Sherry Wiebe created online educational resources for colleagues throughout the organization
Sherry Wiebe may not have taken the most conventional path to her role as chief legal officer and general counsel at Octaform, but the experience she gained along the way has been fundamental to her success. Starting her career as an intensive care nurse clinician, Wiebe developed an interest in the legal side of nursing and went on earn her law degree before becoming executive director of the Manitoba Association of Registered Nurses. Her varied experience also includes a stint in politics, a position on the appeal division of the Immigration and Refugee Board in British Colombia, and the role of legal third party in three different entrepreneurial organizations.
“Every part of my background – as unconventional as it is - has really fed into my ability to do this job now,” says Wiebe. “There has never been a lack of opportunity to learn and I’ve never been bored.”
Leading a two-person legal team at Vancouver-based Octaform – a private company in the building component and construction technology sector - Wiebe manages and directs complex multi-jurisdictional litigation in Canada, U.S. and China, among a host of other legal responsibilities as well as corporate and HR matters. She is looking to increase the headcount in the legal department to keep up with the large volume of work.
“If I’m doing all the work with just one other person, I don’t often have time to step back and look at what really needs to be done with systems,” says Wiebe.
“I think the world has changed quite dramatically in what we expect of the kinds of administrative realities of the organization and risk management, she adds. “My objective had been to try and reduce my department’s involvement in all the affairs of the company - but early in 2020, that doesn’t seem to be in the short-term realm of possibility.”
In order to try and ease some of the workload and create more independence among company staff, Wiebe has set up systems including online educational resources which can be accessed by company personnel to answer legal questions. Although many legal matters are managed in-house, Wiebe also relies heavily on external counsel for matters such as IP and litigation in the U.S. and China as well as in Canada.
The year ahead is set to be a busy one: - Wiebe is working on three pieces of litigation in addition to preparing for at least three trials in which Octaform is prosecuting former employees in cases involving breaches of restrictive covenants.
“2020 is a year in which I hope we can settle a number of these claims and have them encroach less on our daily thought process so we can focus on our business going forward,” she says.