Lauded litigator honoured by OBA had an ‘aversion to conflict’

From heated dinnertime debates with her dad as a youth to appearances in essentially every level of court in the country, Patricia Jackson has long been carving her reputation as a fierce advocate and litigator.

And this is from someone who says she always had an “aversion to conflict.”

On Oct. 22, the senior trial and appellate litigator at Torys LLP joined friends, family, and colleagues at Toronto’s Ritz-Carlton Hotel as she received the Ontario Bar Association’s award for excellence in civil litigation. While it was a night to honour her work and contributions, she also took some gentle ribbing as she thanked the OBA for recognizing her, her predecessors for inspiring her and her younger colleagues for continuing to teach her the finer points of civil litigation each day.

Jackson said that when she first began her career, civil litigation was something she thought she’d do for a couple of years at most because she dislikes repetition and the drudgery of routine. But civil litigation proved anything but routine, she said, noting she finds herself “in the richest part of my career.”

Guest speaker Louise Arbour, a Canadian Walk of Fame member, a former judge of the Supreme Court of Canada, and a long-time colleague of Jackson’s, said that when they first met and worked together, Jackson’s prowess and potential were obvious. Arbour, who led the commission of inquiry dealing with the Kingston prison for women in the mid-1990s, chose Jackson as commission counsel due to her reputation as a “fierce” litigator.

Arbour joked that when they met face to face for the first time, she looked up at the relatively much-taller Jackson and told her she’d have to wear flats for the next year.

“She looked at me and she said, ‘Low heels.’ But there we were — we were launched,” said Arbour, noting it turned into a friendship that lasts today. Arbour said Jackson represents the best example of a civil litigator in Canada, particularly for younger women following in her footsteps.

As for meeting Arbour, Jackson said she at first sought to put her at ease.

“I decided to do a few stupid things so she could talk about them endlessly,” said Jackson. “And I must say I did, in fact, wear flats for a year.”

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