Clyde & Co Canada's Attieha R. Chamaa on pursuing a passionate practice

'Embracing technicalities' keeps her intellectual curiosity flourishing

Clyde & Co Canada's Attieha R. Chamaa on pursuing a passionate practice
Attieha R. Chamaa, senior counsel at Clyde & Co LLP.

This article was produced in partnership with Clyde & Co Canada LLP.

Attieha R. Chamaa, senior counsel at Clyde & Co Canada LLP, may be an experienced litigation lawyer, but one of the greatest compliments she’s received over the course of her career thus far had her pegged as an expert in another profession.

Chamaa recently wrapped up a complex construction case that she’d been involved in since its outset, and after six years she was able to deliver a favourable settlement for her client. When delivering the good news, he told Chamaa that her grasp of the technicalities of the file were so solid that his wife was convinced she was actually an engineer — a nice compliment on how flawlessly Chamaa had mastered the complex facts of the case. 

“At a certain point you master the legal issues, but I’m always learning about the technical aspects of my files,” says Chamaa. “It’s a way to keep my intellectual curiosity flowing in my day-to-day work.”

She got her first introduction to Clyde in 2007 as a law student where she completed her articling and then returned to join their ranks as a lawyer in 2008. Chamaa was drawn to the firm specifically because it specializes in professional liability and construction disputes. She felt this area of practice was best suited for her passion for litigation “because you defend a variety of professionals, from geotechnical and mechanical engineers to financial brokers, and you have to learn their field of practice and embrace the technical issues in order to best represent them.”

From the outset of a file, Chamaa “reads plans and challenges experts” until she’s confident she properly understands the issues at stake. When she started out, she thought going before the courts to argue was the epitome of litigation, but through practicing realized “there’s a great pleasure and passion in pleading, but the way we plead in our day-to-day work is by explaining to our clients their position and finding that grey area with the client and the other party to solve a case.”

“Theres a perception about ‘the truth’ of a file, but everyone has different perspectives and theres the psychology of a file as well,” she says. “Litigation is confronting ideas, anticipating arguments and finding weaknesses in the other’s position and that’s what I like.”

For Chamaa, an accomplished negotiator, the best forum to find solutions is alternative dispute resolution because if you go before a court, there will only be one winner and you can’t always predict the outcome. But once you’re in mediation or ADR, all parties work together to reach a resolution, and in that way “everyone’s a winner because you have more control over the process and we choose the outcome,” she says, adding that being satisfied with the endpoint starts with a thorough assessment of the file so the client understands the choices they have.

Passion runs deep in Chamaa’s career, as evidenced by her regular pro bono work as well as her commitment to the cause of diversity and inclusion within the legal profession. Chamaa was one of the few people of colour at her law school, and she now uses her experience and accomplishments as proof that everyone’s dreams of becoming a lawyer are attainable, and that diverse perspectives are a key part of achieving a better result for clients. Clyde & Co Canada sees this as a strength, and D&I is part of the fabric of the firm’s philosophy and culture — something that, in addition to offering the perfect home for her laser-focus on litigation, drew Chamaa to embrace a career at Clyde.

The caliber of the other lawyers at the firm didn’t hurt either. Chamaa calls them excellent litigators who further highlight the importance of being passionate about what you do. They all have different styles, but their advice is similar: find your own approach, be true to yourself — and don’t forget to have fun. While everyone indisputably works hard, “at the end of the day we have to enjoy what we're doing because otherwise it’ll be a miserable career,” Chamaa says, adding that she can honestly say it's not a challenge to wake up every day, come into the office and settle in to read engineering plans or documentation about environmental regulations for example. When a client recognizes she’s more than equipped to advise and defend them because she knows their field of practice as well as they do, “I’m grateful to accomplish that.”

“We only have one life, so we really have to be passionate about our profession,” she says. “Then the work is not work, it's fun — and that's what makes the difference.”

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