Sophie Acheson / From Law School to Urban Planner

Born and raised in Montreal, Sophie completed a BA in political science and economics in 2001 and civil and common law degrees (BCL/LLB) in 2004, at McGill University.  Discovering her passion for city planning and community building, she obtained a Master of Urban Planning at Dalhousie University in 2007. Since then she has been working as an urban planner in Ottawa, both in private consulting and the public sector. She is currently a Senior Planner at the National Capital Commission, a federal crown corporation responsible for the planning, development and stewardship of federal lands in the capital region. 


Let’s start with the basics. Did you always imagine yourself going to law school?

Not really. When I completed my BA at McGill, I realized I had no career direction and two more years of varsity hockey eligibility, which was to be honest my key priority at the time. I had taken courses that got me interested in the field of law, in particular constitutional law. More importantly, I was obsessed with the show Judging Amy… so I thought it might be a good fit!

What did the journey from big law to your lawfully uncommon career look like?

During my third year of law school I went on exchange at the University of New South Wales, in Sydney, Australia. As I discovered the city and travelled to new places I developed an interest in urban development and how it shapes the human experience. When I came back home I had one semester left and no job lined up. Instead, I decided to pursue a Master of Planning at Dalhousie University. 

What got your juices flowing or tickled your fancy while at law school?

My favorite class was family law. It was taught by a practitioner; I was always more interested in practical applications rather than theory.  

What made your blood boil or made you snooze while at law school?

I once made the mistake of registering for a 3-hour evening class… turns out that is definitely not my most alert time of the day.  

Do you still see law all around you?

Definitely! At the municipal level, the ground rules for urban planning are set out in provincial legislation, and planners work closely with zoning by-laws. I regularly work with lawyers to resolve real property matters related to easements, covenants, and rights-of-way. My background definitely makes me feel less lost in the legalese, and I sometimes get to pull out some legal knowledge from the depths of my brain. 

You are at a coffee house speaking to a first-year law student. What advice would you give them? 

Get involved beyond the classroom, for example law school clubs; you may discover new interests and they are a great networking opportunity. 

Sophie while at McGill.

What does a day in your life look like? Give us the rundown!

Currently I am leading a really interesting planning initiative – the Capital Illumination Plan. We are seeking to enrich the nighttime experience in the national capital through architectural and event-based illumination projects. The plan will also include guidelines to reduce light pollution, recognizing the adverse impact of artificial lighting. Most of my work right now is focused on completing the plan.

After work I typically head to my CrossFit gym for a workout and spend the night with my partner making dinner, watching Netflix, or heading out to the beach on hot summer nights. We also love to explore the great food scene in Ottawa. What I appreciate the most about my job is that it is fairly easy to disconnect from it once I leave the office.

If you were given the blessing and curse of an extra hour every day to do whatever you wanted, what would it be?

Drink my coffee in bed every morning while catching up on social media. 

Any regrets? (Yeah, we are retrospective like that).

I took a winding path to where I am at career-wise but I am really happy about the end result… so no regrets! 


Have an alternative legal career trajectory you'd like to share with us? Get in touch!

communication.dalamcgill [AT] gmail.com 


Wela Quan / New York Corporate Lawyer turned Writer/Legal Cartoonist

Wela Quan is an author and legal cartoonist. Formerly a corporate lawyer in both Toronto and New York City, she left practice to realize her dream of becoming a writer by authoring, illustrating and self-publishing the New York Bar Picture Book a visual study outline for the New York state bar exam. She is the creator of www.nybarpicturebook.com and the in-house doodler for www.quimbee.com.

Self-portrait of Wela.

Self-portrait of Wela.

Let’s start with the basics. Did you always imagine yourself going to law school?

Yes, I always knew I was going to go to law school though it was never to become a lawyer. The degree was always going to be a way for me to get the credentials I needed to go into foreign affairs. I thought I would become a diplomat or work for the UN.

What did the journey from big law to your lawfully uncommon career look like?

The journey was really unclear. I had no idea what I was doing (and still kind of don't haha!). All I knew was that I wanted to write my picture book and so I quit with the intention of writing the book and figuring out what to do after the book was written. It took me all together about 10 months of full time writing to get my book done. After that I took on consulting work to pay the bills and have been juggling paid work with my writing ever since.

What got your juices flowing or tickled your fancy while at law school?

Professor Jukier's contracts class. I thoroughly enjoyed learning from her and she really piqued my interest in contracts. My law friends and I still talk about "two ships passing in the night". She doesn't know this but I actually drew the Peerless ships in my picture book as an homage to her.  

What made your blood boil or made you snooze while at law school?

Legalese made my blood boil and still does which is why I am trying to fight it with my comics. I don't get bored easily so nothing made me snooze. If a class was boring there was always wasting time on the internet instead of paying attention...

Wela at her desk.

Wela at her desk.

Do you still see law all around you?

Yea. It's why I write about it and draw it.

You are at a coffee house speaking to a first-year law student. What advice would you give them? 

Few things in life are free so drink up me hearties! Also to try everything. I literally did everything I could under the sun at law school including clerkship, clinic, law journal, paid research work, etc. I think the more exposure the better so you can figure out what sort of legal career you want. I always knew I wouldn't be a practicing lawyer post graduation but I am happy I got to experience the gamut of working in different kinds of law jobs so that I could be certain it wasn't for me.

What does a day in THE Life OF WELA look like? Give us the rundown!

Not that exciting to be honest because it's normally just me in my home office in-front of my computer. I really need the quiet space to do my creative work so working from home suits me the best and I am at my peak when there's no one around. Sometimes I go days without leaving my apartment and my partner has to remind me to go outside for some fresh air. 

Wela at school.

Wela at school.

If you were given the blessing and curse of an extra hour every day to do whatever you wanted, what would it be?

Assuming I still had enough energy to use that hour effectively I would dedicate it to learning something I can do with my hands. All of my work is so cerebral that I feel like if the apocalypse comes all of the skills I have would be utterly useless. I took up knitting a couple years back but I don't really see how that would be useful. Maybe I would learn to identify edible herbs or learn to build a shelter. Realistically though I would probably just end up sleeping another hour if I had it!

Any regrets? (Yeah, we are retrospective like that).

Not taking the job at Hooters in Singapore when the manager offered it to me. I was just minding my own business eating chicken wings when she said "how would you like to work at Hooters" and I was like "what?!" 

At the time I was only 20 and I was completely taken aback by the offer. I would never in a million years even remotely considered the taking the job. I always took myself so seriously. 

Now I feel like it would've been interesting to have taken the job even for a week just to experience what that's like. Now I'll never know because that ship has sailed! 

Also it would've made for an interesting item on my resume. A McGill Law Journal editor who worked at Hooters? You'd want to meet her wouldn't you?


Have an alternative legal career story you'd like to share?

Shoot us a message at communication.dalamcgill@gmail.com.

TANYA De MELLO/ DIRECTOR OF HUMAN RIGHTS AT RYERSON

Tanya (Toni) De Mello is the Director of Human Rights at Ryerson. She has worked in multiple sectors over her lifetime including as finance consultant at Deloitte and Touche LLP, for the United Nations in West Africa, South Africa and at the HQ in Geneva in humanitarian aid and is currently working at Ryerson University as the Director of Human Rights.

In 2015, she ran for federal office in Canada and although she lost, she shares that it was one of the most meaningful things that she has ever done - and she continues to give her time and money to listen to the voices of those that are under-represented in her community.



LET'S START WITH THE BASICS. DID YOU ALWAYS IMAGINE YOURSELF GOING TO LAW SCHOOL?

No, I remember watching TV and thinking that law was a very glamorous occupation. But I never thought that I would be a lawyer. To be honest I grew up in a community where I did not see a lot of lawyers and it wasn't until much later that I thought I could practice law.

WHAT MAKES YOUR CAREER LAWFULLY UNCOMMON?

I think that a lot of people think there is one path and that's going to take you to where you are now. For me, part of what my career has been, is just following what I'm passionate about and what I think will be effective in terms of change. It's not about taking steps one, two and three and ending up in a glamorous position. But rather doing the groundwork in making contributions in a variety of ways - not just one. For example, I started off in business and did a lot of work in finance and audits. On the side I was running two NGOs. So it wasn't so much "Okay I'm going to do finance and audits to eventually become a chief partner" or working in NGOs to eventually be in the public sector, but rather, I'm going to do what I find interesting and it really helps you in the end because even if you don't get to some end point you had envisioned, you genuinely love what you are doing at the moment. People need to think more about doing work that is meaningful rather than work as a means to another end goal.

Toni at the Equal Pay Coalition

Toni at the Equal Pay Coalition

AT WHAT MOMENT DID YOU REALIZE THAT YOU WANTED TO DO LAW YOUR OWN WAY?

In second year law school I experienced a series of moments and events that were eye-opening. I noticed that we needed to talk about the power dynamics that play out in the world - dynamics that law doesn't really address. The reality is that you can have all the laws you want but if they aren't enforced equally, you don't have justice. Just saying "this is the law", doesn't really help people. In second year law school I started to see that I wanted to work more in the practical defense and justice work rather than in the court system. I was working with South East Asian women and giving them legal information about their rights and they were laughing at me. They knew their rights but felt powerless to enforce them. And I realized that we had to do more work around this perceived and real sense of disenfranchisement.

WHAT GOT YOUR JUICES FLOWING OR TICKLED YOUR FANCY WHILE AT LAW SCHOOL?

I think two things. At McGill, we study common and civil law at the same time. I found that eye-opening. We had such a different way of learning with two different lenses to look at every problem. What I started to love about law was looking at it from the perspective of Aboriginal law and also looking at it from the perspective of human rights. What really moved me was that there is not one solution in understanding all the factors that affect an outcome. That's what we call the transsystemic approach. I think that was progressive and helpful for me.

WHAT MADE YOUR BLOOD BOIL OR MADE YOU SNOOZE AT LAW SCHOOL?

I don't know if I'd say made my blood boil but maybe something that I wanted to see more of was bringing more of the community into the classroom and bringing the law school to the outside. I felt that often it would be helpful to have members of the society come and talk about how the law impacted their lives. I spent a lot of time trying to get people to leave the law school and be in the community to understand how the actual law works.

Toni at the Christie Bike Ride

Toni at the Christie Bike Ride

DO YOU STILL SEE LAW ALL AROUND YOU?

Yes! I'm in human rights, discrimination and harassment/assault work, where I see how the law affects people's daily lives and how much access matters.

YOU ARE AT COFFEEHOUSE SPEAKING TO A FIRST-YEAR  LAW STUDENT. WHAT ADVICE WOULD YOU GIVE THEM?

I would say "expose yourself to the ways in which the law plays out in the community". Do volunteer work at legal clinics, do internships. It's not going to serve you well to just read the case law without understanding the communities that are affected by these realities. And I mean that in every course of study. We need more exposure. A lot of people were anti-corporate law, but I think every person should do corporate law and understand how that business works. Likewise, I think every person should do Aboriginal law to get the exposure to understand the facts about that. We need to be exposed to the many different ways in which the law impacts people.

WHAT DOES A DAY IN YOUR LIFE LOOK LIKE?

I just started a new job - I'm the director of human rights at Ryerson. I talk to folks about the different ways in which they are struggling. We focus on ways in which we can be a more inclusive community. I collaborate with a lot of partners across campus and so that means a lot of meetings. Working very closely with students and understanding what student complaints are. Creating educational activities that increase awareness, enhance critical thinking, and use a critical race and anti-oppressive lens. I also do a lot of work with faculty and staff about initiatives that they are doing. I do a little bit of that in my every day as well.

Toni at the Global Leaders Conference

Toni at the Global Leaders Conference

IF YOU WERE GIVEN THE BLESSING AND CURSE OF AN EXTRA HOUR EVERY DAY TO DO WHATEVER YOU WANTED WHAT WOULD IT BE?

Read. I haven't read a book for so long! I often listen to podcasts on my way to work and stuff like that but I don't read anymore. I read blogs and online articles but I don't read books as much as I would like. The last book I read was Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie which blew me away.

In my daily job I think what I would do is have more time for reflection. The work required is so high in volume that I wish I had half a day to just reflect on the work and be more strategic.

To process and to reflect. It's almost cliché because I think this is an issue we're having more generally. There's just very little space in our lives for processing and reflection. 

ANY REGRETS?

I did some articles in corporate law, and for me I don't think it was the right path. I really wanted that exposure and I wanted to understand why 80 percent of people went into corporate law. So what I would say is that I wish I had more opportunities to understand the different avenues of law in law school. You end up having a specific focus because you only have so many electives. I took one business law class, I took one Aboriginal law class, I took two international law classes, but I wish I had more time to get a better grip. If I had to say that I had a focus it would be human rights. But even then I'd say we have so few electives so I kind of wish that we had, if anything, more opportunities to see different fields of law.

GLENFORD JAMESON/Canada's food lawyer

Glenford is a food lawyer practicing in Toronto at G.S. Jameson & Company, where he advises clients on corporate-commercial and regulatory issues. When he's not working on files, he writes and hosts a podcast Welcome to the Food Court, which explores the connection between food and law, for which his firm won a CLAWBIE for Best Practitioner Blog and previously a CLAWBIE for Best New Blog. Oh, and he co-organized Canada's first food law conference at the Schulich School of Law



LET'S START WITH THE BASICS. DID YOU ALWAYS IMAGINE YOURSELF GOING TO LAW SCHOOL?

I don't think so. I was super curious but somewhat unfocused as an undergraduate and managed to strap most of my interests into a history degree. Once I got closer to graduating from undergrad, I did what an HR professional would call a 'personal skills inventory' and the set which I had developed seemed to fit nicely with what I thought made a lawyer. Frankly, I wasn't sure lawyering would be much fun, so before I started at law school I worked at a remarkable family and estates law firm for two years. I learned quickly that I liked law, had an aptitude for working with business organizations and solicitor issues - but also that I had little interest in litigating. I went to law school with that in mind.

WHAT MAKES YOUR CAREER LAWFULLY UNCOMMON?

Most days, I'm pretty sure I'm a lawyer like the rest of 'em. But I'm a food lawyer, which puts me in a pretty small practice demographic as compared to the amount of general civil litigator's in Canada's legal profession. I also run Canada's only food law firm, which has been operating for around four years now. I co-organized Canada's first Food Law and Policy conference at the Schulich School of Law last fall, which was (subjectively) awesome. Oh, and I host Welcome to the Food Court, a podcast that explores the relationship between law and food. In sum, I've been able to combine my formal legal training with a unique field that I feel passionate about and invested in. Which makes me feel really privileged.

AT WHAT MOMENT DID YOU REALIZE THAT YOU WANTED TO SWTICH GEARS?

In a way, I think you're asking me how well I know myself and how conventionally do I work? I realized that taking an unconventional approach was going to be critical to my personal happiness and my professional satisfaction. I also knew that the manner in which I work is not the most traditional. The best part of being ~ 30 is that you have a large enough sample size of experiences to know under which circumstances you'll be successful and under which you'll struggle or fail. My successes usually had a high degree of unilateral flexibility and unencumbered decision making. I think, when you're a young professional and you're trying to understand what it means to be a respected and/or successful professional, you need to be comfortable and in a place that's designed for you to succeed.

WHAT GOT YOUR JUICES FLOWING OR TICKLED YOUR FANCY WHILE AT LAW SCHOOL?

I loved Conflicts of Law and Aboriginal Constitutional law. There is no connection with my practice today, other than those areas of law and history present abstract and intractable problems in a similar fashion to that of many food policy problems.

WHAT MADE YOUR BLOOD BOIL OR MADE YOU SNOOZE AT LAW SCHOOL?

I went to what is now known as Dalhousie University's Schulich School of Law and I genuinely enjoyed my time studying there. The things that used to make me crazy - primarily the 100% final testing model and the standard hypo law school exam format - are things I've become grateful for in private practice. There is nothing soft about the process of making submissions as a lawyer - everything is hard and fast. The 100% final - fair or not - prepares you for that. And when a client walks into your boardroom and explains a problem, you're going to want to be as well-versed in your law as when you walk into an exam. As a new lawyer, I was fixated on the Dunning-Kruger effect - someone who is incompetent will never be able to recognize and evaluate their competence: they'll never spot the issues that they're missing. Law school exams were helpful for their objective feedback and for teaching you how to comprehensively prepare.

Glenford in Law School 

Glenford in Law School 

DO YOU STILL SEE LAW ALL AROUND YOU?

I'm immersed in legal issues. Although, this is an interesting question for me - something that's peculiar about food law is the amount of regulation and policy that you encounter rather than actual statute or judge-made laws. What's more, the frequency with which regulations or policies are amended (the procedure manual for meat is amended almost weekly), and the lack of case law that arises. That's scary. Food law in the regulatory realm is primarily administrative law and public law, both of which rely on cases that are moved forward by public service unions or interest groups. This means that when I have a producer whose imported cured sausage is going to be destroyed because an inspector has misconstrued something as filth rather than salt in a visual inspection, I typically don't have case law to guide my interpretation of the food and drug regulations when working with CFIA or Health Canada lawyers. So, I end up needing to lean on a blend of principles that weren't developed for food along and an intimate understanding of the practical and philosophical problems underlying the issue.

YOU ARE AT A COFFEEHOUSE SPEAKING TO A FIRST-YEAR LAW STUDENT. WHAT ADVICE WOULD YOU GIVE THEM? PLEASE PROVIDE YOUR ANSWER IN A TWEET. YES, THAT MEANS 140 CHARACTERS AND HASHTAGS (WE ARE MILLENIALS, SO KEEP IN MIND THAT THIS WILL MAKE IT TO THE WORLD WIDE WEB) 

Hah! I'm a millennial too (just), so here goes: "@1LHopeful I think the trick to a rewarding career is to seek out good training while maintaining perspective and interests outside of law".

WHAT DOES A DAY IN YOUR LIFE LOOK LIKE?

In a basic sense, I spend a fair amount of time at the office, on the phone and drafting documents or emails. We're a small firm too, so I work a lot on the enterprise of running a firm. I don't bill a ton, but I work a lot. The joy of this gig though, is that there is a healthy diversity of work that comes across my desk so it's rare to find myself repeatedly plowing through the same legal issue in the same way.

IF YOU WERE GIVEN THE BLESSING AND CURSE OF AN EXTRA HOUR EVERY DAY TO DO WHATEVER YOU WANTED, WHAT WOULD IT BE?

It would be a total gift. But I imagine that, like time changes, it would be considered an extra hour for about a week and then it would be absorbed into your regular life. But if I had a little more time, I'd set aside some extra room to read more fiction and keep more active.

ANY REGRETS? (YEAH, WE'RE RETROSPECTIVE LIKE THAT)

I don't know about regrets, but there are lots of lessons learned. Generally speaking, running a firm can be all-consuming, so it is often hard to make time for yourself and the things that you valued when you were a law student.

CHRIS VELAN / lawyer to prolific singer-songwriter

Montreal traveling troubadour and world music producer, Chris Velan, has been crossing borders in music for over a decade with his brand of world-inflected pop-folk. A prolific songwriter and consummate performer, he has toured extensively throughout North America, with notable performances at The Lincoln Center, Sundance Festival, Montreal International Jazz Festival, Osheaga and the Virgin Festival.

As a globetrotting producer, he has worked with Sierra Leone's Refugee All Stars for whom he produced their debut and latest albums, 'Living Like A Refugee' and 'Libation'. He most recently recorded and produced the soon-to-be-released debut album, 'Wa Di Yo', for Haitian music collective, Lakou Mizik, and Vermont songstress, Francesca Blanchard's, debut release, 'Deux Visions'.

Velan's sixth album, co produced by Howard Bilerman (Arcade Fire, Wolf Parade, Basia Bulat), has him at the top of his game. Featuring members of Montreal band favourites, The Unicorns, Suuns, The Barr Brothers, AroarA and Dear Denizen, the album assembles a gathering of self-assured songs- with nods to afrobeat, disco-rock, folk pop and vintage rocksteady- under the tent of Velan's adroit song craftsmanship.

Learn more at www.chrisvelan.com



LET'S START WITH THE BASICS. DID YOU ALWAYS IMAGINE YOURSELF GOING TO LAW SCHOOL?

I would say that the idea entered my consciousness around the age of thirteen or so when one generally starts being expected to voice what they want to be/do in life. There were no lawyers in my family so I didn't have any trodden paths to follow. But my best friend's dad was a lawyer and someone I looked up to so maybe that played a role in my zeroing in on law as a profession. I came from a background where being a musician was not really considered a sensible option so I just remembered thinking that with my facility with words, law was something at which I could excel. As I got older through high school and college, my motivations developed into wanting to help people through international humanitarian law or protect the environment through non-profit environmental work.

WHAT MAKES YOUR CAREER LAWFULLY UNCOMMON?

Being a performing songwriter/producer might be more unlawfully uncommon than anything. Though there's some contract work from time to time, there's generally not a whole lot of law involved. Perhaps the uncommon part was the decision to leave a law career path for being a singer-songwriter.

AT WHAT MOMENT DID YOU REALIZE THAT YOU WANTED TO SWITCH GEARS?

The seeds were sown during my articling at a business law firm. I felt quite divided in myself with one part of me trying to do a good job and impress the partners and another part of me wanting to make music. I thought I was pulling it off well until I didn't get a hire-back offer, which, though it stung my professional pride at the time, ended being a bit of a relief. As often happens at these crossroads in life, another opportunity presented itself to me in the form of a documentary filmmaking trip to refugee camps in Guinea with two close friends from university. It was to be a film that told the story of the war in Sierra Leone and its resulting humanitarian crisis through the eyes and words of refugee musicians who had fled to a camp in neighbouring Guinea. I would be the musical director/producer and ambassador of our team. We were all first-time filmmakers and knew nothing of what we were getting into but we had the help of people within the U.N. High Commission For Refugees (UNHCR). It seemed like a crazy thing to do at the time. But I had no immediate employment prospects as a junior associate so I figured that at the very least, it would be a memorable experience from which I could return and start knocking on other firms' doors. In the end, the project ended up profoundly changing me and my life direction and put me on my own musical path.

WHAT GOT YOUR JUICES FLOWING OR TICKLED YOUR FANCY WHILE AT LAW SCHOOL?

Anything related to law as a force of constructive and positive change.

WHAT MADE YOUR BLOOD BOIL OR MADE YOU SNOOZE WHILE AT LAW SCHOOL?

Anything that was irreducibly dry and procedural made me drowsy.

DO YOU STILL SEE LAW ALL AROUND YOU?

Everywhere. It was singed into my brain and will always inform how I look at and interpret the world and its relationships.

YOU ARE AT A COFFEEHOUSE SPEAKING TO A FIRST-YEAR LAW STUDENT. WHAT ADVICE WOULD YOU GIVE THEM? PLEASE PROVIDE YOUR ANSWER IN A TWEET. YES, THAT MEANS 140 CHARACTERS AND HASHTAGS.

Wow, that's a short coffee house speech. Here it goes.

"B honest w/yourself about what u want from law+why. Listen to what draws u. Soak up everything. Have fun"

WHAT DOES A DAY IN THE LIFE OF CHRIS LOOK LIKE?

Lots of laptop tapping for the requisite hustle and then time set aside for rehearsing, writing and generally staying connected to the creative.

IF YOU WERE GIVEN THE BLESSING AND CURSE OF AN EXTRA HOUR EVERY DAY TO DO WHATEVER YOU WANTED, WHAT WOULD IT BE?

Meditation.

ANY REGRETS? (YEAH, WE'RE RETROSPECTIVE LIKE THAT)

No. But if I could send a message to my younger self it would be to enjoy the ride and not worry so much. It all works out.


KATIA OPALKA / FROM NAFTA TO PROMINENT MEMBER OF CANADIAN ENVIRONMENTAL BAR


When Katia Opalka finished a BA in history at the end of the Cold War, she threw three balls in the air: grad school, foreign service, law school. She missed the deadline to write the GRE for Yale, where she was going to produce a biography of Felix Cohen, who had taught there and is the author of the Handbook of Federal Indian Law. (Not to worry, someone else has since written the book).

She wrote the foreign service exam and did an internship at the Canadian Embassy in Washington. In the end her IQ wasn't high enough to land an interview at Foreign Affairs and in any event, she concluded that the foreign service is like spending your whole life at summer camp: exciting at first and then somehow depressing. She got her LSAT score, knew it was enough for McGill, became a lawyer then a parent, settled her family in Montreal and tried to find good work on the side.

She became very knowledgeable about environmental law, policy and practice and ended up becoming a prominent member of the Canadian environmental bar, principally because she wrote and spoke a lot, saying things that her peers either know and won't say in public or simply don't know. In the end, she is more interested in the connection between government policy and public opinion than in environmental protection per se.


THE MOST IMPORTANT THING I FEEL IS TO BE OPEN TO WHAT COMES ALONG. PROFESSIONALLY, ACADEMICALLY AND ALSO IN YOUR PERSONAL LIFE. BE OPEN TO IT AND TO KNOWING THAT THINGS WILL PROBABLY TURN OUT DIFFERENTLY THAN YOU EXPECTED AND IT’S GOOD - IT’S FINE. THAT WAY, I THINK YOU ARE MORE LIKELY TO GET SATISFACTION BECAUSE YOU’LL SAY TO YOURSELF I DIDN’T KNOW WHAT THE STORY WAS GOING TO BE, BUT IT ENDED UP BEING THIS AND THAT’S PRETTY GREAT
Katia lecturing on the Canada-EU free trade agreement at the annual congress of the Quebec Mining Association in Quebec City in 2015

Katia lecturing on the Canada-EU free trade agreement at the annual congress of the Quebec Mining Association in Quebec City in 2015

WHEN I WAS AT NAFTA I WAS WORKING FROM 9 TO 5. IN A WAY, THAT IS HAVING IT ALL. BUT IT ALSO DEPENDS ON YOUR PERSONALITY AND HOW YOU FEEL ABOUT THINGS... YOU’RE AWAY FROM YOUR KIDS FROM 8 UNTIL 6! TRUE. AND I WOULD SAY YEAH BUT THAT’S NOTHING COMPARED TO WORKING AT A BIG FIRM. IF YOU’RE BILLING 200 HOURS A MONTH YOU ARE BASICALLY NOT SEEING YOUR KIDS DURING THE WEEK
Katia at McGill Law circa 1996

Katia at McGill Law circa 1996

ZUWA MATONDO/ FROM BIG LAW TO STARTING AN NGO


Zuwa is an innovative professional driven by an extraordinary sense of purpose.

He possesses a multi-cultural fluency having travelled extensively and worked in countries such as Canada, China, and his home country of Zimbabwe. At both an American international firm and a top ranked Canadian national law firm, as a trainee lawyer, he engaged in complex multi-jurisdictional business transactions, litigation matters and in-depth government policy analysis. His work spanned sectors including mining, renewable energy, project finance, infrastructure, international trade and foreign investment.

The multiplicity of Zuwa's experiences has culminated in him founding the non-governmental organization "Gov-Enhance Africa". Gov-Enhance Africa provides a platform for Young Policy Thinkers and Governance Innovators to (1) provide policy alternatives to decision-makers and (2) engage in capacity building initiatives that enhance the efficacy of existing system frameworks for governments to better deliver basic services to their citizens.

Zuwa is a fervent proponent of policy that is pragmatically tailored for different communities' distinct challenges. Positively consequential governance is exercised by a government that is open to new approaches to tackling the complexity around them, both nationally and globally. They must embrace solutions stemming from the private sector, non-profit sector and the citizenry through the political process.



LIFE IS TOO SHORT TO RESTRICT YOURSELF TO A SPECIFIC DEGREE. YOU’VE GOT TO SAY, LISTEN, THIS IS WHAT IS UNIQUE ABOUT ME. WE’RE ALL GOING TO GRADUATE WITH THE SAME DEGREES, OR DEGREES THAT ARE PRETTY SIMILAR. SO WHAT IS IT ABOUT ME THAT’S GOING TO STAND OUT? YOU REALLY NEED TO DIG DEEP, LOOK INSIDE, AND SEE WHAT IS UNIQUE ABOUT YOU. IT’S A GREAT EXERCISE OF SELF-APPRECIATION, AND REALLY UNDERSTANDING YOUR VALUE AND HOW UNIQUE YOU ARE AS AN INDIVIDUAL
Zuwa speaking on a panel at the YALESI 2016 conference organized by the Senegalese Government and the Youth Innovation Network (GYIN) in Dakar, Senegal

Zuwa speaking on a panel at the YALESI 2016 conference organized by the Senegalese Government and the Youth Innovation Network (GYIN) in Dakar, Senegal

IT WAS SCARY, THERE’S NO DOUBT ABOUT THAT. I PROBABLY HAD SOME MOMENTS OF DOUBT BUT MY SENSE OF PURPOSE WAS STRONGER THAN THAT. OTHERWISE, I DON’T THINK I WOULD HAVE BEEN ABLE TO MAKE THE SWITCH
Zuwa answering questions at the YALESI 2016 conference in Dakar, Senegal

Zuwa answering questions at the YALESI 2016 conference in Dakar, Senegal

THINK ABOUT WHY YOU CAME TO LAW SCHOOL. WAS IT TO END UP AT A FIRM? WHICH IS PERFECTLY OKAY. WAS IT TO END UP AT AN INTERNATIONAL ORGANIZATION? WHICH IS PERFECTLY OKAY. WAS IT TO BE AN ADVOCATE FOR A CERTAIN ISSUE, AND A SPECIFIC CAUSE? WHICH IS ALSO OKAY. HAVE YOU BEEN ABLE TO KEEP IN TOUCH WITH THAT? LEARN BY DOING. IF YOU AREN’T SURE YOU WOULD LIKE SOMETHING PER SAY, TRY IT
Zuwa at the Gov-Enhance Africa booth at McGill's 2016 Deusultes African Business Initiative (DABI)

Zuwa at the Gov-Enhance Africa booth at McGill's 2016 Deusultes African Business Initiative (DABI)

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CHRIS SHIN / FOUNDER OF CLEAR & CALM COMPASSHIN SOLUTIONS

Chris Shin is a former lawyer, now writer, life coach and consultant in Vancouver, BC. She is also founder of Clear & Calm Compasshin Solutions. Through her own healing journey, she discovered her life's purpose and passion for sharing her many gifts to bring greater clarity, compassion and the inconvenience of truth to those around her. She loves to inspire, educate and empower others. She believes that with discerning awareness and commitment to self-mastery, profound inner and outer changes occur, shifting old, unhealthy, stagnant patterns and cycles effortlessly. She guides her clients to make informed and empowered choices that lead with the heart, and are aligned with the body, mind and spirit for greater clarity and freedom so that they can create from an authentic place of the heart.


Chris in her zen glow home office with foster kitty Lilikoi (passionfruit in Hawaiian) - Photo courtesy of Janet at Atailtotellphotography.com

Chris in her zen glow home office with foster kitty Lilikoi (passionfruit in Hawaiian) - Photo courtesy of Janet at Atailtotellphotography.com

LET'S START WITH THE BASICS. DID YOU ALWAYS IMAGINE YOURSELF GOING TO LAW SCHOOL?

No, not at all. I got into Stanford to do a Masters in International Relations. It was my dream to move to California. But then I got into law school, and I had this sinking feeling because I knew I really couldn't justify going to Stanford over pursuing a practical law degree in Canada. Doing a masters was going to deepen my undergraduate studies but maybe not give me a whole new set of skills. Law school would offer me just that.

It's funny because I didn't do very well on my LSATs. I got interviewed by the Law Faculty before I got accepted and they grilled me. I felt terrible leaving the interview! When the admissions staff called me sharing news of my acceptance, I asked if she had the right person. The secretary said to me, "they only make it hard for those they really believe in". And so I accepted. And law school was one of the best and hardest experiences I've had so far; the best building block both professionally and personally.

WHAT MAKES YOUR CAREER LAWFULLY UNCOMMON?

I did the professional legal career with the great benefits and steady pay checks, but ultimately I realized there was a creative side of me that was being completely stifled. I had to come alive, I felt like a part of my heart and soul was dying every day. Some people thrive on traditional law jobs, but I never did. I'm a free spirit, so I knew it wasn't working for me, even though I tried. I thought, what's my problem? Everybody loves this, they get promoted and have babies and go on maternity leave and come back, but this just doesn't feel right- it's not who I am. I listened to my inner voice and changed directions. It wasn't easy, I had to work through a lot of self-judgment and fears but ultimately, I knew it was the only way for me.

I founded "Clear & Calm Compasshin Solutions" a few years ago. It's a solution-based, life coaching business that, I believe, bridges the gap between being a lawyer and being a counsellor. When I was doing human rights law, a lot of clients would come in totally distraught. Of course, emotions are heightened in states of crisis. But as lawyers, we're not trained to counsel and nor would it be appropriate. We're not therapists. We have 30-50 cases and we don't have time to hold our clients' hand. As lawyers, we are trained to be desensitized. This is how we become good lawyers, but sometimes I think this goes too far. I felt frustrated with the system and myself for not being able to serve a greater purpose. And so my business was born from this tension and is about bringing humanity and compassion back into a person's life during stressful times of crises or conflicts or changes, and aims to support and guide creatively during those times. Clear & Calm Compasshin Solutions (which, by the way, my Korean name means 'clear and calm') aims to deal with the crises/issues before they escalate and then find co-creative solutions that work by going deeper to the root cause. That's what we're trained to do as lawyers: wade through large volumes of immaterial and identify the heart of the issue, and so I bring this strength to my clients.

I also provide other services such as business consulting, crisis/conflict management, and mediation to name a few. I even offer a special rate and package deals for students!

AT WHAT MOMENT DID YOU REALIZE THAT YOU WANTED TO DO LAW YOUR OWN WAY?

I have to say that I gave law my very best and genuinely gave law a chance. I worked in criminal law, human rights law, privacy law; I worked in a law firm, in private business, in non-for-profit and in the public sector- in a university and municipal government and health authority. I really explored the full spectrum of what law had to offer, but still, there was a part of me that didn't fit in these defined jobs and therefore I was left feeling unfulfilled, and my creativity begging to be awakened.

So I think it had been building for probably a long time. But it got to a point in my late 30s when I was starting to have health issues. That gave me pause to think, "what am I not listening to that's creating this disharmony in my body?", and that was it. It seems so simple looking back.

WHAT GOT YOUR JUICES FLOWING OR TICKLED YOUR FANCY WHILE AT LAW SCHOOL?

Definitely the people!! I loved my classmates so much and still do. We had such an engaged dynamic fun group of people. Any event the school would have our class would be out in full, you can just look at any year book 1997-2001 and our class presence can be clearly seen. We had the highest turnout for a ten-year reunion in 2011 in all of McGill law school history, people travelled from all over the country and even the world! I know that some classes had a competitive spirit, but we had an amazing cohesive class full of heart and soul and this really helped me get through.

The other thing is that I really loved criminal law. For me, most of law school felt very abstract. The concepts are hard to connect to reality. But criminal law was different for me. These were people in a real justice system. Real people with tangible evidence, crime scenes, weapons, victims. I took all the criminal law courses and went into criminal defense law after I graduated. I then became part of the Air India defense team for one of the co-accused as the most junior call for that historical case. Years later, when I dug deeper into myself, I discovered a childhood trauma that had been buried deep deep down, that affected every aspect of my life. There was a home invasion in my childhood home in Korea and my dearly beloved uncle was murdered in the process (you can read about it here).

This also explained in large measure why I was so drawn to criminal law, on the defense side - to somehow make sense of my past.

WHAT MADE YOUR BLOOD BOIL OR MADE YOU SNOOZE WHILE AT LAW SCHOOL?

I remember feeling frustration about the grading system and how it seemed so arbitrary. The courses I thought I did really well in, I only did mediocre, and the courses I thought I didn't do well in were my strongest. The leap from undergrad assessments was flooring. 100% finals put a lot of pressure on students and it's no surprise that stress and anxiety were prevalent. This may have been why our class partied as hard as we did. I remember going to see a student counsellor and she said, "you know, we get more students from the law faculty than any other but no one at the law faculty talks about it and everyone is crumbling inside". I hope things have changed since then.

Chris at Law Games 2000 in Ottawa with her law class peeps, celebrating victory

Chris at Law Games 2000 in Ottawa with her law class peeps, celebrating victory

DO YOU STILL SEE LAW ALL AROUND YOU?

Yes, because the beauty about law is that it does have a relevance in every aspect of our lives. In my work, I can easily flag legal components and point clients in the right direction. At some point, we all get to a place where we're being tested and we have the option of taking legal action or not and that can be very powerful.

Having said that, law is also limited. As explained, my business aims to educate, guide and support clients as a first option, so that the conflict or crisis does not escalate. So it's meant to be preventative and pro-active and provide an alternative to legal solution. I often explain to my clients that resolution of issues is not just about 'letting go' or even a desired outcome, but must also include getting to the source of inner and outer conflicts - that's where the real work is. Otherwise, even with a great legal outcome, the pattern that gave rise to the problem or conflict in the first place is likely going to repeat itself and manifest in other aspects of life. So in this way, law is limited as it doesn't address these deeper issues that are usually rooted in emotional, psychological, social, spiritual aspects of oneself. So law can be a very powerful tool if used correctly, and also as a great shield to protect yourself and others, but I believe it must also include these other layers for true solutions to take root. I'm hoping lawyers can see this perspective and I hope to partner up with more lawyers in the future to really provide clients with full and complete resolution. That's powerful!

YOU ARE AT COFFEEHOUSE SPEAKING TO A FIRST-YEAR LAW STUDENT. WHAT ADVICE WOULD YOU GIVE THEM? PLEASE PROVIDE YOUR ANSWER IN A TWEET.

I'm sorry I'm not so hip as I don't tweet! Though my personal story about my family's tragedy was tweeted this January by an actress on the tv show Glee! I would say:

"Always embrace and be true to yourself. This is an expression of self-love and it unleashes so much magic. Be creative. Have courage. Courage is not the absence of fear, but creating despite the fear. And have fun! #loveyourselffirst"

Be true to yourself. There's so much pressure to follow the trend. We can get stuck in this trap but you have to really honour who you are and where you're at and what you want. I wasn't drawn at all to going the corporate law firm route, and those who did, it's a wonderful thing if it's what they wanted. I have a lot of respect and admiration for those who are in traditional legal careers but for me, working 12-14 hours a day, nope, no thank you! I knew my heart and soul were going to get snuffled if I went that route. It's really about finding your own fit. And be creative!

Lawyers wanting a career change say they don't know anything other than the demanding, often draining legal world but they haven't tapped into their full creative potential or fully explored other legal career opportunities. There is so much you can do with your legal skills! And there is certainly more than one way to live, to do things, to make a living. Lawyers are great critics. So be a food critic. Or a movie critic. Or a book critic. Lawyers are great writers. So go write books. Lawyers are analytical and can synthesize very well. So make a documentary! When I talk about "creative solutions", this is what I'm talking about. It's not just options A and B, it's options A through Z and "to infinity and beyond", to quote Buzz Lightyear from Toy Story. Don't be afraid to reinvent yourself and find who you are truly, what you're passionate about and what brings you joy.

Chris in Whistler, from sea to sky a beautiful and awe-inspiring climb

Chris in Whistler, from sea to sky a beautiful and awe-inspiring climb

WHAT DOES THE DAY IN THE LIFE OF CHRIS LOOK LIKE?

I've created by design a simple life, a healthy and slower paced life on the west coast - what I call my zen glow life, this has always been my dream. This is a stark contrast to life in Old Montreal where I grew up and lived until after law school when I moved out west to Vancouver. Being balanced and in balance is so important to me and I'm a huge advocate of this balanced lifestyle. I worked hard to create this, and my business fits in well in this design of balance, creativity and simplicity.

So with this in mind, I typically like to wake up with the sun. I wake up naturally because alarms drive me crazy, except for those days when clients book me early - I have a client who books me at 7am and I also love starting my day this way. I'll go for a walk on the beach at Kits Beach where I live and grab a coffee. This is my grounding, meditative space. Then I'll check emails and correspond and do all the business stuff, work with scheduled clients by Skype. I like to talk to at least one enlightened person a day. It could be anyone, sometimes the local store owner or my family or a friend or Patrick- my boyfriend of 11 years in Hawaii and the love of my life - or a stranger I strike up a conversation with. Real connection is so important to me, connection to nature and connection to like-minded and like-hearted people. Lastly, I love to eat and cook healthy, nutritious seasonal food to nourish my body and soul.

And I make sure I spend time cuddling and playing with my foster kittens. I volunteer my home and time fostering and socializing orphaned kitties with Vancouver Orphan Kitten Rescue (you can read about it here). Animals are wonderful for bringing us back to the present moment, sharing unconditional love and helping us de-stress. And this is one way I can give back and pay forward.

IF YOU WERE GIVEN THE BLESSING AND CURSE OF AN EXTRA HOUR EVERY DAY TO DO WHATEVER YOU WANTED, WHAT WOULD IT BE?

Definitely I would sleep. This is SO important and so underrated! Sleep helps heal our brain functions, our bodies to regenerate, it is incredibly restorative in all ways and it feels so good to climb in and out of bed, a place of total refuge and comfort - it's my sanctuary!

ANY REGRETS? (YEAH, WE'RE INTROSPECTIVE LIKE THAT)

If I could talk to law school Chris, I would advise her to take better care of herself. When you're young, you bounce back so fast. I recently learned that one of our classmates was diagnosed with breast cancer and this is heartbreaking. And last December I had a terribly debilitating headache for a week and ended up in the emergency room with a life-threatening, spontaneous neurological issue. If left untreated, it could have resulted in a stroke. This was a huge wake up call for me because as an otherwise healthy, balanced person, I really shouldn't be worried about having a stroke at this stage in my life. I took 6 months to heal my body, and it did heal beautifully, our bodies are amazing that way, able to heal when we give it the rest and love it needs. It opened my eyes to appreciating every day that I'm alive and healthy and well. So I worry less about the little things because they go away when you're not living. Sounds trite, but it's so true!

BRAM FREEDMAN / VICE-PRESIDENT, ADVANCEMENT & EXTERNAL RELATIONS AT CONCORDIA UNIVERSITY

Under Bram Freedman's leadership, philanthropy and engagement with Concordia University's alumni, friends and supporters are on the rise. He was appointed to his latest position as vice-president, Advancement and External Relations, on December 1, 2015. That puts him at the helm of the university's fundraising, stewardship and outreach efforts- Advancement and Alumni Relations.

The external relations side of his portfolio involves oversight of the Office of Urban and Cultural Affairs and the Office of Community Engagement. The former is responsible for institutional projects connected to urban planning, built heritage, public art and cultural property, along with museum and festival relations. The latter supports, connects and promotes new and existing community-university partnerships.

As well, Freedman serves as president of the Concordia University Foundation which manages funds donated to the university. Freedman's almost 20 years at Concordia has included work in several key sectors. He was appointed Vice-President, External Relations and Secretary-General, in February 2008. He then served as Vice-President, Institutional Relations and Secretary-General, from May 2011 to June 2013, adding oversight of the university's Human Resources department during that period.

Before rejoining Concordia in 2008 (where he had  served as general counsel and assistant secretary-general from 1992-2003, Freedman was the chief operating officer of Federation Combined Jewish Appeal- the central fundraising and community service organization for Quebec's Jewish community,

He is an active volunteer who has held several senior positions in organizations that include: the Centre local de services communautaires (CLSC) Métro, Jewish Family Services, the Jewish Eldercare Centre, the Reconstructionist Synagogue of Montreal, Destination Centre-Ville and Conseil Emploi Montreal. He is also a member of the board of directors of Institut Mallet, a non-profit organization dedicated to the advancement of philanthropy in society.

Freedman is a two-time graduate of McGill University. He obtained civil and common law degrees (BCL/LLB) in 1991 and a BA (Honours) in history in 1987.


Bram currently holds the position of Vice-President, Advancement and External Relations at Concordia University 

Bram currently holds the position of Vice-President, Advancement and External Relations at Concordia University 

LET'S START WITH THE BASICS. DID YOU ALWAYS IMAGINE YOURSELF GOING TO LAW SCHOOL?

I did not. There are actually no lawyers in my immediate family. My father was a physician, medical researcher, McGill Dean of Medicine and then McGill Provost while my mother has a Master's degree in English. I was not a math or science guy and did a first honours degree in History at McGill. I did not want to become an academic and decided to give law a try and see where that took me.

WHAT MAKES YOUR CAREER LAWFULLY UNCOMMON?

I never actually practiced law in the traditional sense i.e. in a law firm. From the start, I knew that I didn't want to be a "hired gun" and move from file to file and client to client. In law school, I remember talking to as many people as I could about non-traditional legal careers. This was more than 25 years ago and many of the options that exist today did not exist then.

One of the people I spoke to was the McGill in-house counsel whom my father worked with as a McGill administrator. He talked about working for the government, a municipality, a labour union or a private company. As he talked, I asked him what he did and when he explained the range of legal issues that he dealt with and the fact that he had one client and was actually involved in the decision-making, I asked "how do I get to do that?". He had a good relationship with the in-house counsel at Concordia and I ended up doing a joint articling position for McGill and Concordia working only on university files.

When I finished my articling, Concordia was looking for a junior lawyer and I joined Concordia full time in 1992. The exposure to all areas of law was amazing- labour, real estate, administrative, contract, environmental, (which was barely a thing in those days) etc. Over the next ten years, I rose in the ranks to become Assistant Secretary-General and General Counsel overseeing the legal department as well as several other departments and being responsible for all corporate governance aspects. As the years progressed, I ended up doing less and less legal stuff and more management, administration and strategic dossiers which is what I really like. Plus, I was doing all this for a non-profit institution of higher education. I felt like, and continue to feel, that I am contributing to the betterment of society.

From 2003-2008, I left Concordia and did something totally different. I was Chief Operating Officer and Director of External Relations for FEDERATION CJA, the central fundraising and social services organization for the Jewish community of Montreal. My legal training was helpful as I oversaw risk management and legal stuff as part of my responsibilities but I was not practicing law at all.

I came back to Concordia in 2008 as Vice-President, External Relations and Secretary-General. Over the next 7 years, I had various areas of responsibilities as a result of the needs of the university and my skill set. During that period, I always kept the legal piece as part of my portfolio although I was not involved in the day to day legal operations since we had a General Counsel and very competent legal office.

In the summer of 2013, I was asked to take over responsibility, on a trial basis, of Concordia's fundraising and alumni relations efforts. I agreed to do so while keeping my other responsibilities. It turns out that I am pretty good at the fundraising and alumni relations stuff and as of December 2015, I gave up my other responsibilities including the legal piece to focus full time on my new position. For the first time in 25 years, I am doing no law whatsoever and I serve as Vice-President, Advancement and External Relations. I should point out that one of my law classmates, Marc Weinstein, holds the same position at McGill. Two lawyers from McGill doing fundraising for two of the major universities in Montreal!

Bram giving a speech at the CUAAA Awards

Bram giving a speech at the CUAAA Awards

AT WHAT MOMENT DID YOU REALIZE THAT YOU WANTED TO DO LAW YOUR OWN WAY?

I knew right from the start that I did not want to be a traditional law firm lawyer and I began exploring options while still in law school.

WHAT GOT YOUR JUICES FLOWING OR TICKLED YOUR FANCY WHILE AT LAW SCHOOL?

I greatly enjoyed being with very smart people. It's a real treat to spend time, discuss and argue with smart, well-informed people who want to do good (most of them anyways!).

WHAT MADE YOUR BLOOD BOIL OR MADE YOU SNOOZE WHILE AT LAW SCHOOL?

Not too much made my blood boil. I was pretty involved- Class rep, Yearbook Editor, LSA President etc. I really enjoyed my time there. If there was one thing that aggravated me (and which still aggravates me today by the way), it would be people who have fixed positions and aren't willing to listen to others. I certainly don't agree with everything that everyone says but I do try and listen and see where they're coming from. Some people were so dogmatic and fixed in their views that I found it difficult to exchange with them.

In terms of snoozing, we all have our classes/profs which we find less than scintillating. I wouldn't want to single anyone out but I do remember a common law property class at 8:30am one term. It was pretty brutal.

Bram's McGill law graduation photo

Bram's McGill law graduation photo

DO YOU STILL SEE LAW ALL AROUND YOU?

Yes. It is actually true that once you are trained as a lawyer, you see the world differently even if you aren't doing law anymore. Your mind just works differently from other people- like engineers or other similar professions by the way. My son is an engineer and he doesn't look at a bridge or a structure the same way that I do.

YOU ARE AT COFFEEHOUSE SPEAKING TO A FIRST-YEAR LAW STUDENT. WHAT ADVICE WOULD YOU GIVE THEM? PLEASE PROVIDE YOUR ANSWER IN A TWEET.

Make the most of ur @Lawmcgill training. U never know what door it will open and where it will take u #lawfullyuncommon.

WHAT DOES A DAY IN THE LIFE OF BRAM Freedman LOOK LIKE?

Pretty long and hectic. I travel a lot visiting alumni and donors around the world so when I am in Montreal, my days are jam-packed with meetings and events- anywhere from 6-12 discrete meetings and/or events a day. These can range from meetings with my management team, other university colleagues, my boss, donors, Board meetings, attending external events like Board of Trade luncheons or dinners at the University President's home with donors. If my first meeting isn't until 8:30am and I'm home for 7pm, I consider that to be a good day. That said, I really enjoy what I do and I'm passionate about it.

IF YOU WERE GIVEN THE BLESSING AND CURSE OF AN EXTRA HOUR EVERY DAY TO DO WHATEVER YOU WANTED, WHAT WOULD IT BE?

My days are so jam-packed that I don't always have enough time to actually digest what has happened during the day and think about the next steps and follow-up.

ANY REGRETS? (YEAH, WE'RE INTROSPECTIVE LIKE THAT)

No career regrets. I have only worked for two organizations for my entire career and I am passionate about where I work and what I do. What's there to regret?

NATALKA HARAS / ON ACCEPTING IMPERFECTION & TRUSTING ONE'S GUT


Natalka is currently the Director of Development at the Pierre Elliott Trudeau Foundation, where she is responsible for refining and growing the Foundation's fundraising programs. She also works with her husband, artist and jeweller Dimitri Gagnon Morris, on the early stages of their fine jewellery and art business. 

Her passions include philanthropy, entrepreneurship, building effective teams, and helping young professionals make courageous and aware choices for their career and life. Having lived all her life with Dandy-Walker Syndrome, possible PHACE Syndrome, blindness in one eye and a facial haemangioma, she believes in advocating for people living with uncommon congenital conditions. 

In the community, Natalka serves on the Quebec Board of the Duke of Edinburgh's International Award - a non-competitive, internationally recognized program designed to encourage young people to develop positive skills and lifestyle habits.

She has also worked and volunteered with universities, museums, and arts, culture, youth leadership, and international development organizations in capacities relating to strategy, advocacy, project management, public relations, team-building, communications, events, and fundraising. Internationally, her experience includes stints at the Guggenheim Museum in New York, at Sciences-Po in Paris, at the Associated Press in Brussels, and on various projects in Ukraine.

Before moving into the field of institutional advancement, she practiced administrative and public law as well as employment litigation at Baker & McKenzie LLP's Toronto office. While articling, she clerked for the Honourable Mr. Justice Marc Nadon at the Federal Court of Appeal of Canada.

And congratulations to Natalka, who in late 2016 will be starting her maternity and parental leave!



"Being A DECENT PERSON IS GOING TO TAKE YOU FAR IN YOUR CAREER. I TRULY BELIEVE THAT. YOUR REPUTATION DOES MATTER AND PEOPLE DO TALK. BEING SOMEONE WHO'S EASY TO WORK WITH AND A TEAM PLAYER - THAT'S IMPORTANT."

Easter 2015 with her husband, Dimitri.

Easter 2015 with her husband, Dimitri.

"PEOPLE HAVE STUFF GOING ON IN THEIR LIVES ALL THE TIME. YOUR WORK IS IMPORTANT, AND YOU DO THE BEST YOU CAN, BUT PEOPLE MIGHT BE DIVORCING, PEOPLE MIGHT BE HAVING HEALTH ISSUES. REAL LIFE IS MESSY. SO DON't EXPECT THAT YOUR LIFE IS GOING TO BE PERFECT. AND IT's TRUE - YOU CAN STILL DO VERY WELL AND NOT BE PERFECt."

Natalka in France while on exchange at Sciences-Po. Photo taken during an excursion to Bourgogne with some fellow McGill friends.

Natalka in France while on exchange at Sciences-Po. Photo taken during an excursion to Bourgogne with some fellow McGill friends.

"iF YOU FOCUS ON THE STUFF THAT YOU ENJOY AND THAT YOU'RE NATURALLY GOOD AT, I THINK THAT's GOING TO SERVE YOU WELl."

Natalka riding a horse while on holiday in Mongolia (2012).

Natalka riding a horse while on holiday in Mongolia (2012).

"FOR ME IT CAME DOWN TO GETTING STRAIGHT ON WHAT YOU VALUED, AND THINKINg "WHAT DO I WANT MY LIFE TO LOOK LIKE"?"

MARVIN SHAHIN / From big law to in-house to real estate development for Tim Horton's


"Keep smilin" 

"Keep smilin" 

Born and raised in Montreal, Marvin first studied commerce at McGill before going on to law school (where he met his wife).  After a few years in private practice, he went in-house. That experience exposed him to many different areas of law: labour, corporate, litigation management, real estate, etc.. In recent years, the focus of his practice has been real estate, construction and franchising although he has been on the "business" side of real estate development and not managing a legal practice per se for a few years now. However, law serves as the foundation of his work every day.


LET'S START WITH THE BASICS. DID YOU ALWAYS IMAGINE YOURSELF GOING TO LAW SCHOOL?

Yes. I had some experience in high school where I realized that I liked public speaking, debates and analysis. So, I think I had a natural tendency towards law.

WHAT MAKES YOUR CAREER LAWFULLY UNCOMMON?

I've gone from private practice to in-house counsel, to managing a construction, real estate and legal department. Now I'm almost fully involved in real estate development with very little direct legal work. So I think that makes it a bit unusual.

AT WHAT MOMENT DID YOU REALIZE YOU WANTED TO DO LAW YOUR OWN WAY?

Probably a few years into my in-house career. I started much like a lot of folks who go to McGill. I did my stage at a large law firm and I naturally gravitated towards that thinking it was the only option. But I ended up at a small firm because I didn't enjoy the big firm. And then I wasn't enjoying myself even at the small firm, so eventually I went in-house; and when I was in-house I tended to be more interested in the business side of it. I would say probably six or seven years into my career I realized I wanted to be more involved with much more than just law. Law provided the base that I continually turn to but it was just that- a starting point and foundation to other things.

HOW WOULD YOU SAY THE SHIFT CHANGED YOUR LIFE?

It changed it for the positive in the sense that it exposed me to a number of different elements of business, whereas I was not focused only on the legal document. It made me a more rounded person. I have a better appreciation of the business end of things and not just the paragraph in a lease or in a deed of sale.

I think because of the area that I'm involved in, which is real estate development, it gave me a good sense of that business world and that, in turn, influenced how I look at my house, how I look at my investments, how I talk to my kids about their own future. So it does have an impact on your personal life.

WHAT GOT YOUR JUICES FLOWING OR TICKLED YOUR FANCY WHILE AT LAW SCHOOL?

Professor Jutras is a U2 fan, I can tell you that. I did a moot in second year. Professor Jutras and I drove together to Quebec City for the moot competition and he played U2 on his- at the time it would have been a tape deck- and he was singing the songs and I was dumbfounded. Don't tell him I told you that (laughs).

Talking with people whose career has involved more than strictly law. One of the late deans of the faculty, Rod MacDonald used to have a course that he would teach to all first year students. He would talk about the foundations of the law. He would discuss that law has its origins in religion, in Greek mythology or history, and I found that fascinating. Pierre-Marc Johnson who is a former premier of Quebec did one of these seminar type classes when I was in third or fourth year and it was fascinating to hear him talk about the goings-on and the background, if you will, in politics. Those things stand out for me than just the usual lectures.

"Best way to 'de stress' before a job interview" - Marvin playing pinball in the basement of Old Chancellor Day Hall  

"Best way to 'de stress' before a job interview" - Marvin playing pinball in the basement of Old Chancellor Day Hall

 

DO YOU THINK THAT IN RETROSPECT THE THINGS YOU ENJOYED MOST IN LAW SCHOOL SERVED AS AN INDICATION THAT YOU WOULD PURSUE MORE OF AN ALTERNATIVE TO LAW?

I think so. I think also the first experiences as a summer student in a large law firm, where you try to fit in and don't want to question what's going on. But I wasn't comfortable I guess, or I didn't see myself doing that. There are some people that love litigation for example and they thrive on the adversarial nature of litigation; they thrive on the opportunity to debate in front of a judge, to prepare proceedings the night before, things like that. I didn't enjoy that; knowing people were getting billed by the hour, thinking there has to be a more efficient solution. I guess things that are outside of the norm. I went through the normal course like everybody else- went to the large law firm, went to the open houses, went through the interviews. I worked at what's now Norton Rose. But I never really enjoyed it that much, and eventually just moved away from it

WHAT MADE YOUR BLOOD BOIL OR MADE YOU SNOOZE WHILE AT LAW SCHOOL? ANY HIDDEN GEMS WORTH TELLING?

I guess maybe I answered that in a sense that the inefficiencies of private practice I found very frustrating. Less so in law school.

In law school I guess what I would say, is that some of the theoretical discussions that teachers had, I found to be, not frustrating, but I didn't really see what the point was. I enjoyed constitutional law because it had some politics and history to it. I enjoyed criminal law because you had real life examples. I enjoyed the seminar courses I mentioned before. So I think that what frustrated me sometimes was a lot of the theoretical conversations and discussions around a particular article in the Code or something like that. I enjoyed much more the real examples.

DO YOU STILL SEE LAW ALL AROUND YOU? OR IS THAT A THING OF THE PAST?

You know my wife is a lawyer as well; we actually met in law school. We both graduated the same year. And people say to me, even today, that when they hear us talk sometimes, or when they hear us talk to our children, we don't realize it, but we talk to them like lawyers.

I think that as I've been more and more in the business world, I've done less of that, and sometimes I hear my wife talk to the kids and I'm like you're disputing semantics with them. I don't think you're making a point by arguing the exact word that was used (laughs). So yeah, you still come off as a lawyer.

"What it is all about: Holiday time with the fam in NYC"

"What it is all about: Holiday time with the fam in NYC"

YOU ARE AT COFFEEHOUSE SPEAKING TO A FIRST-YEAR LAW STUDENT. WHAT ADVICE WOULD YOU GIVE THEM?

I would tell them that they should explore all alternate possibilities because the standard path is always there, you can always come back to the standard path. So if you are willing to give up a year, or what have you, and if a law firm saw you decided to go work for an NGO half way around the world instead of applying in second year, they will find that very attractive and it creates a better person. A few years after you graduate there are other things that will come up in your life- I mean, I'm generalizing, but typically people will take on debt, they may have children, they'll have other personal responsibilities and so to challenge themselves to go outside is harder. So #trydifferentthings #nowisthemomenttotrydifferentthings

WHAT DOES A DAY IN THE LIFE OF MARVIN SHAhIN LOOK LIKE? GIVE US THE RUNDOWN.

I'm up before 6am- usually around 5:30. I sometimes workout in the morning- less so in the last couple of years. I will have a bite to eat, and then come into the office, usually for 8 or 8:15. I will have a look at a couple emails that may have come in overnight and attend meetings whether with construction or legal personnel to coordinate work that we might be doing on our next project. I will often end up in lunch meetings with landlords, developers, networks and contacts. I tend to be either completing certain internal documentation for approval processes for new restaurants or renewals for restaurants. I will tend to be mapping out work that I have to do over the next few months. I'll usually end up home at about 6 or 6:30 and have dinner with my family, which is really important to me. And sometimes end up working a bit more afterwards in the evening.

IF YOU WERE GIVEN THE BLESSING AND CURSE OF AN EXTRA HOUR EVERY DAY TO DO WHATEVER YOU WANTED, WHAT WOULD IT BE?

Probably exercise. Not look at emails and do something that would be good for my mind and good for my body

ANY REGRETS? (YEAH, WE ARE INTROSPECTIVE LIKE THAT).

It's not a regret but I think that one of the things that I would have probably tried really early in my career was to branch out on my own. Whether it's as a practitioner or in something completely different. Once you are an employee or an executive within an organization you get really used to the pay, the benefits. To strike out on your own, like I said, whether setting up your own firm or something completely different gets harder and harder with time. So, there's a part of me that wonders if I would have been happier had I done that? I mean it's never too late, but that's something I've thought about in the last five years.

THINKING BACK ON THE TRAJECTORY THAT YOU TOOK CAN YOU THINK OF ANY TIPS YOU WOULD GIVE TO SOMEONE WHO IS CURRENTLY THINKING OF PURSUING SOMETHING ALTERNATIVE BUT ISN'T SURE HOW TO GO ABOUT DOING THAT?

It doesn't hurt to ask. By that I mean, if there is something that you are interested in, knock on the door, send an email, make a phone call. What's the worst thing that can happen? They don't answer? You never get a reply? Or they say 'thanks but we're not looking for anything like that right now'. Because if you really want to try something different, eventually you will come across someone who is open to that different approach or willing to experiment- willing to take a risk. You might not earn a lot of money; you might find out very quickly you don't enjoy it but you'll never know, so now is the time to try.

DANIEL KING / From english literature to mcgill law to multi-faceted career path

Dan King is an "out-of-the box" thinker and one of a kind McGill Law grad. His career redefines what being a lawyer can look like and proves to us that ultimately, there are a ton of exciting post-law school career possibilities for those willing to explore.

Soon after his call to the Bar in Ontario, Dan began carving out a different kind of career for himself, the kind that makes answering the question "what do you do?" a little tricky. On a macro level Dan could be described as an Entrepreneur focused on building multiple streams of income. He speaks at conferences and corporate events, teaches at multiple universities, owns revenue-generating websites, advises and invests in public and private companies and does other, miscellaneous projects that interest him. We caught up with Dan on the phone just before a tennis match to find out more about his Lawfully Uncommon Career.

You can read more about Dan and contact him on his website

Dan after a meeting at the Centre for Social Innovation in Toronto 

Dan after a meeting at the Centre for Social Innovation in Toronto 

LET'S START WITH THE BASICS. DID YOU ALWAYS IMAGINE YOURSELF GOING TO LAW SCHOOL?

Yes. I like to tell the story from when I was growing up in Halifax, Nova Scotia. My friends and I would always go to the same Chinese restaurant and two days in a row I got a fortune cookie that said, "You will make a great lawyer". Everyone who knew me growing up told me to go to law school. It was something that they were absolutely convinced I should do because I was argumentative. I did not know much about what lawyers did prior to going to law school or even right up to working as a lawyer. But, I was nevertheless always convinced I would go to law school

WHAT MAKES YOUR CAREER LAWFULLY UNCOMMON?

A lot of "lawyering" is ultimately about coming up with reasons to say "no" to opportunities. Lawyers are remarkably good, through their training, at seeing and determining risk. Being an entrepreneur is often about pushing through risk, not necessarily ignoring it but knowing it's there and finding ways to push past it. So there is definitely a fundamental tension between law and entrepreneurship. A lawyer becoming an entrepreneur, it happens, but not that often. And it is even more rare early on in a lawyer's career. I graduated in 2011 and have been an entrepreneur full time since January 2015.

Doing entrepreneurship the way I am doing it, I don't think I have ever met another Canadian who would describe their career as I do: building multiple streams of income.

AT WHAT MOMENT DID YOU REALIZE THAT YOU WANTED TO DO LAW YOUR OWN WAY?

I have had four or five jobs since 2011. I started off articling at Gowlings in Toronto and I knew after three or four months that I was interested in becoming an entrepreneur, even though I had no clue exactly how I would do it. That intuition was confirmed when I worked on the deals from the Shark Tank and Dragon's Den TV shows before I began my career as a full time entrepreneur.

WHAT GOT YOUR JUICES FLOWING OR TICKLED YOUR FANCY WHILE AT LAW SCHOOL?

Business Associations. Business Associations and U.S. Constitutional law were the two courses that really excited me. I really enjoyed Janda's abstract and intuitive style of corporate law teaching. It was not "let's read every word of a case" but rather, "why does the law matter". And that has definitely influenced the way I now teach

Really emphasizing the "why" will make the law more memorable instead of memorizing case details.

Dan in law school 

Dan in law school 

WHAT MADE YOUR BLOOD BOIL OR MADE YOU SNOOZE WHILE AT LAW SCHOOL?

The need to cross every "T" and dot every "I".

I would say a bureaucratic educational system was not a good fit for me. I respect the skill set but it emphasized detail over creativity which applies not just the learning materials but also career paths post law school

DO YOU STILL SEE LAW ALL AROUND YOU?

I did while I was a practicing lawyer but now, my focus is on much different things. When I was learning law for the first time, absolutely, now much less so. It has faded into the background. It only returns if I'm reviewing a contract or deliberately decide to turn on my legal mind.

YOU ARE AT COFFEEHOUSE SPEAKING TO A FIRST YEAR STUDENT. WHAT ADVICE WOULD YOU GIVE THEM?

Do not settle for the first, most obvious career opportunity. Learn how to explore so you can compare opportunities.

WHAT DOES A DAY IN THE LIFE OF DANIEL KING LOOK LIKE?

Last week Wednesday I got on a flight to Ottawa for a two-hour client meeting in the morning. I flew back early afternoon and while in flight, I reviewed the contract to purchase a website. Then I spent a couple hours marking papers for the McGill law class I teach. After that, I had dinner with the founders of a startup that I advise. Often there is not a single hour spent at a desk in my days.

Dan enjoying a night out

Dan enjoying a night out

IF YOU WERE GIVEN THE BLESSING AND CURSE OF AN EXTRA HOUR EVERY DAY TO DO WHATEVER YOU WANTED, WHAT WOULD IT BE?

I would watch an hour of quality TV. HBO is like crack to me

ANY REGRETS? (YEAH, WE'RE INTROSPECTIVE LIKE THAT)

Had I had the courage to try what I am doing even earlier, that would have been awesome. Maybe even in Law School. I could have definitely done some of the things I do now in Law School. The earlier you start to experiment with new possibilities, the earlier you can collect useful data and respond to what the world and the market are telling you

FRÉDÉRIQUE LISSOIR / De grand bureau à entrepreneure ingénieuse

Frédérique est avocate et consultante d’affaires au sein de son cabinet, Propulsio Conseillers d’affaires 360° S.E.N.C.R.L.. Son associée et elle sont très présentes au sein de la communauté start-up montréalaise. Polyglotte et globe-trotter, Frédérique est passionnée par la créativité de ses clients et ne cesse de s’émerveiller devant le talent de sa génération. 

Vous pouvez rejoindre Frédérique @Propulsio360 sur Twitter, Facebook et Linkedin

ON DÉBUTE AVEC L'ESSENTIEL. AVIEZ-VOUS TOUJOURS EN TÊTE D'ÉTUDIER LE DROIT?

Absolument pas! Je croyais devenir journaliste dans une zone de guerre!

QUEL EST L'ÉLÉMENT "LÉGALEMENT INHABITUEL" DE VOTRE TRAVAIL ACTUEL?

Je suis au courant de toutes les nouvelles entreprises en démarrage #CoolStartUps. Ma clientèle a souvent le même âge que moi ou est même plus jeune!

QUEL A ÉTÉ LE MOMENT DÉCISIF OÙ VOUS AVEZ DÉCIDÉ DE CHANGER DE PARCOUS?

J’ai adoré mon expérience en grand bureau, mais je ne pouvais pas desservir la clientèle désirée à un taux compétitif et je n’étais surtout pas prête à choisir mon domaine de spécialité avec tant de sujets captivants. J’ai éventuellement décidé de faire le saut en devenant moi-même entrepreneure qui aide les entrepreneurs ce qui me demande de toucher à tous les domaines et en apprenant la dure vie d’une entreprise en démarrage en même temps que mes clients!

DANS QUELLE MESURE CETTE DÉCISION A-T-ELLE CHANGÉ VOTRE VIE?

J’ai dû apprendre à me faire confiance et à accepter que je ne pouvais pas tout contrôler. C’est difficile, au départ, d’apprendre continuellement sur le droit, l’administration, le monde des affaires, le marketing, etc… J’en sors grandie et super informée!

QU'EST-CE QUI A SOULEVÉ VOS PASSIONS OU SUSCITÉ VOTRE CURIOSITÉ PENDANT VOTRE PASSAGE EN DROIT? AVEZ-VOUS DE BONNES HISTOIRES À PARTAGER?

J’ai toujours beaucoup aimé les droits de la personne et j’ai toujours voulu changer le monde (eh, oui, très “quétaine”). Toutefois, je savais que j’étais attirée par le monde des affaires, ce qui rendait mes affiliations aux différents clubs étudiants assez hétéroclites…

IL Y A-T-IL DES ÉVÈNEMENTS QUI VOUS ONT MIS HORS DE VOUS OU QUI VOUS ONT PROFONDÉMENT ENNUYÉ PENDANT VOS ÉTUDES EN DROIT? AVEZ-VOUS DES PERLES QUI MÉRITENT D'ÊTRE RACONTÉES?

J’étais en échange à Sydney pendant la grève étudiante à Montréal, j’ai donc évité pas mal de remous. Toutefois, je crois que ce genre de tension a suscité un débat de société qui, pour le meilleur et pour le pire semble déjà s’être estompé. À suivre…

VOYEZ-VOUS LE DROIT PARTOUT AUTOUR DE VOUS? OU TROUVEZ-VOUS QU'IL APPARTIENT AU PASSÉ?

Quand on devient avocat, on a le réflexe de penser comme un juriste et il faut toujours voir cela comme une force. Bien qu’au quotidien je fasse plus de business à proprement parler, j’analyse toujours les situations avec un grain de sel et un scénario pessimiste. C’est parfois pas mal rabat-joie avec mes entrepreneurs qui tanguent davantage du côté rêveurs.

VOUS PARLEZ À UN ÉTUDIANT(E) DE PREMIÈRE ANNÉE, LORS D'UN COFFEE HOUSE. QUELS CONSEILS AVEZ-VOUS À LUI OFFRIR? PRÉPAREZ UNE RÉPONSE SOUS FORME DE TWEET. OUI, IL FAUDRA SE LIMITER À 140 CARACTÈRES ET HASHTAGS. (NOUS SOMMES DE LA GÉNÉRATION Y, CETTE RÉPONSE SE TROUVERA SUR L'INTERNET)

@1stYrStudent #FreeCoffeeHouse = way 2 go; learn the #law to #LivetoPractice not to #DieTrying.

DONNEZ-NOUS UN APERÇU D'UNE JOURNÉE DANS VOTRE VIE

5 :30 AM : Jogging

6 :30 AM : Hot Yoga

7 :30 AM : Regret d’avoir fait tant d’exercice (*souffrance*) et préparation pour le travail (Cafés)

8 :00 AM – 9 :00 AM : Avant les heures de bureau : Travail accompli

9 :01 AM - 17 :59  : Pendant les heures de bureau : On règle les urgences et on répond aux courriels

18:00 – 21 :00  Après les heures de bureau : Travail accompli (Thés)

21 :00 : Promenade des chiens qui boudent

11 :30 PM : Dodo; on recommence

SI VOUS-RECEVIEZ LA BÉNÉDICTION ET MALÉDICTION QU'EST D'AVOIR UNE HEURE SUPPLÉMENTAIRE PAR JOUR À UTILISER LIBREMENT, QU'EST-CE QUE VOUS VOUDRIEZ FAIRE?

Lire davantage sur les nouvelles start-ups, travailler sur des comités pour favoriser le financement pour l’entrepreneuriat, manger sainement, finalement faire le ménage du garage… Ça rentre dans une heure?!

AVEZ-VOUS DES REGRETS? (OUI, ON ESSAYE D'ÊTRE INTROSPECTIF ET PROFOND)

Avoir été intimidée par le droit. En arrivant à la faculté, j’avais 19 ans et je n’avais aucune idée du domaine ou de la spécialité que j’allais choisir alors que tous mes amis semblaient le savoir. Mon domaine m’a trouvé et c’est une passion à laquelle il faut céder, car votre pratique, ce sera votre vie. (Assez profond?!)

Emilie Wapnick / MULTIPOTENTIALITE - PUTTY LIKE

Emilie Wapnick is an author, career coach, artist, and community leader. She is the Founder and Creative Director at Puttylike.com, where she helps multipotentialities (people with many passions, skills, and creative pursuits) integrate all of their interests to create dynamic, fulfilling and fruitful careers and lives. Unable to settle on a single path, Emilie studied music, art, film production and law, graduating from the Law Faculty at McGill University in 2011.

Emilie has been featured in Fast Company, Forbes, The Financial Times, The Huffington Post and Lifehacker. Her TED talk, Why Some of Us Don't Have One True Calling has been viewed 3 million times and translated into 30 languages. Her forthcoming book, How to Be Everything, will be published by HarperCollins in Spring 2017.


Emilie at Le Cagibi

Emilie at Le Cagibi

LET'S START WITH THE BASICS. DID YOU ALWAYS IMAGINE YOURSELF GOING TO LAW SCHOOL?

No I did my undergrad in communications at Concordia and specialized in film production. In my last year, I took a communications law class which discussed copyright policy and defamation, but the professor ended up doing a lot of first year law stuff. I found it super interesting- it was a very different way of looking at the world. Prior to law school I was mostly involved in art-based subjects like film, music, design. I applied only to McGill Law because it was in Montreal, cheap tuition and there was no LSAT requirement.

WHAT MAKES YOUR CAREER LAWFULLY UNCOMMON?

My career is totally weird and hard to explain. But basically I am running a business where I help people, who have many interests and passions, make sense of them. I help people realize that you don't have to choose one thing, that you can find ways of integrating it all into your life. I do a lot of coaching, writing, speaking. On the ground level, I specialize in helping people develop business ideas. I meet them on Skype once a week, for five weeks. The goal is to have the person launch their site and business after the coaching. I help them brainstorm names, taglines, content, and products. I launched "Puttytribe" where we run group "huddles". Usually it involves around 10 people who talk about their projects and the places they are feeling stuck. There are now 350 people involved.

AT WHAT MOMENT DID YOU REALIZE YOU WANTED TO SWITCH GEARS?

Was there a light bulb moment? Yeah! In my last year of law school, I took a music policy class called the "Treble Cliff" - which Tina Piper and David Lametti were involved with- and the final project was to get into interdisciplinary groups, something that would challenge the mainstream music model. We pitched at an entrepreneurial competition at the business school and we made it to the finals. But the moment for me was when I was going through Treble Cliff and we had to choose a niche for our project and I realized that I've never had to pick, I've always been interested in many things. I've done freelance, had jobs here and there, and I've made it work. I wondered at the time if there were people out there experiencing a similar thing to me and who were succeeding at it.

Emilie with her Quebec Civil Code

Emilie with her Quebec Civil Code

HOW MUCH HAS THE SWITCH IN GEARS CHANGED YOUR LIFE?

Law made me a better writer, better at issue spotting, better at re-structuring arguments. Now, I run into contracts and know what to do with them. I had to register my trademark, which I navigated totally on my own. In law school, after a year and a half, I was able to take classes I was more interested in. I loved common law property with Piper, IP, criminal procedure, family law, and refugee law. It makes all the difference if you are actually interested in the course.

Professor Leckey once told our contracts class "Just because you're in law school, that doesn't mean you have to be a lawyer". At the time, I wasn't sure what he was trying to communicate, but it makes so much sense to me now. When you're in law school, law becomes your whole world, but you'll eventually burst out of that bubble and you'll see so clearly how many other options are available to you.

WHAT GOT YOUR JUICES FLOWING OR TICKLED YOUR FANCY WHILE IN LAW SCHOOL? ANY GOOD STORIES COME TO MIND?

Copyright policy got me through law school. My friend and I revived a student group called "Rethinking Intellectual Property Policy" (RIPP). It addressed User Rights and record label rights, which presented problems when entertainment lawyers came to the faculty. I realized that information should be widely available, but I learned to be a little more careful about where and when you voice your opinion on copyright law.

WHAT MADE YOUR BLOOD BOIL OR MADE YOU SNOOZE WHILE AT LAW SCHOOL? ANY HIDDEN GEMS WORTH TELLING?

Some of the opinions of people at law school made my blood boil. Pretentiousness and competitiveness and people taking themselves way too seriously was frustrating. In undergrad, I thought I was the only one who was too serious, and then in law school I was with people who took it to a whole new level. I thought it was all so silly!

DO YOU STILL SEE LAW ALL AROUND YOU? OR IS THAT A THING OF THE PAST?

At first, I saw things through a legal perspective. Seeing the world through the eyes of law is interesting but it’s definitely not the only way to see the world. When I graduated law school, I pulled away from that perspective a little. I still see it, but it is not my everything.

YOU ARE AT COFFEE HOUSE SPEAKING TO A FIRST YEAR LAW STUDENT. WHAT ADVICE WOULD YOU GIVE THEM?

If I were speaking to an overly-confident sutdent... well actually, I probably wouldn't talk to this person at all. I wouldn't have much to say! If I were talking to a nervous student though, I would say "I wish there were more people in law school who questioned the system and the degree like you do. Stick it out. Find the other people who don't fit in and who think that law school is a weird experience. Stick with them"

WHAT DOES A DAY IN THE LIFE OF EMILIE WAPNICK LOOK LIKE? GIVE US THE RUNDOWN

Probably not as exciting as you think. But, I live in Portland, Oregan, where it's green and beautiful and a lot warmer than where you are. I get up, do my morning routine, meditate, take the dog for a walk, and then hit one of the many coffee shops. I like to work from there because I get distracted working from home. It's too quiet. I like being around other people, but nothing too busy. Because I work alone and on my laptop, it's nice to be around people.

One of Emilies' many workspaces

One of Emilies' many workspaces

IF YOU WERE GIVEN THE BLESSING AND THE CURSE OF AN EXTRA HOUR EVERYDAY TO DO ANYTHING YOU WANTED, WHAT WOULD YOU DO?

Parkinson's law: "Work expands so as to fill the time available for its completion". The principle that the amount of work you have expands with the amount of time I have available. In theory, I could say I'd spend it writing or reading or spending time with my dog, but in reality, I think my current day would just expand to fill the space allotted.

ANY REGRETS? (YEAH, WE'RE INTROSPECTIVE LIKE THAT)

I definitely do not regret law school. There was a time where I questioned the degree but I always kept pushing and I'm glad I did. I hope I'm always a student. I feel like it's a healthy way of going through life and going through different phases.

THOMAS HAMILTON / From Bay Street to IBM's ROSS Intelligence

Check out Tom on Twitter @tjhammy, or view his LinkedIn profile here.


Thomas both summered and articled at the Toronto office of Dentons, and following articling received an offer to return as an associate in the corporate group in the fall of 2015. While articling in 2014, he had volunteered some time to help a friend of his by speaking to some of his co-workers about Big Law, who were involved in a really cool legal technology project. Their company was ROSS Intelligence, and they were working alongside IBM on a project which harnessed the power of artificial intelligence aimed at legal research.

As the company began to take off, they approached Thomas about delaying his start as an associate by a year to work with them in California. He fell in love with the job, and never went back. 

Tom is VP Strategic Partnerships for the ROSS Intelligence project, a legal research AI built on IBM's Watson.

Tom is VP Strategic Partnerships for the ROSS Intelligence project, a legal research AI built on IBM's Watson.

Let’s start with the basics. Did you always imagine yourself going to law school?

Nope. Growing up I had loved Orwell and wanted to be a writer. I was accepted into an arts high school across town. From there, my interest in society and morality continued to develop, and I became very focused on the idea of international development, like a lot of people in our generation. I think it was while studying the classics in Halifax that my interest in law began to form.

Law school ended up being a way for me to reconcile a lot of different interests I had in one setting [while ensuring that my older sister couldn't one up me by being the only lawyer in the family ;)]. From there, McGill was an obvious choice for its bi-juridical program and excellent reputation.

Also, ever since reading Barney's Version I had really wanted to live in Montreal.

What makes your career lawfully uncommon at ROSS Intelligence? Maybe give us a quick breakdown of what your role is there?

I'm VP Strategic Partnerships at ROSS Intelligence. I work hand in hand with our legal team to oversee all of the training of ROSS, while also working alongside our partner firms to ensure that ROSS is providing as much value as possible at all times to our end users.

I also work closely with the technical team as they continue to develop ROSS's capabilities (just wait till you see some of the stuff we'll be coming out with soon!).

It has been an enormous privilege to be directly involved in the development of artificial intelligence software which will both democratize and fundamentally alter how we interact with the law.

A ROSS Intelligence team photo (minus ROSS!)

A ROSS Intelligence team photo (minus ROSS!)

At what moment did you realize that you wanted to switch gears? At what moment did you realize that you wanted to do law your own way?

Dentons was an excellent firm to have articled with, and from the first day of summering to the last day of my articles, I received terrific mentorship from the lawyers in the Toronto office, and was exposed to interesting and varied work. There was no dramatic "ah-ha" moment for me, it was more that I was presented with an incredible opportunity to do work that was going to change the industry I had started in, and was fortunate enough to have the support I needed from my mentors at the firm, along with family and friends, to make the leap.

Were you always interested in start-ups, robotics and law? Or do you feel like you fell into it?

I hadn't expected to go into business, but once I started to study it as a way to gain useful skills for development work, I found myself very interested in it. From there, I think my interest in start-ups was just the next logical step, and a legal startup with my background makes a lot of sense.

Additionally, both my parents made career changes when I was young and left behind established positions to work as consultants out of our home, so from a young age I grew up around the concept of working for yourself.

What got your juices flowing or tickled your fancy while at law school? What made your blood boil or made you snooze while at law school?

I loved the bi-juridical program at McGill, as challenging as it may have made some of our 1L classes. :)

I think the exposure we had from the onset of our education to multiple judicial traditions - as well as additional legal traditions once I was able to branch out in more advanced classes, was a major differentiating factor for me while articling, and something which continues to help me to this day.

In terms of anyone's blood boiling, I very vividly remember being trained on legal research software in the computer lab and just being blown away that there wasn't a more efficient way to do it.

Tom's best friend from McGill Law (left), laughing and carefree. Tom (right) dreads the impending 1L moot.

Tom's best friend from McGill Law (left), laughing and carefree. Tom (right) dreads the impending 1L moot.

Do you see law all around you at Ross Intelligence? Does this differ from your previous role at Denton’s?

Yes to the first question, no to the second!

You are at a coffee house speaking to a first year law student. What advice would you give them? What advice would Ross, the Legal Robot, give them?

Thomas Hamilton's advice to 1L students: "Have fun, make friends, stay open minded and curious and try your best to get a good GPA."

ROSS's advice to 1L students: "Have fun, make friends, stay open minded and curious and try your best to get a good GPA."

What does a day in the life of Tom look like? What will a day in the life of ROSS, the Legal Robot, look like?

A day in the life of Tom is very busy, and full of fun challenges. It starts early, and ends late. I'm fortunate to work with an extremely talented and hard working group of individuals, who are every bit as excited by our mission to democratize the law as I am, which makes every day at work a blessing.

A day in the life of ROSS involves a whole lot of studying, followed by spurts of calmly and confidently providing very accurate results in very little time to attorneys all over the United States.

If you were given the blessing and curse of an extra hour every day to do whatever you wanted, what would it be?

Definitely reading.

Any regrets? (Yeah, we are retrospective like that).

In my career, zero.

While at McGill, I wish I had eaten substantially more Schwartz's.

Jess Salomon / Former UN War Crimes Lawyer turned Stand Up Comedian

@jess_salomon
http://jesssalomon.com/

Jess Salomon is a former UN war crimes lawyer turned stand up comic. The Montreal Metro has called her comedy “charming and intelligent”.

Jess’s festival credits include Just for Laugh’s OFFJFL and ZOOFEST, San Francisco Sketchfest, the Laughing Skull Festival, Boston Women in Comedy Festival, Cape Fear Comedy Festival, and the Ice Breakers Festival.

Other stuff! She’s recorded a TV special as part of the iChannel’s “No Kidding” series and in 2015 was a semi-finalist in SiriusXM’s Top Comic competition. This Spring she’ll be recording a gala for CBC at the Winnipeg Comedy Festival.

Also! She’s written and starred in three solo shows at the Montreal Fringe: Doing Good, Obsession, and IMO (In My Opinion), appeared on CBC’s George Stroumboulopoulos Tonight, on Sun News Network’s Straight Talk as a contributing pundit, and in major Canadian papers such as The Toronto Star, The Montreal Gazette and The National Post, as well as on CBC, CJAD, The Beat, and CHOM radio. Her writing has also appeared in VICE and The Beaverton and her stand up has been featured on SiriusXM’s Canada Laughs and CBC’s Laugh out Loud.

One last thing! When she’s not writing and performing Jess likes to check in with her old colleagues in The Hague. She enjoys hearing how sad the war criminals are without her observational wit and storytelling to keep them going. She believes they are jealous of her comedy audience and regret what they have done.

Jess hard at work. Photo Credit: Carrie MacPherson.

Jess hard at work. Photo Credit: Carrie MacPherson.

Let’s start with the basics. Did you always imagine yourself going to law school?

I didn’t. At a certain point during in my undergrad I decided I wanted to work in human rights. I figured it was lawyer or be a forensic scientist that has to exhume mass graves. My view of the world wasn’t very developed. I sincerely felt like those were my two options. I picked law.

What makes your current career "lawfully uncommon"?

Did you read the article in Reductress, “Woman uses law degree exclusively for Facebook arguments”? That’s me. That headline hit very close to home. I use law as a way to bully people online. It also loosely informs my stand up. And in the event that a joke I tell lands me in front of one of our human rights tribunals, I hope it helps me too.

At what moment did you realize that you wanted to switch gears?

There was a moment where I didn’t feel excited about working with the law. I loved the people I worked with and the environment that I was in. My work was connected to history and politics and I didn’t have to bill by the hour, minute, second. I just felt like I wanted to do something more creative and law felt limiting. I felt constrained by the sources of law and the writing too. It’s hard to imagine a field in which you have more creative freedom than stand up.

How much has this shift in gears changed your life?

I hang out in a lot of bars with guys in their 20’s … living that intern kind of life. Financially too.

What got your juices flowing or tickled your fancy while at law school? Any good stories come to mind?

My favourite part of law school was the moot court stuff. Also the coffee houses were lots of fun. Oh and club sandwich Fridays in the little cafeteria downstairs, I’m not sure if it still exists.

But I think the most hilarious thing happened in our first week. A guy in my class wrote a, I believe, satirical piece in the law school bulletin – the Quid Novi – that was sexually explicit and pretty misogynistic. People freaked out. It was hilarious in that who does that in their first week of law school? Everyone is terrified and this guy goes and writes this Andrew Dice Clay inspired thing in the school newsletter. People in the years above were so outraged that it bonded us together as a first year class.

I still see that guy from time to time. He’s a practicing lawyer. It all worked out.

When Jess got sworn into the bar with her grandmother.

When Jess got sworn into the bar with her grandmother.

What made your blood boil or made you snooze while at law school? Any hidden gems worth telling?

Anything involving procedure put me straight to sleep. A real gem was my constitutional law professor, Stephen Scott. We must have spent most of the year on stuff that happened pre-Charter. I think we spent one class on rights. We talked mostly about England. He was so entertaining even though I didn’t understand most of what he was talking about.  

Do you still see law all around you? Or is that a thing of the past?

I mostly see comedy around me. It’s the pre-dominant lens I have on the world now and I’m so happy about that.

You are at a coffee house speaking to a first-year law student. What advice would you give them? Please provide your answer in a tweet. Yes, that means 140 characters and hashtags. (We are millenNials, so keep in mind that this will make it to the world wide web.)

#FreeBooze #Canapes #AvoidLawyers #ThompsonHouseAfterParty #HookUpWithTheCopWhoIsAuditingCriminalLaw = #CoffeeHouseGameOnFleek

What does the day in the life of Jess look like? Give us the rundown.

Wake up late-ish, pull the cucumbers off my eyes. Catch up on social media and answer emails. Whaddup Haterz! Book shows. Write. Maybe gym. Pre-show panic-write. Do a show. Stay out late.

SO MUCH GLAMOUR.

Jess in her office. Photo Credit: Scott Mclean.

Jess in her office. Photo Credit: Scott Mclean.

If you were given the blessing and curse of an extra hour every day to do whatever you wanted, what would it be?

Just chill with my wife. I know, gross.

Any regrets? (Yeah, we are retrospective and deep like that).

Leaving law. No seriously. Forget everything I said.

Jason Chin / Environmental Lawyer turned Nature Guide in Malaysia


Let’s start with the basics. Did you always imagine yourself going to law school?

Imagine myself going to law school? Heck no… I never even imagined myself going to college… After high school, I worked for a bit and together with some friends, started a small guesthouse business in the Cameron Highlands. It was nothing serious. We bummed around a lot, partying, drinking, and having a whole lot of fun, while taking time off occasionally to travel around South East Asia.

My sister finished high school a couple of years later and I thought to myself that if there was anyone who would do well academically, it would be her. However, she decided that she wanted to get married and settle down so my parents turned their attention to me. I have to admit that I was enjoying the life I was living - free and easy, and not a care in the world; but being the elder child in the family, it was probably time to show some responsibility, so I enrolled into college.

That however, was not the beginning of an interest in law. In fact, some of the things I did back in college were pretty much illegal :D I dropped out of college just before my finals; making an excuse that it was just too stressful. In truth, it was the daily binge drinking that did me in. I returned to the Cameron Highlands where by friends had established the guesthouse into a thriving business so I took on a loose partnership with them and continued my binge drinking and partying. My family considered me a lost cause.

It was in my mid-20s when something clicked in my mostly-intoxicated mind. ‘What am I doing here? Is this right?’ I began to take a more philosophical approach to life and started reading works by Plato, Aristotle, Descarte, etc., but it was the novel Sophie’s World by Jostein Gaarder that got me hooked on all things philosophical. After having read it not once, but twice within the same week, I made my decision. I was going to enrol into… Nope… Wrong again… Not law school, but the Catholic missionary…

I applied for the Jesuit and Franciscan missionaries and received a reply as well as a visit from the Franciscan missionary a couple of weeks later. The priest was a friend of my dad’s and the aim of the visit was to deter rather than to convince me to commit myself fully to the order. I spent a couple of hours chatting with the priest, and to be honest, it was confusing rather than enlightening. ‘Why is the world so complex? Why is it that we have to bow to parental or peer pressure, or receive advice when none was sought in the first place? What is wrong with our social environment that even personal decisions are questioned?’

I took a couple of months to chew on the questions and finally decided that priesthood was too high a physical and emotional restraint on someone who still enjoyed drinking, partying, and company of the fairer sex. I guess this was the message that the priest wanted to convey to me during our conversation, but being a man of the cloth, he was probably a tad too subtle.

So, what was I to do now that my path to sainthood had been pulled from under my feet?:P Well, my curiosity as to how society functioned, as well as how our rules and regulations bound individuals within such a society was still at a peak, so it was off to law school.

[Urrgh… Now that is a long answer, and I’m only on the first question…]

Jason talking to plants.

Jason talking to plants.

What makes your current career "lawfully uncommon"? At what moment did you realize that you wanted to switch gears, away from "traditional" legal work?

Modern society seems to have this idea that if a person studies and qualifies as a lawyer, he or she will end up practising law (as an advocate, solicitors, barrister, etc), make tons of money, and drive around in a flashy car. Such a stereotype is not only reserved for lawyers, but any profession requiring a higher education and qualifications, e.g. doctors, engineers, accountants, economists, etc.

In my final year of law school, I did actually consider a career in corporate law. However, a part me of me just couldn’t get enough of analysing the different legal systems and how they work, or better yet, why they might or might not work within a given society. I guess this was my bane when I started my professional career as a legal advisor on environmental matters. I spent 5 years working within a legal system that was rife with loopholes, corrupt officials, and corporate leaders who used mafia-like tactics to get their way. The stress and frustrations finally took a toll on me so I decided to quit, and move on to something closer to my heart. Maybe, just maybe, I should have closed my eyes to some of the issues and carried on; but I guess that would give a totally new meaning to the idiom justice is blind.

Anyway, I spent a few years in France after giving up on the legal profession and returned to Malaysia in 2009 where I attended a training course and qualified as a licensed nature guide under the Ministry of Tourism and Culture of Malaysia. In terms of what our modern society perceives, my new career path would seem ‘lawfully uncommon’, but taken from an academic point of view; the study, understanding, and appreciation of our natural environment has a lot in common with how we live within a modern society. More so now that the world is facing a drastic change due to heavy industrialisation, globalisation, and the problems of climate change. Isn’t that how jurisprudence began in the first place? A study of people and their environs, people within a society, and people from different cultures and backgrounds. So, some might actually consider my switch to be a return to traditional legal work…

How much has this shift in gears changed your life?

Life is so much more meaningful and so much more relaxing these days. Being with nature is a wonder, and the experience can only be shared physically rather than in words. I can walk the same trail every day and nature will surprise me with a beautiful bloom, a skipping insect, a fluttering butterfly, the call of gibbons, the songs of birds, the whispers of the wind through the trees, or a cold shower, just to show me how alive and wonderful the world truly is. And best of all, I get to share it with my guests.

What got your juices flowing or tickled your fancy while at law school? Any good stories come to mind?

Hmmm… Was probably the little redhead Irish girl sitting next to me during group discussions…:P

Seriously though, my Jurisprudence lecturer popped into the Student Union Bar one evening and caught me passed out at the bar. ‘Looks like you passed the Bar before even finishing law school…’ he quipped. It became a joke among my friends, as I would spend time working on my assignments and papers at the bar where I could actually smoke and down a few pints. The library was just too clean and quiet…

What made your blood boil or made you snooze while at law school? Any hidden gems worth telling?

Boring lectures and lecturers, annoying first year students who thought you were a law compendium just because you could churn out an assignment in a few hours while downing pints of lager and playing pool at the bar, and of course… Exams! Who doesn’t hate exams!?! I guess we’ve all been through more or less the same things…

Jason with some guests... finally some people to talk to, he says!

Jason with some guests... finally some people to talk to, he says!

Do you still see law all around you? Or is that a thing of the past?

I guess it’s difficult to avoid the legal system as it has become a large part of our everyday lives. Kind of creeps me out sometimes to see the things that are regulated these days. From time to time, I still take a piece of legislation and run it through my mind. It’s more academic than for practical reasons. As I mentioned before, I tend to take a more philosophical approach to the system and how it affects the people. It keeps the brain active for when I’m in need of something deep and thoughtful.

You are at a coffee house (a weekly McGill cocktail hour) speaking to a first-year law student. What advice would you give them? Please provide your answer in a tweet. Yes, that means 140 characters and hashtags. (We are millenials, so keep in mind that this will make it to the world wide web.)

Haha… Though it would be nice to be a decade or so younger, I’m Gen X; more so in my thoughts and philosophies on life, so hashtags and Facebook are things that I have yet to subscribe to…

However, as a piece of advice for young budding lawyers, I would like to say that though the practise and application of laws is a major part one’s future career, one should not forget the importance of the theoretical nature of laws and the legal system. We should always question the validity as well as significance of laws and their consequences, or lack of, on society. Laws are supposedly created to safeguard the virtues of humanity as well as do good for society and the natural world, but what is legally right might not be morally correct, and vice versa; e.g. case of #cecilthelion

Times change, so must laws, and with that, so must the people… I guess I should learn to hashtag and Facebook…lol

What does the day in the life of Jason look like? Give us the rundown.

As I mentioned above, there is less stress and frustration in my life and I have more time to reflect on my past, present, and future. I guess most people who’ve joined me on a hike would probably say that I have one of the best jobs in the world. Surrounded by nature, even if it is for a few hours each day, is a truly zen experience, and I hope to be able to share the experience with some of you one of these day. Like I said, it’s hard to find the words to describe my current job… You’ll have to live it :D

Jason at his office des, lost in thoughts.

Jason at his office des, lost in thoughts.

If you were given the blessing and curse of an extra hour every day to do whatever you wanted, what would it be?

Wait… A whole additional hour just for me and no one else in the world? Like time would stand still for a whole hour for the rest of the world, and I could do anything I wanted!!!

Wow… I’d be able to get away with daylight robbery or even murder! Coooooool…

Seriously though, I’m getting a little too old to have such wild and crazy ideas. Am I able to at least share it with someone? Would love to spend more time with my wife. She’s the beacon that has helped me through some truly bad times in my life. A true angel, and a loving companion. She makes my life whole but sadly, all life comes to an end, so an extra hour a day would be wonderful if we could share it together.

Any regrets? (Yeah, we are retrospective and deep like that).

I tend not to delve on my past too much these days. Life is too short to think about what might have been. Quitting the legal profession might seem like I have turned my back and surrendered the fate of the world to greed and corruption. But where the world in general is concerned, we’re no heroes, much as we’d like to be. The world is shared by all humans and it is up to each and every one of us to do our part. No single person, no single organisation, no single country, can save us unless we all decide to sacrifice a little something for the good of the planet and its people. As to what that little sacrifice is, I guess it’s up to each individual person. I’ll try to do my part to make life a wonderful experience for my loved ones as well as the people around me; and in the process, hopefully not to do too much harm to the world.

Ian Philp / Director of Partnerships, Advanced Energy Centre at MaRS Discovery District


A major innovation and commercialization hub in Toronto, the MaRS Discovery District is a public-private partnership working to unite industry, utilities and government to consolidate and extend Canada’s early lead in next-generation energy technologies by capturing new domestic markets and transforming local successes into international market opportunities. 

Previously, Ian worked with a boutique UK-based investment bank making targeted energy efficiency investments in developing Asia, and as an international trade lawyer defending Canada’s renewable energy procurement programs under the NAFTA. Ian also spent four years as a UN legal and political advisor in the Middle East. From 2005-2007, Ian was part of the UN’s humanitarian relief effort in Iraq, and advised the Iraqi and Kurdish governments on post-conflict legal reconstruction as part of a Baghdad-based legal team.

Ian was named a Future Energy Leader by the World Energy Council, is an Atlantic Council Emerging Leaders in Environment & Energy Policy (ELEEP) Fellow, and was a 2011-12 Action Canada Fellow. Alongside his McGill Law degree, he holds an honours degree in international relations and economics, and a MBA with a specialization in energy finance.

You can read more about Ian here.


Let’s start with the basics. Did you always imagine yourself going to law school?

No, it was something that I came to.  I was always interested in history and politics, and after I finished my undergraduate degree it was a natural next step.

What makes your current career "lawfully uncommon"?

I’ve been fortunate enough to have two “lawfully uncommon” career paths.  The first was working for the UN doing legal reconstruction work in post-conflict countries.  I started in Lebanon and Yemen, and then ended up in Iraq after the war as part of a UN legal team advising the Iraqi Parliament as they drafted new laws and revised Saddam–era legislation.  When I returned to Canada, I worked as an international trade litigator for the Department of Foreign Affairs, did a MBA, and then transitioned to the MaRS Discovery District where I help run a centre that connects innovative Canadian cleantech start-ups with global markets.

At what moment did you realize that you wanted to switch gears?

One experience I had while working in Iraq really changed me.  One of the pieces of legislation we were asked to advise on in Iraq their Hydrocarbon Law.  I didn’t know much about the energy sector, so I started reading up on it and quickly discovered the importance of the link between energy and climate change.  The more I read, the more urgency I felt and the more I realized that climate change will be a defining challenge of our generation.  This chance discovery led to me deciding to re-focus my career on the climate challenge, in particular through helping develop the technologies that will help us transition to a low-carbon economy.

Ian about to board a bush plane in Labrador.

Ian about to board a bush plane in Labrador.

How much has this shift in gears changed your life?

Enormously!  It took hard work, a MBA, and a lot of legwork, networking and persistence, but in the end I succeeded in shifting gears.  I’m passionate about the work I do – I could never have expected I’d end up here when I started law school, but it fits me really well.

What got your juices flowing or tickled your fancy while at law school? Any good stories come to mind?

One of my favourite extracurriculars while at law school was anchoring the radio show “Legalese” on McGill Campus Radio.  Most of our shows were focussed on breaking down and explaining legal issues for a general audience.  The challenge of explaining law in plain language was a skill I was glad to have the chance to develop – and besides, it’s fun to be on the radio!

Do you still see law all around you? Or is that a thing of the past?

My work at MaRS isn’t explicitly legal, but my legal training comes in handy every day.  Even small things like understanding the constitutional division of powers, the basic principles of contract law, or the differences between legislation and regulation has been a really helpful and have made me more effective at what I do.

You are at a coffee house speaking to a first-year law student. What advice would you give them? Please provide your answer in a tweet. Yes, that means 140 characters and hashtags. (We are millennials, so keep in mind that this will make it to the world wide web.)

Law opens far more doors than you can see now, but you’ll have to blaze the path to the best ones on your own. Follow your internal compass and keep exploring. #law #followyourpassion

What does the day in the life of Ian look like? Give us the rundown.

It’s incredibly varied – a regular day could include helping start-ups understand market opportunities in other countries, brokering partnership agreements with corporate partners and utilities who want to work with us, informing government on about opportunities for Canadian energy innovation, or speaking in public forums to raise the profile of the cleantech sector as a whole.

If you were given the blessing and curse of an extra hour every day to do whatever you wanted, what would it be?

I’d read more!  Take advantage of the flexibility you have in law school and use the time you have to read up on subjects you’re interested in – you never know where it will lead!