“Quite frankly, the job description was pretty bold,” the lawyer and public relations executive told Legal Feeds in describing her decision to accept Lavery’s offer.
“The CEO positon was specifically described as a transformational role,” she says, “to support Lavery’s vision to be recognized for having transformed the way we deliver legal services. And quite frankly, I saw this as an opportunity that I couldn’t pass [up].”
Founded in 1913, Lavery today has four offices covering each of the major Quebec business centres (Montreal, Quebec City, Sherbrooke and Trois-Rivières), with nearly 250 lawyers and roughly 500 employees, including non-legal staff, Trudel says.
“The [legal] industry has obviously been facing a major shift in the last few years, and we need to rethink the business model. And a lot of the issues that are driving the necessity of this new strategic outlook, or positioning, may be new technology, alternative billing arrangements, the fee structure, obviously, the generational mix . . . diversity, etc.”
Trudel says she hopes to bring corporate best practices to Lavery, to recruit talent and to develop the firm’s business plan, including the alignment that the firm wants to establish with the rest of the legal industry.
The fact that Lavery is an independent law firm will provide her and the firm more opportunities to effect change, she says, in part because it will mean having “the leeway and the possibility to be nimble and agile, to take decisions [quickly], without having to go to Toronto or Calgary or even a European decision-making centre.”
A graduate of the University of Montreal’s law school who was called to the bar of Quebec in 1988, Trudel spent 20 years as a litigation associate at Stikeman Elliott LLP in Montreal before going to work as an executive for major organizations in Quebec. She is also the chairwoman of the board of directors for the Port of Montreal. Her legal background, as well as the “360 vision” she developed through her work with organizations over the past 11 years — which has included human resources, succession planning, internal communications, employee engagement and finance — all helped prepare her for her new role.
“I see my role as well as making sure the growth is there and the profitability, in a long-term fashion, and mobilizing or engaging everybody in the firm,” she says, “not just the lawyers and partners, but also the staff. There are 500 people working here. It’s a huge company. . . . And, obviously, ensuring some form of visibility for the office.”
“This appointment is directly in line with our desire to consolidate the client-based approach favoured by our firm,” Lavery’s chairman of the board, René Branchaud, said in a statement announcing Trudel’s appointment. “We can count on an experienced and passionate leader to participate in the firm’s development and actively direct her efforts to overcome the considerable challenges faced by professional service firms.”
Trudel says the firm has already given her good material to work with.
“Change does not happen overnight,” she notes. “But there’s a desire and support [at Lavery] to start thinking outside the box and to be leading in the transformational change required in the industry.
“There’s already a lot of strategic thinking that’s gone on in Lavery, so I’m not coming in with no work done [to date]. Now it’s just a matter of packaging and pushing the reflection forward.”