Gain expert insight on conquering issues, building your brand & new opportunities
What’s it like to be a woman specializing in Litigation in 2022? And what ongoing issues are we still yet to conquer?
There have been lots of changes in the legal profession over the years, and there are always several interesting changes on the horizon. Looking back and seeing how far the legal industry has come, it's remarkable - although there is still a lot of work to do.
In this free industry session, Karen Perron, Michelle S. Henry, Allison Foord, and Karine Chênevert of Borden Ladner Gervais LLP – BLG will delve into conquering the issues that are still facing women in litigation, their biggest lessons coming out of the COVID-19 pandemic, and the emerging trends across their different focus areas in 2023.
Watch now for the free industry session. Gain expert insight on:
Mallory: [00:00:03] Okay. Well, hello, everyone, and thanks for joining us today. I'm Mallory Hendry, senior content specialist with Canadian Lawyer magazine. And I'm pleased to introduce today's webinar, The Future of Women in Law Conquering Issues, Big Lessons and New Opportunities. The presenters we have with us today are Karen Perron, a partner in BLG's Ottawa office with a practice focused on commercial litigation. She is also the current president of the Ontario Bar Association. Michelle Henry is also a partner in BLG or at BLG, sorry, in a Toronto office with a thriving practice focused on labor and employment. Allison Foord is a partner in BLG's Vancouver office who is the Vancouver Practice Group leader of the Product Liability Group and the Health Law Group and Karine Chênevert is a partner in BLG's Montreal office with fast experience in a broad range of litigation areas, including class actions, competition, securities, privacy and consumer protection. Over the next hour, they will delve into the challenges still facing women in litigation, the key opportunities that exist, and top trends in litigation, as well as share insight on brand building and business development. At the end of the presentation, the panel will participate in a question and answer period. So be sure to type any questions you have in the Q&A box within your webinar software. I'll turn things over to our panelists now to begin the presentation. Take it away, Karen.
Karen: [00:01:29] Thank you, Mallory, and thank you, everyone for joining us today. And what I'm sure will be a terrific hour of conversation. As Mallory mentioned, I'm Karen Perron and I'm a partner in our Ottawa office. I'm excited to be joined here today with my colleagues as we celebrate Women's History Month to discuss some of the important issues for women who practice in litigation. I cautiously say that we are starting to emerge from a time of exceptional challenges that disproportionately affected women in many different aspects. There is some very welcome light that we can see at the end of the tunnel. As difficult as these last few years have been, though, they have also brought some positive changes and opportunity. Today we will be discussing some of those changes, trends and opportunities as we continue to push the boundaries of what is achievable in the legal market. We'll have some fun and some great conversation, I'm sure, and some great questions from the audience as well. So we will also be launching some polls as the session goes on. So please answer freely. We would love to hear from you. And now, without any further ado, our first topic. Each of you is in charge of very successful and busy practices. We all know that finding time to focus on brand building and business development can be difficult while trying to keep up with ongoing work for clients. So the first question I have for each of you is how did each of you build your brands and what tactics did you find helpful, and how did you time find time to focus on brand development? So, Michelle, maybe we can start with you.
Michelle: [00:03:15] Thanks, Karen. I guess for me, it's always and I always say to young lawyers, don't rush it. Like, you know, you need to really spend time considering who who you want people to see you as, but also who you want to be as a lawyer. You know, 20 years looking back. And I think that has worked very well for me. When I am a labor and employment lawyer, I do management side law. So in terms of thinking about how do I grow my my business, I grew up in St Lucia. I moved to Canada when I was 16. I have ten siblings and I was the first lawyer in my family, so I didn't have the natural connections that most people have from knowing contacts from family. So I really had to develop my own client base. And I did that by thinking of, you know, really, what do I spend most of my time doing as a labor and employment lawyer? And those were really two things. I spent a lot of time with clients on the phone, giving them everyday advice and really understanding the business, and I spent a lot of time negotiating. So I thought, you know, in terms of building my brand, let me just get really good at what I do most of the time. And I think that really has worked tremendously for me. You know, when I speak to clients about what, you know, what do I do? Well, they say, well, you're practical, you give everyday advice, you understand our business, and therefore it's easy to come to you. You don't give us the ten page memo. We don't need that. You really just answer the question, make recommendations and move on. Right. So really, spending your time to get to know your client is is how I dealt with it. And also, you know, being a good negotiator, if you are going to get things resolved for your clients, you really need to be spend a lot of time on doing that. And the reality is that I am a litigator. If I love going to court and I don't think my clients, you know, go enough. But but that's their decision and they have a business to run, right? So my job is to get rid of those litigation that's that's there so they can move on with their business. So I do spend a lot of time on that as well. And, you know, when a plaintiff lawyer sees me, they always say, oh, you know, I know it's Michelle, She's reasonable. You know, she'll fight when she needs to, but she knows how to get a good deal for a client. So really, that's it. And I guess in terms of how I grow the brand, I would say, you know, I try to do marketing with a purpose. So I don't go to events just for the sake of going to events. I think, How is that going to help my practice? How is that going to help the firm? And I really try to narrow it and learn to say no. And I don't think an event or an invitation to something is going to help. But really those are a couple of the key things that that that I look to.
Karen: [00:05:57] Thanks, Michelle. I also, as a first gen lawyer, so what worked for me was getting involved in the associations, right? The OBA in particular, not only did it sort of give me profile, but it also helped me build a great future source of referrals amongst lawyers. So so really that was the key to me for getting involved early on in an association and sticking to it. And then eventually it takes time to nurture the relationships. But, it does obviously yield great results. So maybe, Allison, let's turn to you now. What do you find has worked best and how do you find time to focus on the BD side.
Allison: [00:06:40] Well, that assumes A, I find time and B, that, you know, that it's not a work in progress, which I find it always is. I you know, over the course of my career, my practice has changed several times as a result of, you know, factors outside of my control. And so I've had to pivot and accept and embrace new opportunities when they have arisen. But but it is very much a work in progress. And and and it changes not only as the practice and my interests and my skills evolve, but also as my other commitments evolve. So, you know, I'm at a stage now where with to kids who are still relatively young, but we're very much on the cusp of quasi independence. Right. And so I'm starting to feel like I can take back, you know, to the extent that I have surplus time, I can take back some of that time to focus more on my career, what I want it to look like, where it's going, what I think the future holds, as opposed to, you know, sort of being a little bit more, I would say not necessarily reactive in the past, but not necessarily as proactive as I think I'd like to be to continue to build and grow the brand. So, you know, to to echoes Michelle's comments. I think finding something with a purpose that you that is a genuine fit for you. So, you know, if writing articles or making presentations doesn't feel good, is it energizing? Then find a different find a different way because you know your time is going to be limited. And once you you start to gain those insights into yourself and what is is going to be energizing is going to be fruitful, then you can you can make more use and better use of your time. And the other piece I would add just is not to overlook the internal opportunities. So I've really benefited from the you know, in our firm, we're lucky we have a national platform, a lot of lawyers, you know, amazing lawyers. And in the practice areas, leaders in in Canada and, you know, class actions, product liability. And I've very much been a beneficiary of their networks and their clients, the opportunities they've presented. And so I would I would say, you know, a good part of how I've gotten to the place where I am now is a credit to them and to their willingness to share. And that came about as a result of taking opportunities to get to know my colleagues through, you know, attending conferences together or even more locally, you know, let's do a luncheon, learn, you know, your biggest source in in at least in my practice, a significant source of referral is internal. So make sure that if if it suits you and if it's possible, join internal committees, go to internal events, get to know those those other lawyers, you know, in your firm that are in that practice area and make sure that you speak up to say, I'm you know, I'm interested in this work, I'm keen to do it, I'm enthusiastic. And and that can yield quite a bit.
Karen: [00:10:34] Thanks, Allison. And certainly. Yes, I completely agree. It's all about finding what you're comfortable doing and what you enjoy doing, because if you don't enjoy it, you're going to be miserable in the process. So there are so many different ways to network and build your brand that it's absolutely, I think, possible to just find what works for you and stick to that. And as you say. Foster those relationships. Karine, you get the last word on this.
Karine: [00:11:02] Well, I completely echo what others have said, and I think it's key to find what suits you best developing your brand. They've loved having.
Karen: [00:11:08] We're having technical issues with Karine.
Karine: [00:11:12] Oh, I'm going to. I'm going to. If I remove my camera.
Karen: [00:11:14] Hopefully those resolve themselves. We're still in this virtual world where this happens sometimes. So hopefully she's able to come back to us. So maybe while we're waiting to see if if those issues resolved, why don't we go to our first poll now?
Allison: [00:11:36] Great.
Karen: [00:11:40] So everybody should be seeing the first poll which asks you what is your business development and brand building go to. So we'll leave that open for about 30 seconds or so.
Michelle: [00:11:57] And while we wait for for Karine to join us. Karen, I guess I can just pick up on what Allison said about the internal building internally. You know, it is really key. And I think when I think about my my, you know, my client base, a lot of them came from referrals internally, from other lawyers in other areas. And I think for anyone in the audience that, you know, smallest shops where you don't have a big, you know, full service, you know, think about other boutiques that do something completely different than you. Right. I mean, these are you know, they're not your internal colleagues, but certainly if they have a referral, they are looking for somebody. So there are certainly a lot of opportunities out there.
Karen: [00:12:38] Perfect. And it seems we have an interesting. So we'll close the poll. And then let's review the results.
Michelle: [00:13:05] Oh, there she is. Can you hear us okay, Karine?
Karen: [00:13:13] So interesting results? So interesting results in terms before we go to Karine, we have her back now. So Karine, before we have you jump in, the winner of the go to from those in the audience seems to be coffee lunches, dinner and events. So interesting. I would say that's also the option that I picked, although all tools obviously can be very effective and especially the personal touch of the key client milestones like birthdays, anniversaries like that is just I think it helps really connect you to clients and helps develop relationships, but it's something that's more difficult to do admittedly.
Karine: [00:13:52] Well, definitely. And you have to I think and I echo what others have said, you need to find out what suits you best. Some people are so good at going at cocktails and some of my colleagues are so good in branding themselves on social media. Quite frankly, I don't think I'm the best, but I know I'm not too bad at giving conferences, being an author, that that is something that helped me so much and you have to find out what works for you. And and if you love it, you're going to put so much more energy into it than you're going to be so much more passionate than convince. So it's going to work out for you. So there's not one specific model that applies to everyone. And one thing Michelle said, it's so true. We are solicited on so many different opportunities. We need to find out and discuss and decide what we're going to use and which kind of opportunities we're going to jump in. And I'm always asking myself two questions. First of all, is it something that's going to help my practice? If the answer is yes, then I'm more keen to doing it. If the answer is no, I'm asking myself a second question, but do I still want to do it? Sometimes it's just fun and I just want to attend to some events. But if both answers are no, then no, I'm not going because there's just a certain amount of time in a day.
Karen: [00:15:07] And on that issue of time Karine. How do you carve it out, do you tend to sort of block off time to do this or do you sort of juggle it all as you go along?
Karine: [00:15:17] I would love to say that I'm blocking time because it seems like it's a perfect way of doing it. And I was I was having a conference yesterday where some at least were saying that they were putting some time to do an exercise in their calendar and treating it as a very important meeting. And I was thinking that such a good idea to do it like that. And so I should do it like that. But I feel like I'm still it's a work in progress, let me put it that way. It's a work in progress to make sure it's still very well organized, but obviously I do need to find time to do everything. I also have young kids, so we have to make some choices and we have to be as organized as possible.
Allison: [00:15:54] But it's I'm sorry, I'm going to pipe up. But I think the message is, is that, you know, trying to be perfect and trying to, you know, fit one mold is not is not realistic and nor should it be required. Right. And that's at least what I'm hearing from from you guys as well, is that everybody's got a different approach. And there is no sort of one right perfect way, at least I don't think there should be. That's just my superfluous two cents worth Karine.
Karen: [00:16:35] No, I think I certainly would agree with that, Allison. And I think one other thing, too, is speaking of a sort of maybe a bit of a positive spin on the last couple of years, we can really use, I think, technology to our advantage to do some of those things now. Right. So whether that's going home for for dinner and then logging on back later at night or meeting with clients virtually where that's suitable, right in different areas of the province or country, depending on how our practices. So I think that using those technological tools, there's a way of doing it correctly or to actually sort of save time and efficiencies. So we'll have to wait and see where we land on that. But, but it's always we've seen the benefits. I've seen the benefits of doing that in the last couple of years anyways. So we'll move on now. We'll shift gears a little bit to our second topic and we sort of started touching upon it in this discussion. But there's always a lot of talk out there about balance, how to achieve that and what that balance is can obviously mean different things to us depending on our circumstances. So what have been some key challenges you faced as a woman specializing in litigation, whether it's on the topic of finding balance or another challenge? And on the flip side, what doors would you say have opened for you and what opportunities have been made available to you as as a woman in this field? So a bit of a of a challenging, an opportunity question. So maybe, Karine, you had the last word on this. Maybe I'll give you the first word on it. So what are some of those challenges and opportunities you've seen?
Karine: [00:18:25] Let me start with a challenge, and I feel like the practice has evolved quite a bit. I remember when I started practicing, there was this vision sometimes and not seeing it every time the same vision. But I did face it that as a litigator, people, some clients could see that a male lawyer would be more aggressive and more in the bullying of fathers. I need your top litigator in a file. It's going to be a male, because women maybe not as as a bully. And I think this evolved quite a bit. I don't see that anymore. And I think clients also understand I hope they do that. First of all, being aggressive is definitely not the key. Being a woman litigator doesn't change anything. I'm a litigator. I will definitely defend your position. I know what to do. I have the respect of the court and I'll make sure to do what represent you. But this old perception that you know what? Women may not be as aggressive or man, I see this as very as evolving and that we're somewhere else. So that's a challenge I may have faced in terms of opportunity. And one thing that helped me a lot, I realized at some point I was perhaps not the best as promoting myself. I could see some of my male colleagues. Sometimes they were getting back from the courtroom and telling us about this experience, and I was thinking, Oh my God, they went to the Supreme Court. It's amazing what they're telling. And you finally understand it was great. I'm always happy for everyone getting a win. But when you dig a bit more, it's a great experience. But you know what? I've lived some great experience as well, but that wasn't the best. I was promoting myself because I was feeling bad. I don't want to feel like I'm pushing too much or just or just bothering people with that. And during the course of my career, I had some people, some great woman sponsors that were doing it for myself. They were promoting me saying, Oh, you know, what has this great win? That was amazing. She's so good with this client. And that helped me a lot during my progress, especially when I applied for partnership. I switched from having mentors where really helping me with practice of law to having a sponsor, really promoting me, helping me achieve this next step. So that for me was a real opportunity. And to this day I have a great circle and it's so important to me to have those great colleagues that are we're all kind of sponsors to each other and promoting each other and helping us in building our brand both in. Internally and externally. So that's something that I would qualify as a great opportunity for me.
Karen: [00:20:59] That's great. And I think we have seen there are a lot of articles that say that sponsorship in particular is very effective to help women grow and be mentored and actually sort of more. It's more than mentorship, right? It's actually, as you say, it's being somebody vocal to speak on your behalf, whether it be for promotions to partnership or whether it be to be part of a large case team. So, so interesting to see that that you have benefited directly from that approach. Allison, what about you?
Allison: [00:21:36] So I will say in terms of opportunities, I really benefited and I can, you know, going back to the pivot, one of the pivots I talked about earlier in my practice over the years from a client who had, you know, specific policies in place about the makeup of their external legal team. And that was like 17 years ago. So it was pretty. You know, I want to say it was pretty progressive at that time. You know, we've seen the growth of those types of initiatives over time. And and it is 100% the reason why I'm in the product liability practice now, because this major U.S. client made it a requirement that they had women on their team, that they were looking for diverse lawyers, lawyers of color, you know, you name it across the whole spectrum. They wanted, as I think all clients should and all firms should be striving for, they wanted the legal team to reflect their consumers, to reflect our communities. And so they really made that a requirement. And it meant when an opportunity came up to to fill a spot on their legal team in Vancouver, I was, you know, the right time, the right place. And so, you know, I think about how that opportunity has shaped my legal career to date, given me so many other experiences and opportunities and doors opened and. Seeing how many of these policies are now becoming more accepted and widespread across different industries, across different client sectors. I think there is a real opportunity right now, and I don't think that, you know, people should shy away from embracing those opportunities and getting onto those teams, you know, to to serve clients who have made it, you know, a very specific goal to make sure that they have a, like I said, a legal team that reflects the community. And so that was you know, that was a huge opportunity for me. And I think it's one that's that's only growing these days. And so for other young women lawyers of of any background, that should be hopefully opening further doors for them as well. Because like I said, that was over 17 years ago. And and those initiatives have certainly developed since then. In terms of challenges, you know, people often call it, oh, how do you balance? And I say, I don't, I juggle and it's all about figuring out which ball can be, you know, hopefully not dropped, you know, in a crisis. You know, can leave for this side to be picked up and reincorporated at another time. But that's you know, I wouldn't say sort of like the branding exercise that it's that I have reached peak balance that that is also always a work in progress just like the practice of law. And I often come back to when I'm feeling, you know, like, you know, 20 years in, how am I still, you know, stressed about this? Why am I still feeling, you know, anxious about this? How do I, you know, you know, shouldn't I be, you know, further along in in how I'm managing these situations, I'm always reminded of it is a practice. And because of that, it you know, it is always evolving. And the balance is something that I continue to work on every week, every day. And I and for me, that's really just about keeping in mind what's most important at any given time. And also that's something that comes with practice, is being able to identify what the priorities are. But if you really have a have a good sense of what's important to me, what are my values, how am I going to juggle all of these competing demands? Because they they come from everywhere. If you if you stay true to what what those priorities and values are, once you've identified them, then it can be easier to know which which ball you're going to put aside and that and know that there will come a time when you can pick it back up. And whether that you know, in my in my personal case, whether that's exercise, self-care, that's most often the ball that gets put down for a period of time. I know that it's going to it's going to come back. And so that's, you know, in terms of challenge and balance, that's where I land.
Karen: [00:26:59] And I think that's some good advice. And the motto of one day at a time. Sometimes it's one hour at a time.
Allison: [00:27:05] Right, Exactly.
Karen: [00:27:09] And Michelle, what about you? What are some of the opportunities and challenges you've experienced as a woman in litigation?
Michelle: [00:27:16] Yeah, so Allison talked to a bit about just, you know, being put on a team. And, you know, I think that's a very good point. I mean, I know that, you know, sometimes I've been on RFPs and I know I'm only there because I'm a racialized lawyer, but I take the opportunity for sure because if clients are asking for it and if they're truly genuine about wanting a diverse team of women and racialized lawyers, then they're going to make sure that they are giving you the work. So even though you think you're being put on a proposal as something else of being invited to a client meeting, just because you are, you know, a woman, then go for it. They don't think of it as a token and think of it as an opportunity for you to, you know, really demonstrate that you are the right person, not only because you're a woman, but because you are a great litigator. Right. So I think, you know, we always tend to look at the negative piece of it, but I always try to find the positive and focus on the client development piece. And I guess in terms of challenges, you know, balancing, I again, I always say you never I, I try to figure out how to incorporate wanting to the other. But, you know, I have two kids, 12 and 15. They're both very active. My husband and I sort of split the duties and I do my daughter, who is on the road six days a week out of seven. So it's pretty busy. So I think a few things, a few tips in terms of what I've done to balance. First of all, go back to the office. I do find that working remotely as a woman, you just naturally and I don't know if it's the same for your household, but people automatically assume that you should be doing breakfasts and lunches just because you're there. So I started going back to the office more regularly, and somehow, miraculously, things get done at home. So don't feel guilty about going back to the office. A second piece I would say is, you know, trying to balance the opportunities to market with trying to balance your family and spending more time with them. And again, you don't need to, you know, take on marketing opportunities or things that you don't really enjoy or don't really serve you. So what I try to do is try to find opportunities to combine the two. So when my kids were younger, I don't know if you guys remember Dora the Explorer and The Wiggles and all of those shows. I would find a client who has kids among the same age, and instead of going to a basketball game, we would go see the Wiggles, right? So it has to be a client that you enjoy spending 3 hours with. But at the same time, you know, you're getting the timing with your family, but you also get in the marketing opportunities. And now that my kids are older, you know, I find that my son plays hockey. So I find a client who has a son or a daughter who plays hockey. And then we all go, four of us go together. So you really have to be strategic about it in terms of those opportunities and just finding time to you know, I try not to send emails on the weekend. I think as a litigator, you know, we feel we need to be sending emails 24 seven. I definitely don't send emails out to opposing counsel because then they've come back and I have to respond to them with clients. You know, if it's urgent, the client will likely let you know. If it's not, it can probably wait. You can draft the email, but I try not to send it until 8:00 the Monday morning or not in the evenings, because if you send in a response, you'll get a response back. And it's just so trying to make, finding those times are important. And I guess the one piece is that I think as women litigators, sometimes we feel we need to do it all ourselves. And just being very proactive about delegating as much as you can and just accepting that, listen, we can do it all and we just have to find the right team to do it for us and learning to say no, right? I think that's part of it. As litigators, we feel we have to take on all the work and we don't, right? We want to make sure that at the end of the day we still enjoy what we're doing. So these are some of the challenges, but I think it's a question of figuring out what works for you and then going from there.
Karine: [00:31:12] I just want to add on to what Michelle said. I think it's such a good comment to on finding that the activities that work also with your family reality. I remember when starting practice, an older lawyer asked me to take golf lessons because I said, You need to learn golf because that's the way you're getting the clients. And quite frankly, I never played the golf game with clients. It's just you find something that works better in your schedule and in what you like doing.
Karen: [00:31:38] Yeah, no agree finding efficiencies to combine that work and also setting boundaries that are very important. And I think that the communication piece Michelle especially I mean speak with clients too, right? Because they may prefer to or have different work schedules as well and they may prefer to receive emails at certain times or, or breakfast meetings may be better for them than than dinner or lunch meetings. Right. So I think that communicating with the client as well on a human level and saying, look, how do you want to deal with the communications? What works best for you? Right? That's another way that can be very helpful, I think, in setting boundaries. Let's turn now maybe to the second poll and ask you, what have been some of the key challenges that you have faced as a woman specializing in litigation? Well, some interesting options on this one.
Allison: [00:32:42] I wish we could click all of the options like those of all at one point or another. And I challenge so one or one or the other, but I think there's some overlap potential.
Karen: [00:32:59] Yeah. So let's close that one now and see drumroll what the results were. Work life balance, followed very closely by a generation of new work. Interesting. So as you said, Allison, often, often they all apply.
Allison: [00:33:27] Yes, maybe that's just me.
Michelle: [00:33:32] I agree.
Allison: [00:33:32] I don't want to overstate it.
Karen: [00:33:36] So we'll shift gears again now to another topic, the topic of trends and what we think is coming in 2023. So we've definitely seen that the last couple of years have been very tumultuous, not only from the standpoint of the pandemic, but also by difficult and destructive impacts of many humanitarian crises, devastating acts of violence across the world. So much has been written and shared, focusing on what the ongoing crisis in those events on the world stage have done to impact the legal business and the marketplace. And I'm sure we're going to continue studying this for years to come. But on the more sort of immediate horizon, what trends or issues in each of your focus areas do you see coming in 2023? And maybe, Allison, we haven't let you had the first word in yet. So let's start with you. What are you seeing in terms of your area of product liability in health and privacy?
Allison: [00:34:43] So from a substantive I'm going to address it from two perspectives, substantive and then procedural, because I think there's there's a couple of interesting things going on in both areas. So substantively, I think. We're seeing in product liability, obviously a growth of class actions. We're seeing, you know, at least in my jurisdiction, a lot of change as a result of of new laws and and regulatory regimes around insurance, which I think is going to give rise to a growth of new product liability litigation. I think that that has created locally a lot of challenges for lawyers who were typically doing a lot of motor vehicle defense and now are going to be looking to find new avenues of generating work, in part because product liability claims are carved out of some of those of legislative changes. And so locally, that's that's going to be on the horizon, I think for for several years. We are in a really exciting and also uncertain time, I think in terms of artificial intelligence and all of the cyber, ethical, legal insurance, you name it, issues that are going to be associated in many, many areas, you know, automotive being top of mind for for me personally in my practice, so much change so quickly that touches on the way cities are developed, the way claims are going to be handled, the way that decisions are made of autonomous vehicles. And I just feel like there are so many different things happening in in that world in terms of putting new expectations on manufacturers, particularly automotive for electric vehicles, autonomous vehicles, smarter, faster, better all of all of those challenges I mean, maybe lawyers more senior to me have said, oh, you know, this type of change, this pace has has always been around. And that's just the nature of industry. But, you know, particularly I feel like right now is so much is happening so quickly. And that's a real opportunity to to get ahead of and understand how all of these changes are going to affect clients and what that means in terms of defending them. Or alternatively, if you're on the plaintiff's side, what that means in terms of of bringing new new types of claims and and considering creative avenues of of bringing bringing matters forward in the health area, again, all of those, you know, not necessarily the electric or the autonomous, but certainly artificial intelligence, you know, how the health care system is going to be looking for ways to continue to evolve and adapt. And and yet, you know, we we still expect and very much need that personal contact to go to, you know, a health care center and see a nurse and a doctor and feel cared for. And and that for a whole host of reasons is a real challenge these days and and will continue to be so I think until things stabilize further. So substantively that's, you know, all bubbling along procedurally. I think as a litigator I see and this I know for sure is an issue that the court has always raised. But it feels like at least in our courts, in my jurisdiction, it's being raised with a bit more vigor again right now, which is the expectation for hearings to be more streamlined, more focused, more directed. They are so constrained in terms of their time. And so the expectation on lawyers to make sure that they're not, you know, putting in 25 authorities when five are only going to be referred to or, you know, to look at the record for the hearing. And if you've got 30 affidavits but you actually only need four, you know, you're going to hear from it, the Court on that, because they're receiving these huge volumes of material and they have no time to digest it all. And so I think that puts more pressure on litigators to to strike that right balance of being adequately prepared for all of the uncertain things that arise in hearings, because there are many. And that's part of the reason why we have 30 affidavits instead of four and 25 authorities instead of five. But I think that there's going to be an increased expectation on lawyers to to do the front end work of focusing, collaborating with opposing counsel to to narrow issues because they are so behind and they are so constrained for time, at least in my jurisdiction, that, you know, if you show up and expect the court is going to wade through. All of the mass of material than you're likely going to hear here that that's not going to happen. And so I think that's that's a trend that we're going to need to get on board with using technology better, better organization. It's going to affect our clients because that means more preparation time. But hopefully the outcome will still be to our client's advantage so that's what I think.
Karen: [00:41:09] Yes, sorry to jump in there, but yes, I completely agree, Allison. I think that's not unique to to to where you're practicing. It's I think across the country we're hearing about delays and limited court resources. So I know here in Ontario, our chief justice said at the opening of the courts that they were looking at completely revamping the rules of civil procedure because they are no longer effective and probably reflective of the realities of practice and where we are today. So I think that change will be partly probably imposed on us. But the more proactive that we can be to embrace that change and as you say, be efficient and find efficiencies and make good determinations and decisions when we're putting together materials for hearings, I think all of that will will be essential and will be one of the markers, I think, to differentiate lawyers right. Good lawyers from maybe lawyers who are less efficient.
Allison: [00:42:15] Mm hmm.
Karen: [00:42:17] Michelle, what about turning to you? What are sort of the trends and what you're seeing emerging in L&E?
Michelle: [00:42:25] Well, honestly, the good thing about L&E and I see there's a few L&E people in the audience is that no matter what the economy is like and what's going on, there's always lots of work. So there's always opportunities with new things coming. With COVID, we've had a lot of, you know, not only new litigation but new advice to clients and a lot to deal with. And so that seems to be continuing. We're now at the point where a lot of the dismissals and leaves of putting people on leave because of not getting the vaccines and now coming to litigation. And we are seeing the discoveries and there's been a few decisions on that. So that's going to continue in 2023, and that certainly has created quite a bit of work for, you know, for our clients and for us. Thank you. Sometimes it's you know, that's the one benefit, I guess. And I guess the other thing is that with the Ford government, we've seen a lot of legislation introduced just before the election. And again, that created quite a bit of work for Labor and employment lawyers as well. So so we will see that continue as the legislation comes out and the regulations as well. The other piece that really has grown is on the harassment and sexual harassment piece. We are seeing a lot more demand letters and investigations in those areas. And I don't know if it's because it's grown. I think maybe people have just had more time to think about it, and the stigma of bringing these complaints have probably been minimized. So people are more comfortable coming forward and with claims of harassment and sexual harassment. So despite COVID and the fact that people are not at the office, we are seeing a lot more from the investigation standpoint on those issues. And I would say that, you know, with I guess as things open up, you know, of course, and I'm sure you know, everybody on this call have dealt with, you know, hybrid workplaces, remote working and trying to deal with that, not only from a business perspective and trying to figure out what works best for your business, but trying to handle it from a human resources standpoint in terms of employees who, you know, they've now worked from home for two years and they really don't want to come back. They believe they are doing a very good job working from home, and they definitely don't want to come back to the office or they've moved towns, they've moved provinces, they move countries. And you may not have been aware that the last six months they're working from some of the country across, you know, across the in Europe somewhere. So I think these are things that we're continuing to deal with in terms of managing those with clients. And, you know, I think a lot of it is trying to be practical about how we advise clients on that. And at the end of the day, sometimes if if an employee is being productive, you may deal with it differently as opposed to saying, you know, your employment contract says you have to be working from this location. Right. So trying to sort of, you know, ensure that from a business standpoint, the client's doing the right thing. But also the labor shortage issue is something as well, right? So assistant clients with doing those pivots where they say, well, you know, I really need to get. More employees and these employees are only prepared to work remotely and trying to assist them in trying to get the right paperwork and right contracts in place to address those situations. So that has been an area of growth as well. And I guess the other pieces and I don't know if if maybe labor and employment is getting a bit more attractive for other litigators, but I'm seeing a lot of personal injury litigators and general litigators doing labor and employment law now. And as much as you know, I don't mind litigation, sometimes I think that when you have somebody who's not specialized in labor and employment, it makes those cases a bit more difficult to to work through because the person on the other side is not managing the client's expectations as well as they should. They have those personal injury numbers in their head as opposed to employment numbers. So these can make it very difficult. So I do find most of the cases that I have that are going pass discoveries or cases where the person on the other side is not an employment lawyer and somebody who's decided that they want to now start doing employment law because it's, you know, 30% contingency or something like that. So those are sort of the trends that I'm seeing.
Karen: [00:46:54] Yeah. And certainly I think there's a danger to dabbling and sort of on the insolvency side, I mean, obviously now with talk of an upcoming recession, increased stop inflation, like we're definitely sort of waiting for a flood there to and that's something that we've seen that there can be lawyers who sort of jump on and try to tackle that. But that's not my practice. I certainly prefer to work with specialists. So just a word of caution. If you're going to sort of jump in and develop a practice in emerging areas to service your clients, I would say just make sure that you're obviously fully comfortable and that you're learning and developing the necessary expertise to be able to sort of jump in on that area. Karine, turning to trends 2023, where do you see class actions going?
Karine: [00:47:50] Oh, I think class action just keep growing but differently. You know what, in Quebec, you may have noticed I'm from the accent, I'm from Quebec, and a lot of class actions have been authorized, which is the equivalent of certification in their provinces. So our plaintiffs counsel are pretty busy on getting those cases ready for the merits. So we see a decline in the numbers of class actions filed, but everybody is still quite busy in the class action field. So that's definitely a trend. But you know what, Karen? But other than expanding on my other fields of practice, I see a very interesting question in the Q&A, if you mind. If you don't mind, I'll just touch upon it. We have the other day I was asking what would be some tips on setting boundaries and getting to know your limitations. And I think it's such a great question. And one of the tips I could give is, first of all, finding what are the real deadlines? Because we as a litigator, we're stuck with deadlines from the court. We have deadlines for filing appeals, for responding to all kinds of of different deadlines or different questions. But sometimes one of the things I've seen and that made the real difference for me is that clients will will ask me something, Can you get this to me? And I need it now. And we always obviously I'm very keen on pleasing the client and I want to make sure I answer clearly and I give quickly an answer. But sometimes giving a good answer needs time. And instead of just rushing out and just giving something, just asking it, and there's a way of doing it, obviously, I would never tell a client, well, I have this this, this client that are very important and I cannot deal with you. Now. I would never say that, obviously, but just asking for a deadline saying, Oh, well, thank you, we'll definitely get back to you. Do you mind if I get back to you in two days for an hour tomorrow, just ask, just asking for it. Sometimes it's a real urgency and the client will say, well, no, it's not possible. And but sometimes the client would say, oh, sure, no problem. And it's the same thing internally as a young lawyer. If you want to ask your colleague, someone's giving you a mandate and you see that it's going to be tough on yourself and you have other commitments, that is not possible. But asking for it, I think it's something actually for me, and I'm not always the best at it, but but realizing what you're capable of doing and just making sure you're not shy when when you when you need it, when you need more time. So I don't know if others have any other tips to provide to our audience, but I think it's something very important.
Karen: [00:50:21] Yeah.
Michelle: [00:50:22] Yeah, so I mean, if I can add to that, Karen, You know, so I think when we think about young lawyers and especially at the big firms, most of the clients are the internal, you know, lawyers at the firm, the partners who are giving you work. And I do think it's important to it is important to think about what your boundaries are. And, you know, it is harder. The reality is that it's going to be harder for you as a young lawyer to say, I'm not going to do this work because, you know, I'm going to go party or do whatever. Right. It's going to be harder to do that when you're when you're younger. But but what I do tell young lawyers is, you know, if you feel that you are being overwhelmed, you're not doing yourself a favor and you're not doing the partner a favor because the quality of your work is not going to be as great as if if you were, you know, rested, productive balance and all of that. So try to think of it as if you feel that you are not able to do the quality of work that is expected of you, then you may be taking on too much. And it's important for you to think about, you know, I'd rather get somebody tell me no than than get a product at the end of the day where it's not what I am looking for because it's just going to really upset me and may have set my client to. So it is important for you to really you know, we are all adults. Don't take on learn to say no or just, you know, sometimes you know, it's not You can explain to the partner what's on your plate. Right. And say, listen, I have this for this person, this for this other partner, you know, and I've done this as a young lawyer. I've done this a couple of times where I have the partners figured out among themselves what their priorities are, and they tell me which one. Right. Because you can get everything done at the same time. So just having an open line of communication is important with with the partners that you are doing work for and just saying, listen, this is what I have on my plate and this is why I may not be able to complete this assignment when you want it. And I think that goes a long way with a lot of partners because we generally want you guys to stay at the firm. So we're not going to, you know, overwhelm you guys or but I think it's important to have those conversations early on.
Karen: [00:52:37] It's all about communication, right? For me, as communication with your clients, communication with those who are giving you work. We're litigators, right? I think that we should be focusing on on being excellent communicators, whether that's by in writing, by by email or by phone call. Right. Like it's all about communication. And so much stress I find can be alleviated when you actually communicate. You can be so stressed about this one deadline. And then as Karine said, like if you actually sort of explain and discuss with the person and say like, look, this is not a court mandated deadline, is it okay if I give this to you next week? Right. And and, you know, it can surprisingly, many times the answer is yes. Right. But but conversely, I think it's very important to meet those deadlines. So whatever you agree to, whether it's with a client or an internal referral source or external referrals, delivering is is obviously key. I want to leave some time for questions from the audience, but let's go to our last poll and ask everyone what they think their biggest lesson learned over the last two years has been. So I'll keep that open. For two more seconds. So why don't we close that now? And. Embracing and utilizing of new digital solutions. I think keeping up with innovation, keeping up with with technology and important can be challenging. But I agree it's absolutely vital for where we're going. So in the last few minutes that we have left, let's see here. So we do have a question. Hmm. What does being a successful litigator mean to you? And has your definition of success changed over the years? Interesting one. Let's start with why don't we go to Allison first?
Allison: [00:55:07] Oh, I knew you were going to do that. I just had this feeling I was like, Oh, I don't know the answer to that.
Karine: [00:55:18] Can I answer?
Allison: [00:55:19] I'd love you to. Yeah. Go, go, go.
Karine: [00:55:22] What I want to say, when I was a student, I did so many moods or competition, and I felt like it would be the same thing in practice, that I would win all my cases because I would be so good in court and judges would be so impressed with my demeanor and my. And you realize it's not the same thing in practice. And being successful changes so much depending on the matter. Sometimes it's settling a case. It would be such a huge success. Sometimes you're losing and it's a success, but it could have been way worse. So different ways of being successful. But, and Karen, you mentioned it. Communication is key at every step. Having the client satisfied with what you're doing and with having the court or understanding where you are heading and respecting the presentation that you made and making sure that the client knows where you're heading. We have the facts of the cases that we have. We won't be successful all the time, but it's closing the risk and making sure the strategy is adapted accordingly. I think what personally makes me a great litigator, so I don't know if, Allison, you're ready or if my colleagues want to add on that.
Allison: [00:56:26] No, I think I think that is that answer is is spot on. I was going to say, you know, I obviously love to get the result that I my client wanted and that we went into court to achieve. Nothing feels better. There's no there's no bigger sort of. Energizer, then getting the order that you were seeking. I love that. I love entering it. I love, you know, all of the nitpicky stuff around, making sure it gets endorsed and entered and sending it out. There's there's something very, very affirming and exciting about that. But I think more recently and your point is spot on it's about. Adapting to the situation and then having in my view and I don't know, you know, I can't speak for my colleagues at the bar or the bench, but I want to have the respect of my colleagues, whether I win or I lose or I you know, I want to be somebody who's who's seen as civil, reasonable, approachable and who takes the high road. Right. That to me, growing that will at the end of the day, whether I got every order I ever saw it or, you know, settled every file for the less than the authority given or whatever the case may be, I want to know that I finish out in my practice with the respect of my colleagues, not just in the firm, but in the community as a whole and of obviously of our clients. But I just think it's reputation. It would be a would be a success for me, a positive reputation throughout.
Michelle: [00:58:25] Yeah, I agree with that, Allison. I always tell the young lawyers that at the end of the day, it's a very small bar. As much as you think it's, you know, Ontario or Canada, it's a people will know you. And if you do something that's unreasonable or unprofessional, it will likely be found out. So your reputation is really what makes you a great and successful litigator. If people respect you and know that you're going to come to the table and with clean hands. But I also think it's also and Allison, you mentioned that about adapting. Right. Being able to adapt to the file in front of you, the client in front of you, because clients are very different and being able to sort of be effective despite your client sometimes, you know, in spite of your clients. So trying to really, you know, pivot where you need to. I know I don't spend a lot of time in court or, you know, inheritance, but when I do and then clients have said to me, Oh, I didn't think you had that monster in you, you know? So it's always a good thing when they're surprised that, you know, you can bring you can bring the litigator to the table when you need to, but you can also try to be the reasonable settler when you need to be that. So always trying to to spend time and be thoughtful about your response as a litigator and how you see a file, I think that that's really what makes you a successful litigator and just really, you know, sort of to end on a very positive note, just realizing that we're in a space of privilege, that we have these opportunities and just being present. So when I'm doing a file, even though it's a shitty file, I try to be present and try to enjoy my time cross-examining somebody or doing something because I think those this is what is enjoyable about my practice. So really being in the moment and enjoying that.
Karen: [01:00:19] Thank you, Michelle, Allison and Karine for your insight. And with that, we're already at the end of our hour. I knew it would go by quickly, but it went by even more quickly than I thought. So thank you to each of you for your insight. Thank you to everyone for joining us. And I would just like to conclude by saying that I think it's a very exciting time for the legal profession. And I think it's an even more exciting time for those women who are entering the profession. Everything from the sort of the innovation that we're seeing, we're seeing more representation of women across our profession, from the halls of academia all the way to the C-suite. We're eradicating barriers, building pipelines for women. I think it's really an excellent and exciting time, as I said. And I look forward to working with each of you if I haven't already. And thanks again for joining us today.
Allison: [01:01:18] Thank you, Karen. Thank you Key Media. See you Michelle. Bye Karine.
Mallory: [01:01:21] Yes. Thank you, Karen. Hope you all had a wonderful discussion. I think we can all agree on that. So thank you so much to the panel for sharing your insight and expertise and to everyone in the audience for joining us today. And just keep an eye out for other upcoming webinars that will be just as great as this one and learning new things and enjoy the rest of your day. Thank you so much.
Allison: [01:01:42] Thank you.
Michelle: [01:01:43] Thank you.
Karen: [01:01:43] Bye everyone.