Nurturing the commitment to a collective goal

Lawson Lundell’s managing partner, Clifford Proudfoot, shares the firm’s success story in workplace culture, inclusion and diversity

Vancouver-based law firm Lawson Lundell LLP has a wide-ranging practice that includes corporate commercial, environmental and regulatory, indigenous, and tax law, among many other areas. Committed to innovation and providing exceptional value to clients, Lawson Lundell has been recognized as Law Firm of the Year in the Western Canada category of this year’s Canadian Law Awards.

In an interview with Zena Olijnyk, writer and editor at Canadian Lawyer magazine, Lawson Lundell’s managing partner, Clifford Proudfoot, ascribes the firm’s success to its roster of lawyers.

“I think it’s the people and it’s just as simple as that, we have a magnificent collection of lawyers here in western Canada … and they work together harmonized by a very strong culture [of] trust and respect and teamwork.”

This culture has progressed over the law firm’s 135-year history. As Proudfoot notes, “our partners and our associates and our young students, they’re committed to that culture. And when we work together, the combination of all of us doing our best on a matter for a client far outweighs a bunch of individual efforts.”

Amidst the changes prompted by the COVID-19 pandemic, Lawson Lundell has grown in the areas of litigation and labor and employment as many companies consult lawyers regarding their operations and decisions on whether to retain or lay off employees. Although the courts are closed, Proudfoot says, litigation lawyers have been busy answering questions about how force majeure events affect contracts. During this period, the company has also worked on a large number of M&A transactions.

“[We’ve] been on an unprecedented nine-month run now of very, very busy solicitors. And the rest of the firm has also been busy through [the pandemic]. It’s like Canadians and businesspeople have decided that we must carry on, we’re going to learn how to do this … As a consequence, those areas at different periods of time have been the ones that have picked up and helped carry the firm.”

The law firm itself has adapted to the pandemic by implementing a work-from-home setup and maintaining a skeleton crew of about 10 or 12 in the Vancouver office. The staff returned to 50% office attendance in the summer, but switched back to home-based work to deal with the third wave of virus outbreaks.

“[We] found that we if we have enough people in the office, we can achieve the goals of apprenticeship and mentorship of our younger people while continuing to be efficient and busy and productive,” adds Proudfoot.

Moving forward, Lawson Lundell aims for greater inclusion and diversity by attracting students from diverse backgrounds and “bringing them up, mentoring them, growing them into associates and partners ... We’ve been helped along by some lateral acquisitions that we’ve made, and so the firm looks a lot different now than it did, say, five years ago”.

Proudfoot also emphasizes that Lawson Lundell has the highest number of female partners in the British Columbia province, and women now account for 40% of partners at the firm. He believes that inclusion and diversity cannot be attained overnight, but by being “absolutely committed to the goal and [taking] practical steps to achieve [it]”.