What voters had to say:

“She fits your category perfectly as a lawyer under 40 who is really making an impact in her communities and in the profession.”


Ian Binnie Member arbitrator, Arbitration Place; and counsel, Lenczner Slaght Royce Smith Griffin LLP Toronto

Binnie has not slowed down since retiring from the Supreme Court of Canada — in fact, if anything, his influence across the legal and public world continues to grow. In the past year, among many other high-profile engagements, Binnie was appointed as special arbitrator in the very public and controversial Senate expenses investigation. His findings in that matter were released in March, stating, “I impute no bad motives to any of the senators” and reducing expenses owed in 10 of the 14 cases. In mid-June, the Senate decided to have a law firm review seven of the senators’ cases to decide whether to launch further legal action. Binnie also continues to serve as chairman of the United Nations Internal Justice Council, where he is responsible for advising the UN General Assembly in its implementation of the new UN Dispute Tribunal and Appeals Tribunal systems. As for his role at Lenczner Slaght, Binnie shares strategic and practical advice as well as his dispute resolution expertise with colleagues and clients.

What voters had to say:

“Unstoppable, great man.”

“His commitment to continue to have impact after such an impressive career is laudable.”

Catherine McKenna Minister of the Environment and Climate Change, MP for Ottawa Centre Ottawa

In the spring, McKenna announced Canada would be ratifying the Paris Accord. Nearly 200 nations adopted the agreement, which calls on the world to collectively cut and eventually eliminate greenhouse gas pollution. She is working to reach agreements with each province on reducing carbon emissions and attempting to form a national plan to reduce levels going forward. McKenna, backed by a majority government with an environmental sustainability mandate, is the first environment minister to stand a chance of effecting real change. She is active on Twitter, connecting to a new audience about Canada’s environmental initiatives. Before politics, McKenna was in-house counsel, worked in private practice, and was executive director of the Banff Forum.

What voters had to say:

“Whether through her work with the U.N. in Timor, here at home working with CREA, or now as Minister of Climate Change and the Environment, Minister McKenna demonstrates her diversity as a lawyer in her ability to move between commercial and trade law, as well as public policy. She embodies the collective responsibility the legal community has to do good for society.”

Justice Paul Perell Ontario Superior Court of Justice Toronto

Perell is considered one of the most prodigious and active judges on the bench. He has written many influential decisions relating to: physician-assisted death; civil sexual assault where the plaintiff was a male — he dismissed the case; the Indian Residential Schools class action settlement — he ordered a claimant’s file be destroyed after 15 years unless they consented to publication, and that decision was upheld by the Court of Appeal; numerous decisions to advance the development and operation of class action and mass litigation jurisprudence. His decisions and opinions are balanced, well thought out, and persuasive. Supporters call him the best class action judge in Canada with a keen sense of justice.

What voters had to say:

“Intense and brilliant, dedicated, independent-minded.”

John Tory Mayor Toronto

Elected Mayor of Toronto in October 2014, Tory has exerted his influence on the city in a number of ways including a key focus on improving transportation with a new plan for rebuilding the Gardiner Expressway, increased public transit infrastructure, and action on licensing Uber. However, critics say his initiatives for pedestrians and cyclists have been less than stellar and he faces many funding challenges. In June 2015, he announced the cancellation of the highly controversial practice of “carding,” calling it racially discriminatory. A poll released in June indicated 74 per cent of voters said they approve of the job Tory is doing as mayor — a marked increase over his predecssor’s approval ratings.

What voters had to say:

“Tory has carried the lawyerly ideal into the fields of business and politics, demonstrating a fair-mindedness and rationale basis for policy-making.”

Jody Wilson-Raybould Justice Minister and Attorney General of Canada, MP for Vancouver-Granville Vancouver

As a former regional chief of the B.C. Assembly of First Nations, Wilson-Raybould brings extensive experience in law, public service, and First Nations governance to cabinet. She is Canada’s first aboriginal justice minister who has already changed the course of much litigation under the previous Conservative government. She is also tasked with making major changes to Canada’s law and justice system going forward on a variety of complex issues. She steered the controversial assisted-dying bill through amendments in the Senate to have it passed into law in mid-June. Since its passing, a constitutional challenge has been launched that she’ll have to address. Next up: medical marijuana legislation.

What voters had to say:

“Her position allows indigenous children to dream of what we can be.”

“Wilson-Raybould is steadfast in her dedication to instilling integrity in every facet of her work and that of the department. . . . She is an incredible force in the legal field, and Canada is better because of her attitude and her work.”


Justice Rosalie Abella Supreme Court of Canada Ottawa

This year, Abella became one of only three other Canadians — and the first female Canadian — to receive an honorary law degree from Yale University, the latest in a long line of honours for the well-respected judge and human rights defender. A Yale press release called Abella “one of the world’s finest living judges.” Among her many rulings from the SCC, Abella recently and again took a stand for equality rights in the Carter v. Canada decision. The decision was a landmark one for Canada and has already changed the legal landscape when it comes to assisted dying. With a unique animal rights decision in June, Abella was the sole dissenting voice in a ruling that said penetration was a requirement for bestiality. She argued in her opinion that acts with animals are “inherently exploitive” and the narrow definition of bestiality “completely undermines the concurrent legislative protections for animals from cruelty and abuse.” Many peg Abella as the next chief justice of the Supreme Court after Chief Justice Beverley McLachlin retires in 2018.

What voters had to say:

“She is a visionary that is ahead of her time. Her judicial reasoning that was often a dissenting decision in her earlier decisions is now often a majority decision. Her consideration of social justice issues facing the impoverished and vulnerable provides for a judiciary that best represents Canada’s value set.”

Chris Bentley Executive director, Ryerson University’s Law Practice Program and Legal Innovation Zone Toronto

Bentley had an illustrious political career as a former Ontario attorney general and as a Liberal leadership candidate, but he has been making interesting waves in the legal industry recently. He is a staunch promoter of legal innovation and is pushing hard to bring change and innovation to Canada’s somewhat staid legal profession, particularly by instilling innovative sensibilities in potential and young lawyers. He runs the experimental Law Practice Program at Ryerson, where he also helped to establish the Legal Innovation Zone, which partnered with Osler Hoskin & Harcourt LLP earlier this year. Bentley is very active in the profession, making educators and practitioners examine what they need and how to work together to move the profession and practice of law forward.

What voters had to say:

“As a mentor in the LPP . . . I was inspired by Chris Bentley’s commitment to the integrity of the program, its core mission, and candidates alike.”

Craig Forcese and Kent Roach Associate professor, University of Ottawa Faculty of Law; and Professor & Prichard Wilson Chair in Law & Public Policy, University of Toronto Ottawa, Toronto

This duo more than anyone helped educate the Canadian public on the pitfalls and issues of the previous federal Conservative government’s proposed anti-terrorism laws. Forcese and Roach’s approach to influencing public policy development also changed the way academics contribute it. They ditched traditional models in order to engage in real time on bill C-51, launching a blog about it (antiterrorlaw.ca), publishing their work on the world’s largest open-access database — the Social Science Research Network — sending it to public policy-makers, writing op-eds, and appearing before parliamentary committees. Their book False Security: The Radicalization of Canadian Anti-terrorism, will be published this fall.

What voters had to say:

“Had tremendous impact this last year!”

Justice Sheila Martin Alberta Court of Queen’s Bench Calgary

Martin made the first ruling allowing a woman with ALS to have doctors help her end her life. It was the first decision under the process created by the Supreme Court of Canada in the interim period when the court’s decision made the old law invalid and before the government had introduced a new one. It set an important precedent that, while applicable for a short period of time, set out a process for patients seeking access to physician-assisted death. Martin had to decide how many doctors were needed to verify the applicant’s physical and psychological suffering and whether a psychiatrist was required to assess her mental competence. The Alberta decision also had to be applicable in British Columbia, where the patient would go for the procedure.

What voters had to say:

“Not only an eminent jurist but an erudite and inspiring professor. Justice Martin has been an inspiration to a generation of lawyers who benefited from her teaching at the University of Calgary.”

Murray Sinclair Senator, chairman of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada Winnipeg

A Top 25 honouree last year, Sinclair’s Truth and Reconciliation report is having a substantial impact on Canadian society including law schools that are moving on its recommendations to include more aboriginal law and legal and cultural understanding of aboriginal dispute resolution. His recent appointment to the Senate of Canada means his strong voice continues to influence Canadian society and ensure the rights and needs of First Nations will always be heard. He was also among this year’s inductees to the annual Ka Ni Kanichihk elders’ list in Winnipeg. He is among seven others nominated by indigenous political and service organizations. Sinclair recently called on the city of Ottawa to adopt the UN Declaration of Rights of Indigenous Peoples as a means to engage with Canada’s First Nations.

What voters had to say:

“Above reproach. A beacon of hope, forgiveness, and true reconciliation in our country.”

“Mr. Sinclair made a profound impact on the lives of all indigenous people of Canada. I thank him for his role in ensuring the rest of Canada hears and knows the impact residential schools continue to have on our families and communities.”


Marie Henein Partner, Henein Hutchison LLP Toronto

Henein’s defence of Jian Ghomeshi and all that has surrounded that high-profile case underpinned her recent substantial level of influence. The personal attacks and negative treatment she received in the wake of the trial opened up a much wider public discussion on the role of women in the law and as professionals overall. The very public case she was defending also heightened the level of examination of the way sexual assault trials are conducted. Henein’s place as a well-respected member of the bar who mentors many young women, particularly in the male-dominated criminal bar, has been cemented. Her recent speaking engagements have drawn hundreds of attendees to be inspired and hear her war stories. Henein is strong and unflinching in her dedication to the law and a role model to many inside and outside the legal profession.

What voters had to say:

“A true powerhouse and an inspiration for all those pursuing the rights of the accused.”

“Excellent work defending a man who public opinion had already turned against; excellent work defending herself when criticized for it.”

Donald Bayne Partner, Bayne Sellar Boxall Ottawa

In what was perhaps the second-most high-profile criminal case in the last year, Bayne represented embattled Senator Mike Duffy who faced 31 counts of fraud, breach of trust, and bribery over Senate expenses. Bayne’s arguments resulted in Duffy’s acquittal on all of them. The ruling was not appealed, but the senator is still facing a battle in the Red Chamber over repayments of some expenses. Because of the outcome of the trial, however, there is speculation the ruling could stave off attempts to charge other senators with similar crimes. Post-trial, there have also been changes to Senate spending rules. Bayne is a giant of the criminal bar with a four-decade career working on seminal murder, war crimes, and extradition cases as well as high-profile inquiries such as Somalia and Maher Arar.

What voters had to say:

“Donald Bayne was a fierce advocate and tactically brilliant lawyer on Duffy. There is no one else like him.”

Lorne Waldman Waldman & Associates Toronto

A previous Top 25 honouree multiple times, Waldman’s influence is once again highlighted by the high-profile cases he’s worked on and brought to public attention. He was co-counsel in Ishaq v. Canada at the Federal Court and Federal Court of Appeal. The right of women to wear niqabs during their citizenship ceremonies became a major election issue throughout Canada. He was also co-counsel for JP and GJ at the Supreme Court of Canada in the November 2015 decision B010 v. Canada (Citizenship and Immigration) and was involved in litigation challenging changes to the Citizenship Act that allowed for the revocation of Canadian citizenship of individuals who had been convicted of certain crimes (treason, espionage, and terrorism).

What voters had to say:

“Lorne Waldman is always willing to take on controversial cases with the aim of ensuring all Canadians are treated equally and fairly.”

Sarah Clarke Principal, Clarke Child & Family Law Toronto

Clarke was co-counsel for First Nations Child and Family Caring Society in Caring Society v. Canada, a case that led to the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal finding that the federal government’s underfunding of First Nations child welfare programs discriminates against Canada’s aboriginal people. Described as “groundbreaking” from both legal and social perspectives, the case left the door wide open for similar applications around services such as education, health care, and policing. She has worked extensively with and for First Nations on child welfare and adoption proceedings. She has argued civil and family law matters before all levels of court in Ontario, the Federal Court of Appeal, and the Supreme Court of Canada.

What voters had to say:

“Outstanding in every way, compassionate, and a great leader offering inspiration and encouragement to others in her field to follow her path. There’s no challenge too big for her to handle.”

Cheryl Goodier Assistant Crown attorney, York Region Newmarket, Ont.

Currently, Goodier is the child abuse and sexual violence lead in York Region. She has had tremendous influence in the courts, essentially transforming the way cases of child abuse and sexual abuse are handled in positive ways. She is a skilled and fearless advocate, who invariably handles any serious — and often difficult to prosecute — criminal case involving sexual abuse of children in the Newmarket courthouse. Handling these cases effectively as a Crown involves intelligence, tenacity, dedication, and concern for the most vulnerable members of our community. She is frequently sought after by other counsel and police officers for advice and guidance in this area.

What voters had to say:

“Cheryl’s prosecution strategies are second to none. Her passion and dedication to the rights of victims of child abuse shines through everything she does. Cheryl’s a game changer and is most deserving of this award.”


Éloïse Gratton Partner, Borden Ladner Gervais LLP Montreal

In the current age where the importance of and even the meaning of privacy mean so many different things to different generations, Gratton is a forward thinker who leverages her in-depth understanding of privacy laws to practical business solutions. One of Canada’s foremost experts in the field of privacy, Gratton is recognized as the “go to” person, relied upon by both federal and provincial privacy commissioners, as well as by the federal government. In April, she provided a paper on the right to be forgotten and online reputation to the Office of the Privacy Commissioner of Canada. Gratton writes and maintains an award-winning blog called “Privacy and IT Law” and is one of the most sought-after speakers at privacy conferences — including the Canadian Privacy Summit and the IAPP’s Global Privacy Summit & Canada Privacy Symposium — and in the media.

What voters had to say:

“Thank you for ensuring that privacy matters.”

“Ten steps ahead of everyone on privacy matters, great university teacher.”

“Passionate, sharp, and eloquent.”

Bindu Cudjoe Deputy general counsel and chief administrative officer, BMO Financial Group Toronto

Cudjoe leads the operations of the legal, compliance, and investigative & security services groups for BMO. She has driven BMO’s external law firm management program including the creation of management tools and their governance model. She was the founding member of the Diversity Council of the legal, corporate & compliance group and is co-chairwoman of the talent development committee in the areas of recruitment and retention. She spearheaded efforts to align a fresh recruiting process with best practices for diverse recruitment and retention and is also an advocate for diversity in-house, which she does at BMO and with her work with the South Asian Bar Association.

What voters had to say:

“She is a mentor and leader in the provision of legal services. She has a great vision, and her approach is freshly innovative.”

Neil Finkelstein Partner, McCarthy Tétrault LLP Toronto

Finkelstein has been particularly active in high-profile commercial litigation cases recently. Among them, he represented the successful appellant Harish Bhasin, in Bhasin v. Hrynew, in which the Supreme Court of Canada for the first time recognized a legal duty to act honestly and in good faith in their contractual obligations. It’s a landmark decision that dramatically impacts the obligations of all parties to commercial contracts in Canada. Finkelstein was also lead counsel to Abbott Laboratories in Charlton v. Abbott Laboratories, Ltd., which set an important precedent in the area of product liability class actions; and Uber Canada Inc. in Edmonton (City) v. Uber Canada Inc., where he defeated an application by the city for an interlocutory injunction to prevent Uber from operating in Edmonton.

What voters had to say:

“Finkelstein’s helming of one of the most important contract cases in the last 20 years is another feather in the cap of his storied litigation career.”

Carol Hansell Founder and senior partner, Hansell LLP Toronto

Hansell was recently appointed by Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne’s government to chair the Business Law Advisory Council, where she’ll lead the team making recommendations to modernize the province’s business law framework. Over the past decade or so, Hansell has turned herself from an M&A lawyer into a champion of corporate governance. Expanding her horizons further, at the beginning of this year, Hansell LPP launched Hansell Board Evaluations providing expert, independent guidance to boards in identifying opportunities to enhance their effectiveness. In May, she launched a unique, powerhouse advisory firm, Hansell McLaughlin Advisory, which brings together legal, government relations, and communications teams.

What voters had to say:

“Inspirational role model for women in corporate law.”

Justice Frank Newbould Ontario Superior Court Toronto

Newbould, the team lead of the Commercial List Court in Toronto, has been lauded by all sides for his formidable work in the unprecedented and lengthy cross-border Nortel trial — the largest insolvency restructuring proceeding in Canadian history. He not only had to work with a U.S. judge hearing the complicated case from a Delaware court, he also embraced the technology that made it all happen in real time. His work on one of the most complex cases in the country was exemplary in a province that still struggles to introduce technology to its courtrooms. Leave to appeal his decision on the pro-rata allocation of assets among the Nortel estates was denied by the Ontario Court of Appeal in May.

What voters had to say:

“Justice Newbould’s no-nonsense attitude and embracing of technology were important aspects to the successful conduct of this complex matter that involved legions of counsel in multiple jurisdictions.”

Shobhita Soor never thought that her law degree would lead to insect farming.
Shobhita Soor never thought that her law degree would lead to insect farming.
Recent McGill University law grad Shobhita Soor says she is “grateful to be in good company,” after being recognized by Forbes magazine as a breakout talent of 2016 30 Under 30 list
Published in Latest News
I like to connect people to other people, I thrive on relationship building,” says law student and winner of this year’s Aish Jewish Legal Network award.
I like to connect people to other people, I thrive on relationship building,” says law student and winner of this year’s Aish Jewish Legal Network award.
The Aish Jewish Legal Network is  giving third-year law student Kortney Shapiro an award to exemplify her mentorship and other community activities.
Published in Latest News
Infrastructure Ontario’s GC Marni Dicker was among the lawyers honoured in this year’s Women’s Executive Network Top 100 awards. Photo: Sandra Strangemore
Infrastructure Ontario’s GC Marni Dicker was among the lawyers honoured in this year’s Women’s Executive Network Top 100 awards. Photo: Sandra Strangemore
Lawyers from banking, the public and private sector, and law firms were well represented in this year’s list of Canada’s 100 Most Powerful Women.
Published in Latest News
Tuesday, 08 September 2015 22:01

Innovatio Awards

Adding value through innovation

Innovatio Awards 2015 magazine cover

It seems like it’s been a journey of discovering best practices since we started receiving nominations last fall for our second annual Innovatio Awards — an in-house program designed to highlight the innovative work of legal departments and their legal service providers in Canada.

Over the last few months, I’ve had the privilege of meeting in-house lawyers from many different sectors and sizes, and learning about how they want to evolve the way they are delivering services to their internal customers.

In May, I had the chance to travel to Ottawa to see how Export Development Canada’s legal department has created an open-concept approach to solving client needs. The EDC team won in the category of law department management, large departments. It created tracking tools, an online international legal info hub, and loan documentation templates with a negotiation guide. The initiative increased productivity and reduced outside fees for its end customers. As one of our judges, Dean Scaletta, director of information and litigation at Manitoba Public Insurance, said in his assessment of the EDC project: “It was an example of a quasi-government agency thinking and acting like a business. The lawyers established the vision/goal of ‘ease of doing business,’ then established the framework to make it happen — that’s leadership!”

Innovatio’s goal in its first year was to recognize that kind of leadership and other interesting things in-house counsel were doing to address the time and money crunch they find themselves up against. We also wanted to show how legal departments were responding to business units.

As Jane Fedoretz, one of our judges, noted after reviewing some of the nominations: “I was struck by the fact in-house lawyers take significant steps to add value and be creative (when given the opportunity) relative to the companies they work for. All of the candidates demonstrated a keen interest in making things better by taking initiative with these projects and should be commended for their integrity and obvious leadership.”

You can also see this year how outside counsel have stepped up to address the different demands of their in-house clients. Ultimately, from all of the Innovatio submissions and subsequent category winners, the judges chose BMO Financial Group’s nomination for how it has revamped its litigation department as “Innovation of the Year.”

“BMO’s litigation submission was the overall winner for me,” says Lorne O’Reilly, senior counsel with Dow Chemical Canada ULC. “My deciding factors were the initiatives to improve operations for considerable benefits to the business (efficiency gains and cost savings), and to undertake the comprehensive review and redesign of a number of processes that had measurable impact through the businesses.”

The “scope and proactive aspects of the project were truly innovative,” says Scaletta. “This type of culture shift in an organization the size of BMO, over the span of just two years, cannot be accomplished in the absence of demonstrable leadership.”

Please read the stories of innovation InHouse discovered. Perhaps next year it will be your department the Innovatio Awards will be recognizing.

Fernando Garcia, general counsel, Nissan Canada - Lynn Korbak, general counsel and corporate secretary, Morneau Shepell - Julia Shin Doi, general counsel and secretary of Board of Governors, Ryerson University - Dorothy Quann, vice president and general counsel, Xerox Canada - Lorne O'Reilly, senior counsel, Dow Chemical Canada ULC - Simon Fish, executive vice president and general counsel, BMO - Dean Scaletta, director, information and litigation, Manitoba Public Insurance - Robert Piasentin, general counsel, corporate secretary & privacy officer, Sierra Systems - Antoinette Bozac, governor, Concordia University - George McClean, global chief ethics and compliance officer, W.W. Grainger Inc., acting general counsel, Acklands Grainger Inc.


Strengthening and re-defining the litigation muscle

  • Category:Litigation Management
  • Department Size:Large
  • Company:BMO Financial Group

Bringing a large group of litigators together to work more efficiently to a common goal of serving the business better was the focus of a major initiative at BMO Financial Group.

The Litigation Practice Management Group is a subgroup of BMO’s legal, corporate, and compliance group. Established in 2013, the LPMG is responsible for adopting and implementing best practices and processes for litigation risk management across the organization.

“While we’ve had some good successes informally co-ordinating our practices, in 2013 we saw an opportunity to unite all the litigators and the e-discovery specialists across the enterprise in a formal practice management group, really leveraging the diverse views of our litigators from across our global footprint in Toronto, Chicago, Montreal, and London, to think creatively about how to do things better, more efficiently, and consistently in our litigation practice,” says Pascale Elharrar, associate general counsel and managing director, litigation, BMO Financial Group and chair, litigation practice management group.

  • Back row (l to r):
  • Lesley Mercer
  • Sarah Shody
  • Kara Beitel
  • Adrian Lang
  • Laura McLaren
  • Jennifer Cantwell
  • Jane Waechter
  • Christina MacDonald
  • Front row (l to r):
  • Charlene Yaneza
  • Isabella Massimi
  • Sandeep Joshi
  • Pascale Elharrar
  • Kelly Bernard
  • Not pictured (l to r):
  • Benjamin Apfel
  • Keri Bush
  • Julie Gallagher
  • Stacy Howard
  • Christine James
  • Jeffrey Jamison
  • Patrice Jourdain
  • Marc McKay
  • Jean-Pierre Michaud
  • Dina Raphael
+ See all

The LPMG’s efforts have resulted in significant cost savings and efficiencies for the bank. Since it was created it has developed group work alternative fee arrangements in several areas including:

  • • Enterprise employment AFAs in Canada and the United States that have resulted in cost savings and greater predictability.
  • • Broker/dealer litigation AFAs in Canada and the U.S.
  • • Small claims litigation AFAs across several lines of business.
  • • Employee obligations AFAs for incoming and outgoing BMO employees to use for advice in reviewing employment contracts.
  • • Third-party claims AFAs.

The team also created an internal customer-focused tracking feature to capture customer experiences in all litigation-related matters to identify patterns, so that LPMG can advise on how to improve on issues that may be flagged as creating potential liability.

“Litigators don’t intuitively see themselves as positively influencing customer experience,” says Elharrar. “We really wanted to see the mindset of our in-house litigators evolve from being solely protectors of our brand to also being ambassadors of the bank’s vision to define great customer experience even when we’re dealing with the most difficult customer situations.”

The team also implemented clarified accountability between BMO’s employee relations and the legal group for better legal risk management of employment law matters enterprise-wide.

Together with the legal e-discovery team, the litigators also worked on BMO’s e-discovery practical guidelines to enhance the legal holds process and manage e-documents more efficiently. This provided measurable savings on e-discovery matters at BMO. It also:

  • • Created protocol for investigations conducted by BMO to effectively manage legal and regulatory risk.
  • • Developed key Guidance for Setting and Communicating Provisions (Reserves).
  • • Introduced metrics for measuring litigation prevention and customer experience.
  • • Delivered litigation-related training to BMO’s lines of business and corporate support areas on fiduciary risk, privilege protection, and legal risk management in reporting.
  • • Developed best practices for privilege protection.

“The LPMG’s initiatives have streamlined and strengthened BMO’s legal processes, and resulted in significant cost savings,” says Elharrar. “With the increased cost predictability alternative fee arrangements provide, we’re able to contribute much more meaningfully to discussions with our businesses about forecasting and planning. There’s no question delivering value-based fees to our businesses demonstrates we care about the bottom line and we’re here to help them meet their objectives, and that strengthens our relationships with our businesses.”

Innovating for the client

  • Category:Law Department Management
  • Department Size:Large
  • Company:Export Development Canada

Export Development Canada’s legal department is a hive of collaboration, with lawyers working closely together in teams in an open concept space that encourages exchange of ideas and innovation.

EDC provides financing and insurance products in support of Canadian exports and Canadian investments abroad.

The EDC Legal Services Group that supports EDC is a group of lawyers, clerks, and administrators, directly engaged in transactions involving parties all over the world as well as compliance matters. The transactions the team works on include cross-border loans (secured and unsecured), accounts receivable insurance, structured project financing transactions, political risk insurance policies, and more.

Export Development Canada
  • 1st row (l to r):
  • Scott Rothwell, senior legal counsel
  • Christa Lemon, ATIP manager
  • Nancy Lafleursenior legal counsel & assistant secretary
  • Christine Barnett, legal administrator
  • Hélène Belzile, assistant secretary & senior legal counsel
  • Cara McNultysenior legal counsel
  • 2nd row (l to r):
  • Anthony Abraham, assistant general counsel
  • Ben Bisson, law clerk
  • Barbara Symianicklegal counsel
  • 3nd row (l to r):
  • Leila Shahparaki, senior legal counsel
  • Josée Gravel, general counsel
  • Joanne Paquette, principal legal counsel
  • 4nd row (l to r):
  • Erick Desrosiers, legal counsel
  • Caroline Melia, senior legal counsel
  • Sandra Marsatlegal counsel
  • Top row:
  • Miguel Simard, assistant general counsel
+ See all

The EDC legal practice involves corporate law, finance, insurance and bonding, securities law, Crown law, and legal compliance. Given the variety of work and high volume of transactions, EDC legal tries to find efficiencies for its customers while providing quality legal guidance.

“At EDC, we have a full-service legal department. We provide transactional services as well as advisory services,” says Josée Gravel, vice president and general counsel with EDC. “We have a mission, which is to enable business while at the same time wearing a guardianship hat.”

Achieving that goal demands innovation and continuous improvement, she says. In 2014, EDC legal’s major initiative was to implement efficiencies for “ease of doing business.”

The department implemented its “Efficiency Initiative” for corporate clients requiring a variety of financing and insurance instruments, by creating tracking tools, an on-line international legal information hub, and loan documentation templates with a negotiation guide. The initiative increased productivity and reduced outside legal fees for its customers.

The Innovatio judging panel was particularly impressed with how the EDC legal team created sustainable tools that interact with end customers, demonstrating effectiveness when a Crown corporation “thinks and acts like a business” to facilitate deal making.

This initiative included the following tools:

  • Relationship lawyers and tracking tools

    The team encourages “quick questions” from its clients, wherever they are around the world. Each of its client groups, regional offices, and foreign representatives has an assigned relationship lawyer who can be contacted directly for guidance.

    If a matter requires substantive work, the client submits an electronic work request for same-day allocation based on capacity/expertise, and each closed request generates a quick survey to measure our service delivery.

  • Online legal market information hub

    The team reviewed its foreign counsel opinions and added legal market information to EDC’s Market Info Hub online. It provides instant access to legal/regulatory information in a user-friendly format for lending and insurance transactions, and a user can find out if a country is subject to sanctions laws, whether EDC can lend or provide insurance products in that jurisdiction, and whether there are withholding taxes, etc. “The feedback from the business team has been tremendous in terms of being able to give timely information to the customer,” says Miguel Simard, assistant general counsel.

  • New and improved products

    Various products including Trade Protect, a credit insurance option available exclusively online, supported by its e-Law practice group and insurance practice group.

Improving perception and workflow at Interac

  • Category:Law Department Management
  • Department Size:Small
  • Company:Interac Association/Acxsys Corp.

Legal departments often have a reputation for being the naysayers in an organization, and that can translate into business partners being hesitant to engage them early in a conversation about a new project.

As part of a “people and culture” initiative launched at Interac Association last year, the legal department received feedback on its perception in the organization.

“While our work received high marks across the board, there was a feeling among some that we sometimes take a long time to turn things around; we get bogged down in the details and don’t look at the big picture,” says Olga Ziman Sabbagh, senior legal counsel with Interac.

Interac Association/Acxsys Corp
  • Standing (l to r):
  • Jacqueline Tsai
  • Olga Ziman Sabbagh
  • Scott Thorner
  • Lesley Blanding
  • Mariana Schulz
  • John Thomson
  • Sitting (l to r):
  • Saleha Ali
  • Brody MacLean
  • Kikelomo Lawal
  • Monika Gilewicz

There was also a sentiment that legal and compliance operated as “police officers” advising business units about what they can and can’t do.

“There was a hesitation to come to us with a question or an initiative or to involve us in a large-scale project because of the impression that we might stop or prolong the project and not get to the end goal,” says Mariana Schulz, senior manager of compliance at Interac. “That’s definitely something we wanted to shed.”

The scope of the project undertaken at Interac was two-fold: to educate the various business departments that legal compliance and regulatory supports about the value legal brings, and to improve and measure the legal division’s productivity.

The department leadership tabled a “mind map” of strategies for rebranding LCR, and as a department. It also formulated a visual to convey its new image.

“Overall, we wanted to highlight our value — to the organization as a whole and for individual projects — and to change the mental picture to that of ‘air traffic controller’ — one whose job is essential and beneficial for the smooth running of operations across the organization,” says Ziman Sabbagh.

To address head-on the impression the business units had of the legal and compliance team, it held an open house to provide the opportunity to get to know legal and understand what it does. In preparation, the team revamped its presence on the internal web site, posting informational pieces authored by various members of the department. The materials included answers to frequently asked questions and explanations for common “what if” scenarios (e.g. What if I haven’t signed a confidentiality agreement?).

The team also unveiled a number of concrete promises, including commitments to assign and acknowledge all requests received within one business day; discuss and agree with the business unit leads on timelines at the start of the process; and draft and/or review certain agreements within two business days. The team also initiated a new process for the allocation of work among the LCR staff (which includes lawyers, a law clerk, and an articling student, as well as compliance personnel and regulations writers), with central repositories being established for incoming requests and formalized tracking to ensure timely completion.

As a result, external legal costs were reduced by 10 per cent due to the relocation of work to the team.

“We’ve also established the concrete measures on how to allocate the work and a common depository for all new work that comes in,” says Ziman Sabbagh.

Since the open house, relationships with the business units have improved.

“They see the benefit now of engaging us,” says Schulz. “They see us [as] more personable and approachable. I think it was successful in addressing the perception, but they also have a better appreciation of what we do and why we do it.”

Hybrid staffing streamlines big litigation file

  • Category:Working with External Counsel
  • Department Size:Large
  • Company:BCE Inc.

In the fall of 2013, Bell Mobility engaged with McCarthy Tétrault LLP on a large litigation matter that was proceeding to commercial court. A trial was scheduled to be heard six months after the proceedings were commenced, with evidence in chief to be submitted by affidavit.

The litigation matter involved franchise issues and a large amount of information. Noel Peacock, senior legal counsel, litigation at BCE Inc. in Ontario, knew it had the potential to be a massive amount of complex work.

“We decided we needed to retain external counsel that we had good experience with and who are experts in the subject matter, and move the matter forward as quickly as possible,” says Peacock.

BCE Inc.
  • Standing (l to r):
  • Joe Milstone, Cognition LLP
  • Noel Peacock, BCE Inc.
  • Thomas Sutton, McCarthy Tétrault LLP.

The matter involved a complex factual matrix, and McCarthy’s litigation team needed to put together seven affidavits from a collection of more than 15,000 documents. Ultimately, only a few hundred were used, but McCarthy’s team needed to review and synthesize a vast amount of information in a short time frame while simultaneously integrating that information into a compelling set of affidavits.

“We needed lawyers who were very experienced to make the right judgment calls to gather the evidence and organize it into these interacting affidavits and be aware of what the issues were,” says Peacock.

To address Bell’s need for a cost-effective solution and given the demanding nature of this mandate, McCarthy’s turned to alternative law firm Cognition LLP when staffing the team.

McCarthy’s litigation team wanted a lawyer who was experienced at drafting compelling and persuasive affidavits, but who would be billed out to Bell at approximately the rate of a first-year associate. The firm also wanted a lawyer with a sufficient level of expertise to work seamlessly with the team throughout the process of preparing the affidavits.

Ellen Swan, a Cognition lawyer with commercial litigation experience, became an extension of the McCarthy Tétrault team in the equivalent role of a senior associate. Swan participated on update calls with the firm’s internal team as well as externally with Bell. She worked onsite at the Toronto office of McCarthy Tétrault as well as remotely. She also assisted with preparation for discoveries and cross-examinations.

This file required a large team working under tremendous time pressures and large volume of work. The motion materials consisted of affidavits from eight witnesses and ran to almost 900 pages.

“The way we approached things was very much a part of the challenge we face all the time in terms of coming up with cost-effective ways of dealing with litigation — especially large litigation that can get out of control,” says Peacock.

The parties involved agreed to a Consent Dismissal Order.

“What we did was create a process for determining the litigation that the other side agreed to and was approved by the commercial list and satisfied our challenges in keeping the costs down,” says Peacock.

Through the use of Cognition, McCarthy Tétrault was able to lower its fixed weighted hourly rate and Swan from Cognition was billed at the rate of a junior associate.

“Ellen was very good at spotting issues in that morass of evidence that would be relevant to what the litigators who would be standing up in court would have to argue later on,” says Peacock.

“When compared to the length of complex commercial actions, we dealt with this in just six months.”

Outsourcing saves hospital money and time

  • Category:Working with External Counsel
  • Department Size:Small
  • Company:Mount Sinai Hospital

What do you do when you receive a request for thousands of pages of information spanning five years of patient survey documents and you have limited resources in-house?

Wendy Lawrence, who was legal counsel at Mount Sinai Hospital at the time the request came through, turned to Cognition LLP to assist with the request the hospital received under the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act.

“We wanted to be transparent and release the records, but [we] wanted to do so in a manner that respected patient privacy,” says Lawrence, who is now counsel at another Toronto hospital.

BCE Inc.
  • Standing:
  • Jackie Dinsmore
  • Sitting:
  • Wendy Lawrence

Lawrence says because it was a “high-volume, out-of-the-ordinary request,” she decided to outsource the project, primarily because of the size of the request and the fact the records had to be reviewed, redacted for patient privacy, and prepared for disclosure within the legislated timelines.

The hospital sector was brought under FIPPA in 2012. Compliance with FIPPA has been challenging for hospitals, as the legislation can be high-volume and labour-intensive. FIPPA also requires legal expertise, as each line and page of a record must be reviewed by the hospital for applicable legal exemptions that protect important interests such as patient privacy, solicitor-client privilege, or proprietary rights prior to release to a requester.

Mount Sinai partnered with Cognition to implement a legal project management approach to the request. It proposed an approach to the work involving a first-level review by a team of junior lawyers, and then a legal audit of the work completed by more senior lawyers, accompanied by a final review by a project management lawyer, who also provided oversight over the work and acted as the primary contact with Mount Sinai.

Lawrence worked with Jackie Dinsmore, Jason Moyse, and Morgan Borins of Cognition.

Cognition proposed a legal project management team approach, usually reserved for corporate due diligence projects. Lawrence says outsourcing the project made sense instead of having one internal employee and a handful of secondary personnel pulled in to prepare the records for disclosure.

Cognition provided computer software, scanners, and redaction tools to respond to the request and saved the hospital the costs of obtaining these tools on a one-off basis for this particular request. The firm’s approach of assigning a legal project team with multiple levels of review, audit, and legal oversight provided Mount Sinai with the assurance that its needs could be meet.

The legal project team ensured the work was done in a thorough manner that assured the hospital it was meeting its legislative obligations. Lawrence says outsourcing the work was cost effective, as it was given more attention than an internal staff member could provide under the legislated timelines.

There were also savings — outsourcing ended up being less than 10 per cent of the cost of a full-time equivalent lawyer. There was no lost time due to re-assigning secondary staff to assist, and no need to obtain equipment to assist with the preparation and redaction of records.

“It was really cost effective. Instead of using the traditional model of having a senior partner and an associate spend several hours doing one review of the records, we had various levels of lawyers — junior and senior — and in a project team that proved to be [a] more cost-effective and more in-depth review,” says Lawrence.

Lawrence says there were also improved deliverables, as the hospital did not have to ask for a time extension or delay response. Mount Sinai was also able to receive a more rigorous review of the records (e.g. team of lawyers with multiple levels of review) that ensured patient privacy.

Innovating for the client

  • Category:Compliance
  • Department Size:Small department
  • Company:3M Canada

Compliance is one of those things more easily achieved on a broad scale when you make it easier for people to do.

Working with its information technology group, the 3M Canada legal affairs team developed an online automated system for the completion of what are referred to as integrity assessments. The IA is essentially a compliance review of any third party 3M proposes to engage to ensure its business partners display the same commitment to ethics and compliance as 3M.

The process is an integral part of the company’s corporate compliance program, as it allows 3M to assess the suitability of third parties and enables it to comply with obligations under anti-corruption statutes, such as the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act.

BCE Inc.
  • Standing (l to r):
  • Blair Fantillo, general counsel, Canada
  • Christina Hewitt, law clerk
  • Carol Ernestlaw clerk
  • Ali Haidar, legal counsel & chief privacy officer
  • On leave:
  • Tiffany Koch, legal counsel

An IA must be completed by business clients prior to any contract being drafted and executed. Prior to the new system, there were parts of the process that were completed electronically and parts completed in hard copy. The new system incorporates all elements in one place and enhances the speed of completion as well as the ease of use for clients.

“The new IA system has been very well received and is so intuitive that no training was required,” says Tiffany Koch, legal counsel at 3M Canada in London, Ont. “In addition, the new system incorporates enhanced tracking and reporting functionality for improved record keeping and auditing.”

The new IA system is available on mobile devices such as smartphones and iPads. This allows marketers and sales reps to complete the IA anywhere. It also allows those required to approve the IA to do so more quickly. The end result is increased compliance and a quicker pace of business.

“Our clients are required to complete an IA prior to entering into any relationship with a third party,” says Blair Fantillo, director of legal affairs and government markets & public affairs with 3M Canada. “An inefficient or difficult process slows down the pace of business and can potentially reduce compliance levels. The new system allows for amendments to be completed, and required approvals to be obtained, in a much more expedient manner.”

“The new IA system has improved compliance levels and saved the legal team, as well as the clients we serve, a considerable amount of time that would have otherwise been spent working through the various forms and processes that the new system replaced,” says Ali Haidar legal counsel & chief privacy officer with 3M Canada.

3M is hopeful the system will be rolled out by the other 75 subsidiaries of 3M across the globe.

Protecting innovation at TD

  • Category:Risk Management
  • Department Size:Large
  • Company:TD Bank

Over the years, the Toronto Dominion Bank’s U.S. competitors, both financial institutions and other sector players in the payments and mobile apps space, have aggressively developed their financial services patent portfolios.

TD did not have a patent portfolio befitting its North American footprint when Josh Death, associate vice president, legal, TD Bank, identified the gap and championed a strategic focus on patentable innovation to the senior executive leadership at the bank.

The lack of a patent portfolio was considered an area of risk for the business. “When we’re looking at what our peers are doing on the street, we recognized it’s important for us to have equivalent competitive assets in the different silos we’re competing in in the marketplace,” says Death.

TD Bank
  • Josh Death

He was then tasked with developing a patentable innovation methodology and tool kit. He developed that methodology, validated it with international innovation experts, and established a centre of excellence to implement the methodology.

His methodology included problem identification, application of innovation tools, and a process to capture and then file patent applications.

“To the best of our knowledge, TD is the only FI in Canada to have such a centre of excellence, and is likely unique in North America for that function to reside within legal,” says Jane Langford, vice president legal with TD Bank, who nominated Death for the award.

Langford says TD legal has developed a centre of excellence (the office of patentable innovation) and it is now the “go-to” resource across the enterprise for patentable innovation.

Death says the lack of a patent portfolio was becoming a material risk and developing one has become standard procedure.

“What we’re seeing with our competitive U.S. banks is they all have robust material patent portfolios. That was the primary reason this initiative was launched in the first place,” he says. “I wouldn’t say it is the standard for what legal departments do. The role we are serving here in helping TD develop this portfolio is a bit unusual in Canada.”

Death was assisted in the project development and implementation by a multi-disciplinary team including Orin Del Vecchio, Jon Barnett, Paul Chan, and Jennifer Woods.

“I had a sizeable team assembled to help deliver on this initiative, including patent lawyers, business people, and technologists. Without all of them, this wouldn’t have happened at all,” says Death.

The team came up with what Death calls a bespoke solution pulled together based on the internal expertise of his team and external consultants.

The model is now the standard for facilitating patentable innovation at TD in Canada, and it has been proposed for use in the U.S. as well.

“Right now, the way it is being positioned is for entirely defensive purposes, in reaction to what we are seeing in the U.S. with the banks there. The senior executives are made aware of what they have in the portfolio so they can continue to monitor the activities of their U.S. counterparts.”

Championing diversity in the business and the community

  • Category:Diversity
  • Department Size:Large
  • Company:RBC General Counsel Group

For the RBC General Counsel Group, diversity goes beyond basic definitions and respecting employment and regulatory requirements where the bank does business.

Diversity is just part of the story — the bank’s framework has evolved to include fostering inclusion and leveraging diversity of thought.

“We believe that inclusion and diversity of thought is better achieved when diversity efforts are integrated into an organization’s culture and practices, and not just through its programs and policies,” says Jane Chung, senior counsel with RBC.

  • Standing (l to r):
  • Neil Kothari, senior counsel
  • David Aylward, senior business manager
  • Jane Chung, senior counsel

With this perspective, the RBC General Counsel Group set out to meet its diversity and inclusion objectives by approaching the task through various continuing practices and new initiatives as opposed to one single project or progra

Under the leadership of former general counsel David Allgood, through its diversity and pro bono committees, as well as individual efforts, the GCG works toward attaining inclusion and diversity of thought through a number of ways.

Members of the GCG who support these initiatives include David Aylward, Alison Burton, Jane Chung, Manju Jessa, Neil Kothari, Suzanne Michaud, Lucille D’Souza and several members of the GCG diversity committee.

The GCG also participated in pro bono initiatives that serve people from disadvantaged communities, or who are without resources to address their legal challenges. RBC lawyers in New York, Minneapolis, Atlanta, Toronto, and London volunteered a record 1,020 hours of pro bono time in the past year by assisting unrepresented litigants in civil matters, acting as designated representatives for unaccompanied minor children, assisting cancer patients with legal rights, and assisting foster parents with the adoption of older youths.

The GCG has also actively engaged with law firms to foster professional development and advancement by hosting programs for lawyers with diverse backgrounds, including panel discussions reviewing the “dos and don’ts” for external counsel. Such initiatives were intended to provide diverse lawyers with opportunities on an equal footing with other members of the profession who may not otherwise have natural mentors or sponsorship.

The GCG also updated its Aboriginal Articling Student Program in the past year with an enhanced series of rotations and broader participation to further the experience of its candidates. In addition, RBC lawyers have continued to mentor and supervise interns from the University of Toronto Internationally Trained Lawyers Program and the LLM Program for International Business Law at Osgoode Hall Law School.

The GCG’s initiatives also include its annual Day of Pink, providing support to the group’s first Diversity Festival, hosting the Great GC Auction to raise money for the Canadian Institute for Diversity and Inclusion, adopting principles of gender-neutral drafting in agreements, and the need to focus on neglected segments of the population, including elder abuse.

RBC believes diversity is a source of innovation and sustainable economic prosperity.

Breaking down barriers

  • Category:Diversity
  • Department Size:Small
  • Company:Aecon Construction Inc.

Construction is an industry that has traditionally attracted a male workforce. Women either did not feel welcome or did not pursue careers in engineering and skilled trades. Aecon Group Inc.’s legal team is trying to take a lead role in the company’s mission to change that and foster a diverse and welcoming workplace.

Some of Aecon’s diversity objectives in the past year include increasing the number of women and aboriginals in skilled trades, and increasing the number of women in management positions at the company.

In the last year, Aecon’s legal team has developed corporate diversity and board diversity policies. The first promotes equality in the workplace and addresses the roadblocks that have led to an industry without diversity. The board diversity policy was developed to ensure it becomes a tool of board renewal at Aecon. In 2013, just 21 per cent of Financial Post 500 companies had a diversity policy at the board level. This number was even lower in the construction and mining industries, with only 16 per cent of mining FP500 companies having board diversity policies. Aecon has recently elected a woman as a director, and its most recent executive committee member is a woman. “Aecon has set an objective to have no less than 25 per cent women on its board by 2017,” says Martina Doyle, corporate counsel with Aecon. “On an annual basis, the board will reconsider the target.”

Aecon Construction Inc.
  • Back (l to r):
  • Yonni Fushman, vice president & assistant general counsel
  • Marco Girorelli, project manager
  • Sean Lalassociate legal counsel
  • Remi Tremblay, associate legal counsel
  • Niguel Mousseau, legal counsel
  • Ariana Daliesenior manager, project insurance and risk
  • Middle (l to r):
  • Rebecca Murphy, administrative assistant
  • Elisa Watson, administrative assistant
  • Beatriz Salmoranadministrative assistant
  • Charles Todd, comm. director, strategic projects
  • Gabriella Kinda-Zoretic, contract & risk co-ordinator
  • Brian Swartzexecutive vice president, legal & commercial services
  • Front (l to r):
  • Louise Smyth-Kaiser, contracts/risk management specialist
  • Ernie Chan, legal western Canada
+ See all

Currently, women represent 29 per cent of Aecon’s salaried workforce, and six per cent of that is from the hourly workforce. Many of these positions are at the assistant level. Only 16 per cent of Aecon employees at the manager level are women, while 38 per cent of its workforce below the manager level consists of women. However, the amount of women choosing construction for a career has increased over the last 20 years. While only five per cent of Aecon’s vice presidents are women, 20 per cent of Aecon’s executive committee is made up of women. The legal team reflects the diversity goals of the company with seven women out of its 17 members, including 20 per cent of the lawyers, on the team.

To achieve its diversity objectives, Aecon did research into the challenges of creating a diverse workforce in the construction industry, then executed a plan. Part of this strategy included the creation of a Women of Aecon Group for women employees to discuss the issues they face. Members of the legal team have organized and supported the Women of Aecon Group, which was created by Ariana Daile, project risk manager and a member of the legal team.

Another initiative has been Aecon’s outreach program for Canadian First Nations. This includes the building of remote training facilities and creating education programs with the Operating Engineer’s Training Institute of Ontario. The program provides people from First Nations opportunities to establish careers in skilled trades. About 20 per cent of Aecon’s skilled trade workforce is a First Nations member.

The legal team negotiated all of the contracts with the training institute and First Nations groups to construct the remote training facilities and set up the education and training programs, as well as establishing job opportunities post-graduation. Aecon is the only construction company to build remote training centres on First Nations lands in Ontario.

“Once a project is done, we leave the people there with better training and ability to expand their careers even after we’ve left the community,” says Doyle.

‘Transformational’ deal managed in-house

  • Category:InHouse Dealmakers
  • Department Size:Small
  • Company:DHX Media Ltd.

DHX Media is known for its great programing for kids, but, when it closed its deal to acquire Family Channel, Disney XD, Disney Junior (English-language channel), and Disney Junior (French-language channel), creating DHX Television, it sure wasn’t child’s play.

The $170-million agreement with Bell Media was first announced Nov. 28, 2013 and received Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission approval July 24, 2014. It officially closed a week later.

The Family Channel is the most-viewed children’s television channel in Canada, and its acquisition, among the other TV properties that were a part of this deal, enhanced all areas of DHX’s business and enhanced its platform for future growth. The complex acquisition involved obtaining CRTC approvals, Competition Act approval, intellectual property issues, corporate finance, and securities and tax matters.

DHX Media Ltd.
  • Mark Gosine, executive vice president, legal affairs, general counsel, and corporate secretary

DHX is a creator, producer, marketer, and broadcaster of family entertainment, and it is recognized globally for brands such as Yo Gabba Gabba!, Caillou, Teletubbies, In the Night Garden, Inspector Gadget, Johnny Test, and the multi-award-winning Degrassi franchise. The company markets and distributes its library of more than 10,000 half-hours of entertainment programming worldwide, and licenses its owned properties through its dedicated consumer products business.

The acquisition was the largest in the company’s history, followed closely by the high-profile 2012 acquisition of Cookie Jar Entertainment. The Cookie Jar deal made DHX the world’s largest independent owner of children’s programming.

Mark Gosine, executive vice president, legal affairs, general counsel, and corporate secretary at DHX Media Ltd., led the deal, with support from in-house team members James Bishop, director, corporate and business affairs, and Carrie Dumont, senior vice president, business and legal affairs.

Lawyers working on DHX’s acquisition of the Family Channel, among other TV channels from Bell Media, describe a deal that seamlessly came together. While many deals may reach a successful conclusion, not all transactions of this size, value, or complexity are ultimately described as seamless.

“Its success, on all levels, was driven by Mark’s innovative leadership,” said James Dickson, partner with Stewart McKelvey LLP. “Mark assembled a team of in-house and external advisers, a group who previously worked together on many significant deals and had proven their ability to function as a strong unit.”

The streamlined processes, now well established by the group, propelled efficiency at each stage. Gosine leveraged his in-house team of six, matching lawyers with the work that best fit their strengths.

Amalgamating legal expertise, Gosine drew in external counsel from Stewart McKelvey and external regulatory advisers with complementary skills, eliminating overlap, reducing inefficiencies, and maximizing his resources. “Mark helped the team stay focused and ensured the project moved forward utilizing his ability to identify business objectives and settling business points of the deal first,” said Dickson. “He kept the big picture at the forefront, preventing stakeholders from losing focus and avoiding a common pitfall when handling large transactions.”

Gosine used his project management skills to facilitate timing and remove barriers. “Mark’s leadership saved DHX time, effort, and costs throughout the duration of the transaction, and resulted in a transformational and innovative shift for the company,” Dickson said in the nomination.

The acquisition, which created DHX Television, was described as “transformational” for the company. The Family Channel boasts more than 5.7 million subscribers, a complement to DHX’s library of programming worldwide. After the deal closed DHX announced its revenues for the quarter totaled $29.7 million, an increase of 14 per cent over the same quarter in 2013.

Young lawyer’s rise to GC came during acquisition of company

  • Category:Tomorrow’s Leader
  • Department Size:Small
  • Company:Pethealth Inc.

Harpreet K. Sidhu may be the youngest lawyer to become a general counsel. Just months after being called to the bar in Canada, she became Pethealth Inc.’s first general counsel, corporate secretary, and privacy officer at the age of 25. She has been in-house now for two years.

In early 2013, as a recent graduate of the University of Buckingham School of Law in England, Sidhu was working in a legal role at Pethealth when it was still a publicly traded company on the Toronto Stock Exchange. Within three months of her call to the bar, she was promoted to the role of corporate counsel and was in the job for about 18 months until November 2014 when Fairfax Financial Holdings acquired the company. After the acquisition, she was promoted to general counsel, corporate secretary, and privacy officer.

Pethealth provides pet insurance services to the companion animal market and micro-chipping for lost pet recovery services.

Pethealth Inc.

60 Second Snapshot

The lawyer:Harpreet K. Sidhu
The company:Pethealth Inc.
  • • Called to bar June 2013
  • • Bachelor of Laws degree, University of Buckingham School of Law
  • • Member of the Election Campaign Finances Compliance Audit Committee for Dufferin-Peel Catholic District School Board
  • • Member of Brampton's Compliance Aduit Committee for the City of Brampton

“Harpreet embraced the position and created the legal department,” says Callie Bjurstrom, partner with Pillsbury Winthrop Shaw Pittman LLP in San Diego, Calif., who was one of three people who nominated her for the award of Tomorrow’s Leader in the small-department category.

Sidhu is responsible for general contracts, employment matters, intellectual property management, litigation, corporate governance, and compliance. She oversees legal operations in Canada, the United States, and the United Kingdom.

“The acquisition was definitely a learning experience for me,” says Sidhu. “I got to work alongside many prominent lawyers and business executives who were involved in the project. In an acquisition this large, I experienced a wide variety of laws entrenched within the acquisition. From trademarks to patents to tax law to vendor agreements — it was definitely an eye-opener to me in terms of what the acquisition world looks like.”

Since the acquisition, she has led the company in another five acquisitions and says there are “several more” in the pipeline.

“My secret to success is a combination of persistence, hard work, commitment, and meeting the right people in my career to mentor and guide me,” she says. “I’ve had my fair share of struggles and challenges, but persistence and hard work got me to the end of the road.”

Sidhu credits her articling principal, Yuvraj Chhina of Fortis Law Practise, for guiding her along the way.

Chhina also nominated her for the Innovatio award.

“Since taking over as corporate counsel for Pethealth, she has streamlined the legal process within the corporation, which was hereto an outside law firm project,” says Chhina.

“Harpreet has shown through her perseverance and persistence that she is self-driven and motivated to overcome any challenge that presents itself,” he says.

Bjurstrom says Sidhu handled the changes brought on by the acquisition in “a very professional manner” and quickly demonstrated her value to the new management team. “She provides Pethealth’s new management team with practical solutions to legal and business problems in a thoughtful manner.”

In her spare time, Sidhu works with Law Help Ontario operated by Pro Bono Law Ontario, providing pro bono legal assistance to low-income Ontarians. She is also active providing legal assistance and as an advocate for women in the South Asian Community who suffer from depression and domestic divorce challenges. She is the secretary of the Section Executive of the Canadian Corporate Counsel Association, Ontario Chapter for the 2014/2015 term and serves as a member on the City of Brampton’s audit committee.

“Harpreet is highly engaged in her community and is dedicated to helping women and low-income families. Harpreet also strongly advocates and assists women in the South Asian Community suffering from severe depression and domestic divorce-related legal issues. She has offered pro bono legal services countless times,” says Curtis Cusinato, partner with Stikeman Elliott LLP, who also nominated Sidhu for the Tomorrow’s Leader award.

Applying technology to reduce cost, find efficiencies

  • Category:Tomorrow’s Leader
  • Department Size:Large
  • Company:BMO Financial Group

He’s been in-house for less than three years, but Imdad Ali has already taken on what would be considered massive change management projects at BMO Financial Group.

Ali was nominated for the Tomorrow’s Leader award by Bindu Cudjoe, deputy general counsel and chief administrative officer at BMO.

“Imdad brings a strong business focus to his legal practice in part from the years he spent negotiating complex procurement agreements for clients in the bank,” Cudjoe said in her nomination. “He also draws on tools and skills from a variety of areas including project management, negotiation, and management consulting.

BMO Financial Group

60 Second Snapshot

The lawyer:Imdad Ali
The company:BMO Financial Group
  • • Called to bar in the U.K. in 2008 and Canada in 2014
  • • Joined BMO's legal, corporate, and compliance group in 2012
  • • Certified as a barrister-at-law, England and Wales
  • • LLM Legal Practice - Inns of Court School of Law, City University of London
  • • LLB in commerical law from University of Westminster
  • • BA Radio and Television Arts, Ryerson University

“This unique combination of skills allows Imdad to move seamlessly between legal practice and meeting strategic objectives. He embraces and advocates for constant improvement in how we work (through technology and other means), which creates an infectious environment for those around him to join and support.“

Ali joined the bank’s legal, corporate, and compliance group in 2012 and took on a strategic role in two initiatives focused on stronger risk management while streamlining for efficiencies through innovation. In two years, he helped take the bank from using more than 1,000 law firms across North America to less than 200. He led the end-to-end restructuring of the bank’s enterprise external counsel program and quarterbacked the co-ordination of internal stakeholders including legal, finance, strategic sourcing, and accounts payable.

BMO was focused on finding efficiencies and law firm spend was one of them.

“We sat back and said what’s the best way to do this? The main goal was to reduce spend, but we quickly realized there were also a lot of broken processes in the whole external counsel program as well,” says Ali who was called to the bar in the U.K. in 2008 and in Canada in 2014.

The bank was wrestling with issues of lost and unpaid invoices, a lack of detail in the invoices received from law firms, and different processes in place across the bank, making it difficult to track spending.

“We needed to consolidate it,” he says. “One of the things that drives the bank ultimately is that we want to make sure our customers are getting the best out of their experience. Even though we in legal don’t always work directly with customers, I think the benefit to them would be the preferred pricing we get from law firms when they’re doing business with us,” he says.

Ali came from a background in strategic sourcing and was familiar with working through strategies that brought costs down.

“With my legal background, it was a perfect fit for me for the type of work we would be dealing with,” he says.

He says the legal team looked at the initiative in three parts:

  • • The technology to support the process.
  • • Rationalization of the firms from the more than 1,000 it was using.
  • • A strong change management approach.

The team approached the search for the right technology tool and rationalization of firms in parallel.

“When I think back on it, it was ambitious,” recalls Ali.

“I was sitting in the centre of the entire project and really just helping on all fronts,” he says. “It needed to happen in parallel because individually these steps would have taken at least a year each, and if we had done them one after the other, we would have missed our targets for when we wanted to deliver.”

A comprehensive request for proposal process involved consideration of three different technology systems: an internal accounts payable system that allowed them to manage invoices more carefully; Serengeti from Thomson Reuters; and TyMetrix 360. BMO ultimately chose TyMetrix for a number of reasons, in part, he says, because of the experience other financial institutions in Canada had with the product.

“It was also an end-to-end solution and not just for law firm billing, but it has an overall matter management system,” Ali says.

“We wanted to move to a system where all of our legal files would be moved into this system, and when the file had a billing or external firm component, it would be more seamless.”

In reviewing the more than 1,000 law firms BMO was using, Ali’s team began by engaging an external consultant to help and build a review model so there was clear buy-in from the department and business units.

“It was not the decision of a bunch of lawyers saying, ‘We’re going to stop using these firms and only use these firms.’ It was based on objective criteria — based on their rates, their ability to commit to alternative fee arrangements, how they were planning to resource files, and commitment to innovating and changing,” he says.

“We were really focused on the innovation piece because we wanted to know what firms were doing around this looming challenge of the billable hour,” says Ali. “Some firms were really specific to say, ‘We don’t do AFAs’ and that was really telling. We said ‘OK, well we don’t know if we want to do business with firms that are not going to be committed to doing alternative fee arrangements in the majority of the work we do with them’.”

Ali also looked at legal project management and whether the firms were properly managing files and relationships.

The first cut was done based on a consideration of spend. That reduced the number by half, and then they surveyed various customer groups about law firm use such as the capital markets group.

“As we started to see the firm scoring, we started to realize there were firms that get what we’re trying to do and then there are firms a little behind the eight ball on some of this,” he says.

BMO did go back to some of the firms to see if they wanted to respond differently to the survey on issues such as AFAs. Some declined saying they were not going to change their approach. Some did change to work with BMO.

BMO also rolled out a retainer agreement that insisted on every law firm signing the same agreement regarding project management, commitment to innovation, diversity in their law firms and the way they were resourcing files.

The law firm panel review is now a “living, breathing thing” and the bank constantly reviews it to make sure the firms are consistently providing value, says Ali. If the firms are not delivering based on the retainer, the bank looks to potentially remove or add firms as required.

All the panel firms now run TyMetrix 360, and BMO can track the life cycle of a file at certain stages.

As a result of all the changes, the bank has seen a dramatic increase in compliance with the program. “Everyone is now going through one process and the firms know they can’t bill us outside the process, and if they try to, the invoice is going to be rejected,” he says.

The retainer letters in combination with the billing system force the billing to align to what we agreed to, whereas before, you’d have a situation where a firm would have a different hourly rate and not catch it unless someone was reviewing line by line.”

Lawyers at the firms that do work for BMO have TyMetrix loaded into the system at the only rate they can charge against. The rates are reviewable every year. Ali says the bank is working toward 100-per-cent use of AFAs. “We are trying to hit that, but we know it’s not doable in all cases,” he says.

When Ali took on the role of legal counsel and senior adviser on the technology & operations legal team, a significant change he introduced was to bring in a contracts liaison under his supervision. In less than a year, it diverted more than 30 per cent of lower-risk matters to be managed more efficiently without senior lawyer review, allowing senior legal resources to focus on more high-risk, complex, and strategic matters.

Published in Innovatio
Monday, 03 August 2015 08:00

The Top 25 Most Influential

The Top 25 Most InfluentialCanadian Lawyer’s Top 25 Most Influential in the justice system and legal profession in Canada is now in its sixth year. Every year, the Top 25 is the magazine’s most-read, and most commented-on, feature. And once again, the number of nominations as well as votes in our public poll show how engaged our readers are in supporting and highlighting their colleagues who are doing extraordinary things both within the profession as well as beyond it.
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