Tony Hoffmann / Behind the (Legal) Scenes of the Toronto Stock Exchange

Tony is Senior Legal Counsel at TMX Group, which he joined when the Canadian Depository for Securities (CDS, where he started in 2005) was acquired by TMX, the company that runs the Toronto Stock Exchange and several other financial services markets and systems. As one of several in-house counsel to TMX and CDS he is a legal jack-of-all-trades, which is a good thing because, since CDS holds $5 trillion in securities, its systems process $500 billion dollars’ worth of securities trades a day, and CDS is also a financial data vendor, you have to be a good plumber. In his role, Tony provides counsel to management relating to a variety of legal domains, including securities law and regulation, outsourcing and technology law, intellectual property law, regulatory relations, and the arcana of payment clearing and settlement law.

Tony’s interests beyond law include rock climbing, indoor skydiving, a semi-professional photography gig, carpentry, and waiting for the bottom to drop out of the Habs’ season.

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

Tony and his grandfather: William R. Eakin, McGill Law ‘34, Chairman of the McGill Board of Governors, ‘76-‘78

Tony and his grandfather: William R. Eakin, McGill Law ‘34, Chairman of the McGill Board of Governors, ‘76-‘78

No, I didn’t, but I suppose it was kind of inevitable that I ended up in law; my grandfather and father both graduated from McGill Law - in ’34 and ’75, respectively - so I guess it might be something like a family business. My undergraduate degree was in human (as opposed to rocks) geography, because it was the major with the broadest scope and world view I could find. I’d intended to find my way into the financial world, but 1998 wasn’t a banner year economically, so I decided to apply to McGill Law. All I remember from those days is that a single field of study wasn’t for me – my curiosity always got the better of me. That peripatetic mentality is still there; it’s why I end up diving down Wikipedia rabbit-holes all the time!

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

Well, for starters, I was never actually in BigLaw, so the journey to my uncommon career was a short one! I articled at the Investment Funds Institute of Canada, and I started on September 10th, 2001, so the days that followed were an entirely new education for me. I was skeptical, right from the start, whether private practice would be right for me, so my time at IFIC, then a contract position with the Uniform Law Conference of Canada, then completion of my LLM at McGill, then to CDS and TMX, was a something of an oddity in and of itself. It was certainly not as straight-forward as summering and articling at a firm, returning as an associate, and going into private practice, but for all its uncertainty, I don’t think I would do it differently.

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

I was the guy who sat at the back of the class lobbing questions at the teacher, because that’s how I learn best, so when a professor was willing and able to engage with those questions, it made even the driest subject interesting. I was, and am, fascinated by the intersection of law, business, and society, and the subjects and professors that managed to integrate this cross-pollination, and involved serious mental gymnastics, were what I enjoyed most.  

I was also the production manager for Skit-Nite three years running, which was both exhausting and a bucket-load of fun.

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

Tony at his graduation from McGill Law. 

Tony at his graduation from McGill Law. 

Preconceptions, of whatever sort, when based on pure ignorance or disinterest, drove me, and still drive me, absolutely bananas. The most important prerequisite to learning, both in law and in life, is to have an open mind. I’m also reasonably sure I slept through most of the courses which were, at that time, called JICP and Admin Pro.

Do you still see law all around you?

I do. I firmly believe that, whether people admit it or not, law informs life, and life should inform law. It’s when life and law fall out of sync that the legal system can turn from good to bad, and part of what I do is find creative ways to untangle the legal hairball in a way that makes sense to the people whom I advise.

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

Do you want me to write a book? Probably not, so before I hit the bar in earnest, I’d say this: don’t focus so much on legal theory that you lose sight of the larger world outside the walls of the Faculty. The material that you are asked to absorb in law school is of lesser import, in the long-run, than learning how to think critically and analytically about the problems that you will be asked to solve. Thinking itself is going to be your trade, so concentrate on developing that muscle and it will serve you well, whether you actually practice law or forge a different path.

 

 

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

My day starts whenever my son decides he wants to wake up. During business hours, though, my day can best be described as a semi-chaotic series of meetings, reading, writing, and solving problems big and small for the people that I work with and for. I’m fortunate that my lawfully uncommon position also allows me to get home for my kid’s bath-time, which is my favourite time of day.

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

I think I would spend it climbing rocks, because the mental and physical challenge is such that your whole consciousness is focussed on solving the puzzle in front of you, and everything else falls away. It’s quasi-meditative for me, immensely calming.

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

It’s not a problem for McGill’s law students anymore, but I was in the last class in the National Program, which allowed one to choose whether to complete only one of either the BCL or LLB. I chose to end with only my LLB, which makes working in Quebec, where I was born, much more difficult. All else being equal, I regret not completing both degrees!

Julia Hanigsberg / Lawyer to Kids Healthcare Champion

Julia Hanigsberg joined Holland Bloorview Kids Rehabilitation Hospital as its President and CEO on January 12, 2015. Holland Bloorview is Canada’s largest paediatric rehabilitation hospital and each year serves close to 8000 children and youth with disabilities and complex medical needs. Holland Bloorview is an academic hospital fully affiliated with the University of Toronto and carries out its academic mission through the Bloorview Research Institute (a Research InfoSource Top 40)  and the Teaching and Learning Institute.

Julia with a patient at Holland Bloorview Kids Rehabilitation. 

Julia with a patient at Holland Bloorview Kids Rehabilitation. 

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

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Definitely not! I didn’t have any lawyers in my family or in the circle of family friends unlike many of my classmates. I applied to graduate school and law school and decided on law school out of a sense of pragmatism. The real surprise was in first year when I realized I loved it. Over the course of my four years in the National Program (as it was then called) I took classes in both French and English, mooted competitively (Laskin), was Editor in Chief of the Law Journal, worked as a research assistant for a professor – all sorts of great experiences with great intellectual depth and the deepest friendships lasting until this day.

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

As close as I came to “big law” were summers at Ogilvie Renault (as it then was prior to merger to become Norton Rose) and McCarthy Tetrault, and a couple of months of articling at McCarthy’s in Ottawa. These were fantastic experiences where I learned from great lawyers and my peers. I clerked at the Supreme Court of Canada in 1992-93 (for Justice Peter Cory) which inspired me to apply to graduate school. I spent 3 years at Columbia Law School before moving to Toronto.

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

I loved my charter courses – remember I started law school in 1987 so the Charter was still in its early days! I was really intrigued by different critical approaches to law that at that time felt still pretty new: feminist legal theory, critical legal theory and critical race theory.

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

Not sure I want to incriminate myself but “lives in being plus 21 years” is all I’ve retained from common law property (and not sure I ever really understood what that meant).

Do you still see law all around you?

I do. At Holland Bloorview Kids Rehabilitation hospital we not only provide services, treatments and technology for kids with medical complexity, disability and complex rehabilitation needs, but we see ourselves as drivers of social change.  Law and public policy are an important part of eradicating the stigma that children and youth with disability face every day.

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

Be curious. Your legal training is part of this great toolbox you will take with you down many possible career paths. Learn about as much as you can on your way. And don’t hesitate to take on new opportunities and new responsibilities especially ones where there are big problems – that’s where the most interesting work happens.

Julia with a patient (who happens to be a Raptors fan!)

Julia with a patient (who happens to be a Raptors fan!)

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

There is no typical day. I’m really fortunate because as the CEO of Holland Bloorview, an amazing children’s hospital in Toronto, I work with an incredibly accomplished and multidisciplinary team. I love greeting new employees at the beginning of their orientation and talking about our vision of enabling the most healthy and meaningful futures for all children, youth and families.

As much as possible I talk to children and youth who we serve and their parents directly – they give me the greatest insights into what we are doing right and where we have opportunities to make more impact. I love spending time with the scientists in the research institute at Holland Bloorview because their work gives me insight into the future of care and inspires me keep working to get them the resources they need.

I’m often giving media interviews on new initiatives, working with CEOs of other hospitals or partners in social or children’s services to build out solutions for more seamless care and greater access to what kids and their families need, and I am frequently talking to government decision-makers. I spend a lot of time with funders of all kinds, donors, foundations and other community supporters to champion our work and to seek support and resources for all of the work our team does every day.

Because we are a kid’s hospital we like to have a fair amount of fun – funny hats, slab cake or fruit punch anyone?! -- which I document on Twitter and Instagram!

I’ve got some volunteer passions as well including advancing girls in STEM (science, technology, engineering and math).

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 spend more time with my family.  I’ve got a husband and 3 kids who all have their own busy lives and I’m so lucky that when my dad retired my parents moved to Toronto to be close to me and my family. More time with them would be a precious gift.

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

I shouldn’t have stopped taking math. Seriously! So much of the work we do today requires data analytics, modelling, statistical analysis – I should have had more self-confidence as a young woman in my math abilities and not given up as soon as it stopped being a required course. And I’m still planning to learn some rudimentary coding skills so I can have a better understanding of the technology that impacts every part of our life.

Julia and her team wearing capes at the inaugural year of their annual fundraiser Capes for Kids

Julia and her team wearing capes at the inaugural year of their annual fundraiser Capes for Kids

Nicholas Caivano / International Human Rights Lawyer

Nicholas Caivano is an international human rights lawyer and policy analyst with the Canadian HIV/AIDS Legal Network, working to advance the health and human rights of marginalized, high-risk groups. He monitors human rights violations in Canada and advocates for a rights-respecting Canadian foreign policy. He articled at Amnesty International Canada and has worked for the United Nations in Geneva and Human Rights Watch in New York.

Nicholas interning at the UN. 

Nicholas interning at the UN. 

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

I did, since fairly early on, probably starting right after high school. I started thinking about it seriously during my undergrad (in finance – which seems to surprise people). I was doing research for a small NGO on international financial institutions and the impact on odious debt on international development, and that started it. I didn't think I could make a career out of it it then, but figured law school would provide some backup options if NGO work didn't pan out.

Nicholas on vacation, taking some downtime in Portland, Oregon.

Nicholas on vacation, taking some downtime in Portland, Oregon.

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

I don’t see my career as all that uncommon. I think lots of people get into human rights work but not as many get to do it out of the gate.

My volunteer work with NGOs helped me land an internship at Human Rights Watch after 1L and to work with some of amazing people – and that remains one of the most transformational experiences of my life. I discovered the whole realm of international human rights law at HRW, and even though I wanted to pursue that, I wasn’t sure the market would absorb me right away. I did OCIs and summered at one of the big corporate law firms, but decided to turn down articles at the firm to look for something in the human rights space, which was always the game plan.

I was offered a position at Amnesty International beginning a year after graduation, so I had some time “off” between law school and articles. I used that time to prepare for Amnesty by writing a few academic articles and doing both volunteer and consulting work for OHCHR, a legal clinic, an NGO, and a few professors.

In retrospect, turning down an articling position at the firm was a risk but I’m glad I went for it.

Nicholas participating in a protest to free Raif Badawi while articling at Amnesty Int’l.

Nicholas participating in a protest to free Raif Badawi while articling at Amnesty Int’l.

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

Research work with some great professors; meeting inspirational people in the legal and NGO space; kicking it in Montreal. Anything outside the classroom really.

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

The legal job market tends to perpetuate a narrow definition of success that can spread to law students, so that made me snooze. There isn’t a big focus placed on encouraging law students to spend time thinking about what they actually want to do on a day-to-day basis, and the result is that a lot of people go into law and find themselves doing stuff they don’t really want to do. But with a legal career there’s a lot of opportunity to find work that you would engage in willingly because it’s meaningful and energizing. 

Do you still see law all around you?

I do, although law is only one tool to improve human rights outcomes. A legal victory can be one part of the picture, but there may be more strategic ways to get the results you want.

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

Question the status quo. You don’t have to do what everybody else is doing. You need to create a life for yourself on your own terms.

This is not the moment to be risk averse. Many law students are in their twenties and free from the major obligations they'll have later on in life. Now is the time to go for it.

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

I’m what you might call a "human rights generalist" at the Legal Network, an organization with a really broad mandate across a range of issues – so there really is no average day, and I might be working on anything from drug policy, to the rights of sex workers, to how international trade deals impact public health.

Nicholas' workspace complete with dinosaurs and hot wheels.

Nicholas' workspace complete with dinosaurs and hot wheels.

I’ll usually start by doing the most intense research and drafting for submissions to the government or international bodies in the morning—right now I’m participating in Canada’s consultation on the renegotiation of NAFTA. I’m also preparing an oral statement to deliver at the United Nations in Geneva in a few weeks to advocate for the decriminalization of all drugs for personal use as part of the Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination’s review of Canada. I’m in constant correspondence with other NGOs and human rights lawyers in Canada, and might jump on one or more calls to touch base on whatever we’re working on.

 

 

 

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

I think I’d try to go on the offence—to focus and zero in on something I’ve been putting off. Or maybe I’d do nothing. It's a good idea to cultivate slack and empty space in your schedule—because no one will give it to you.

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

I regret putting my laptop in the trunk of my friend’s car a week before finals in my last semester of law school while we dove into a bar for a post-library nightcap. You can guess what happened next. Still stings.

Stephanie Kyoko McKinnon / From Paul Weiss to Vice Media

Stephanie is the Vice President, Mergers & Acquisitions, Legal for Vice Media in Brooklyn. New York.  She manages legal for all of VICE's strategic corporate projects, including international expansion, joint ventures, market entry, investments, equity raises and acquisitions.  Recent projects include joint ventures in the Middle East, India and Africa and a $450 million investment by TPG in VICE.  She's very proud of VICE's content, even if content creation is not really her area of expertise.

Stephanie is very far from her hometown of Camrose, Alberta.  She graduated from Simon Fraser University and will sometimes tell Americans that she's from Vancouver, unless they, too, are big hockey fans and could find Edmonton on a map.  She was an adventure guide in the Rockies prior to law school and she still spends all her free time adventuring in new places.  She likes to pretend she's a pretty good travel photographer.  Her Mom and her dog believe her.

Stephanie outside of the Vice office.

Stephanie outside of the Vice office.

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

Definitely not.  4-year-old me wanted to be an artist and 18-year-old me wanted to be a surgeon.  Most of my extended family had been telling me I should be a lawyer my whole life, so when I told my brother I wanted to go to law school, he laughed and laughed.

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

I was a mid-level associate at Paul Weiss and I was just starting to look to leave.  Some former associates had told me to start looking before I really wanted to leave because it could take ages.  I asked a Paul Weiss partner for help and he set up a few introductions so I could meet people in the sports and media industries, since big law lawyers typically go in-house through people they know.  I also set up a daily alert for Glassdoor job postings for positions in the sports and media industries.  I responded to a job posting for a sports-focused digital media startup and I got the job, which is not typically how big law lawyers go in-house.  

Then a year and half later, I was looking to move again and a partner that I had worked for at Paul Weiss, who had left Paul Weiss to become Co-President of VICE, asked if I would come to VICE.  I jumped at the chance and haven't looked back.

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

Law school is a wonderful opportunity to be surrounded by other intelligent, curious, and interesting people who are willing to share their thoughts and experiences and opinions with you.  The people that I met at law school were easily the best part of going to law school.

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

I had one interaction with a professor at the faculty who told me that he didn't read part of my final exam but it didn't matter because I wasn't in the running for the gold medal anyway and I shouldn't bother contesting the grade because professors generally defer to other professors unless the grade is really off.  That drove me nuts.

Stephanie at her graduation.

Stephanie at her graduation.

Do you still see law all around you?

I don't think I've ever seen law all around me, which maybe means I was doing law school wrong.  It is so much more interesting (to me) to see people and how people, in practice, handle particular situations regardless of what the law says they should, or could, do.

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

Enjoy yourself.  This is the least amount of stress you're going to have in your whole career.

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

My work is deal-related, so sometimes I'll end up in all-day negotiations (sometimes in a foreign country).  When I'm not spending all my time closing a particular deal, I tend to have a few in earlier stages and my day can vary a bit more.  

In a typical day, I try to exercise in the morning before work.  Then I go to the Williamsburg office (or ferry to the DUMBO one).  

First, I try to triage the emails that have come in overnight from Asia and Europe over coffee and respond to anything that needs immediate attention.  

Depending on my meetings and calls for the day, I may or may not have a solid block of time to focus on larger tasks.  If I don't have a few hours to concentrate in between meetings, I'll try to knock out shorter documents or anything that needs input from others during the day.  I tend to end up reviewing long drafts at home after work or over the weekend.  

Stephanie with her camera while travelling in Krakow, Poland.

Stephanie with her camera while travelling in Krakow, Poland.

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

If there were no consequences and I didn't have any work, I would watch an hour of escapist TV and eat chips.

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

Never.  If I wanted to do something else or be someone else, I would.  It's never too late.

Keith Serry / Consultant and social entrepreneur

Keith Serry likes to introduce himself as, in order of importance, a father, husband, lawyer, communicator and entrepreneur.  After a few years as a litigator and general counsel for a charity, Keith returned to his career in consulting in 2014.  His company, Conseil Keith Serry Inc., supports innovators in both for and not-for profit sectors who are trying to improve their bottom lines and get their messages heard.  In addition to his own company, Keith has founded/co-founded several NGOs, including CJAM (the Montreal Artists' Legal Clinic) and, most recently, The Fact Project. 

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

In a word, nope.

I guess part of going to law school at 36 (or changing careers that “late” in life) adds plenty of unexpected to the mix. I was really fortunate to get the opportunity to go to McGill at a point in my life where a transition was necessary. I had just moved to Montreal to be with my then girlfriend (now my wife) and was faced with the challenge of “what’s next”. To move from Ottawa to Montreal I had shut down my business (I was a public relations and corporate communications consultant) and try to restart in a new city, in a new language and – given that PR is often a business based on your contacts  – with an empty rolodex. 

To a certain extent, I had always thought about a legal education, but it never would have happened had this transitional opportunity not presented itself. (Oh, and I seriously considered doing a PhD in music cognition in Daniel Levitin’s lab instead, but I guess that’s a anecdote for another interview)

What makes your career lawfully uncommon?

My career is lawfully uncommon because I’m lucky enough to get to pick my spots. My consulting company (Conseil Keith Serry Inc. where I do government relations/regulatory/sundry strategic consulting) has sufficient revenue that I’m able to chose my legal clients and pro-bono engagements on a “do I care about this?” basis instead of a “do I need this to pay the rent?”  basis. I also have a partner with a good career which allows our family the financial security for me to take risks.  Anyone who doesn’t acknowledge the role good fortune played in their success is not to be trusted.

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?

There are two answers to this question. The first is “within 24 hours of starting as a summer student at my first law firm”. The second is more subtle.

Like many law students I spent a lot of time and energy in the course au stages process, suspicious that big law life might not be for me but not wanting to “knock it until I tried it”. At my first day walking into my downtown office, I was hit with a “this isn’t you” feeling. It wasn’t a knock on anyone there, just that elusive “fit” problem.

I ended up doing my stage and my first few years of practice at a smaller firm. At IMK I was surrounded by some of the smartest, friendliest, most professional lawyers in the business. I felt fortunate to work there and was still bummed that it wasn’t a great fit: I didn’t see enough of my family, the work was intellectually stimulating but not necessarily socially rewarding and I had a tough time adjusting to litigation culture.

I moved on to a GC role in a non-profit for a year and ended up (nearly 10 years after I’d left consulting) back, in some ways where I started and in many ways where I belong.

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

I am a social animal to a fault. Law school was fantastic because I was surrounded by dozens of smart, socially-engaged, articulate people. Interacting with them, learning from them and being inspired by them was a treasure.

Some of the profs were pretty good, too. Oh, and law firms that brought Schwatz’s to Coffeehouse.

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

My blood doesn’t boil very easily, but, I think people should be reminded of how fortunate they are. I grew up with very little and, in my 20s, wouldn’t have conceived of a law school education as a possibility. Ambition is learned and taught. If you’re the typical law school student, you’re there in large part not only because of the work you put in, but also as the product of everyone who helped you get there; everyone who contributed financially or socially to your ability to conceive of yourself as talented/smart/hard working enough to go to and complete that education. When you go on to whatever your legal education grants you, spare some thought for that good fortune and act/live/spend accordingly.

Do you still see law all around you?

I’m tempted to pour one out for Mary Tyler Moore here.

Sure, but not in the way I did in law school. When you’re studying you are intensively thinking about law – particularly written law – and the strands that it weaves into everything. My life and career are more frequently spent thinking about what I guess was called “legal pluralism” in law school: how rule-based social interactions are and how much or how little we can predict the behaviour of others based on those rules.

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.

@keithserry Play it right and these will be some of the most rewarding years of your career, but don’t worry. No need 4 answers yet #trusttheprocess

What is the day in the life of Keith Serry look like?

Today’s a Monday and my schedule looks like this (it’s not typical, but few are):

  • 5:00 (ugh) get up
  • 5:10 Espresso
  • 5:30 Cab from home to train station
  • 6:10 Train departs for Ottawa
  • 6:10-8:20 On the train, review: drafts of correspondence from a client CEO regarding a funding proposal; power point deck that will be delivered by a client later that day to government officials; and, comments made by colleagues on a presentation I’ve developed for a new NGO (The Fact Project, an organization dedicated to the promotion and defense of fact-based public discourse); and reply to email regarding a talk about music publishing and royalties I gave on Saturday for CJAM (the Montreal Artists Legal Clinic) at Pop Montreal’s music business workshop.
  • 8:45 Hotel check in. Room is ready early (score!)
  • 9:00 Walk to first meeting of the day at the offices a government relations firm. Meet of one of my clients there (“A” is the Chief Commercial Officer of a biotechnology company) to prepare for the presentations A will give to government officials throughout the day.
  • 11:00 Meeting at the Ministry of Finance. A’s presentation goes swimmingly.
  • 12:00 Lunch at the Whalesbone. Great chowder.
  • 14:00 Meeting at the PMO. Run into Mathieu Bouchard (the Prime Minister’s chief QC lieutenant, and one of my former bosses at IMK) while waiting in the lobby.
  • 15:00 Meeting at the Ministry of Innovation Science and Economic Development.
  • 16:00 Back to the hotel. Reach out to members of the Fact Project’s Ottawa organizing committee (including McGill law alumni David Groves) about our upcoming Ottawa launch meeting. Make arrangements to have coffee with him tomorrow.
  • 17:30 Beers with A and the head of the Canadian Stem Cell Foundation.  I’m concentrating on the conversation despite the fact that the TSN ticker is announcing that my favourite hockey team (the Ottawa Senators) has traded a hot young prospect for one of my least favourite hockey players (Alex Burrows).
  • 18:30 Dinner with A at North and Navy. Debrief the day and plan tomorrow.
  • 20:30 Back to the hotel, watch the Sens get pounded by Tampa. Facetime tuck ins back home. Do physio (wrecked my shoulder in the gym last summer and the reduced physical activity has made me a little crazy). Try to read a few pages of Tim Wu’s The Attention Merchants before.
  • 23:00 Sleep. 
Photo of Keith from his law schools days. Group shot of his Laskin Moot team. Keith says his team mates are all super heroes, as they now include, from the left, Owen Ripley, now Chief of Staff to the Deputy Minister of Heritage, Stephanie Bachand, now Deputy Director of Human Rights and Indigenous Affairs Policy at Global Affairs Canada and Palma Paciocco, now an Assistant Professor at Osgoode Hall.

Photo of Keith from his law schools days. Group shot of his Laskin Moot team. Keith says his team mates are all super heroes, as they now include, from the left, Owen Ripley, now Chief of Staff to the Deputy Minister of Heritage, Stephanie Bachand, now Deputy Director of Human Rights and Indigenous Affairs Policy at Global Affairs Canada and Palma Paciocco, now an Assistant Professor at Osgoode Hall.

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

If I was given the hour conditionally in exchange for a guarantee that I used it for physical fitness (yoga, gym work, bike riding) I would accept it gratefully.

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

That’s broad.

Career wise, not many. Situations I have regretted usually revolve around me taking the easy, obvious opportunity instead of working harder to demand/chase the thing I really want.

Maude-Isabelle Delagrave / Talent Agent, Executive Producer & Lawyer

Maude-Isabelle is a talent agent, executive producer and lawyer specialized in the cultural sector and the entertainment industry. She answers questions related to specific needs in intellectual property, business and entertainment law. She also offers strategic counselling on a complete and adapted line of legal needs for individuals, established and growing enterprises in the following sectors: television and film; new medias; theatre, humour and live performances; publishing and radio; and advertising and merchandising. 

© Julie Perreault

© Julie Perreault


Let’s start with the basics. Did you always imagine yourself going to law school? Yes. And I also wanted to study Film Production at Concordia before doing so.

What did the journey from big law to your lawfully uncommon career look like? Very natural. Law was always meant to be a tool to help me do what I wanted that is to accompany creators, writers, scriptwriters, directors and producers.

What got your juices flowing or tickled your fancy while at law school? The social and historical aspects of law making. Nicholas Kasirer was my favorite teacher.

What made your blood boil or made you snooze while at law school? Group projects. Doesn’t bring the best out of certain people…

Do you still see law all around you? Yes.

Maude-Isabelle sitting at her desk.

Maude-Isabelle sitting at her desk.

You are at a coffee house speaking to a first-year law student. What advice would you give them? Thrive at being yourself and not what others want you to be.

What does a day in your life look like? Give us the rundown! Each day I meet with clients at my office, in cafes or restaurants. I also have to negotiate contracts for them on the phone or in person. I have to attend book launch, premieres of films, plays and a lot ( lots in fact…) of additional social events. 

If you were given the blessing and curse of an extra hour every day to do whatever you wanted, what would it be? Spend more time with my kids and do volunteer work.

Any regrets? (Yeah, we are retrospective like that). None. I leave in the present.

Maude-Isabelle while in law school.

Maude-Isabelle while in law school.

Nawel Bailey Rojkjaer / IP Lawyer fighting for better access to affordable medicines

Nawel Rojkjaer is the former Head of International Affairs and Trade Policy at one of the biggest generic pharmaceutical companies. Nawel has worked to increase the generic industry’s engagement on trade policy at a global level, including through international trade associations. She has worked with numerous NGO's on access to medicines, and advocated intensely to protect patient access in various trade agreements, including CETA and TPP. She will be starting a similar job in the fall heading up government relations for a generic pharmaceutical company in Iceland. She is a graduate of McGill Law with a focus on Intellectual Property, and worked as an IP litigator in Toronto in the pharmaceutical sector for years, before moving into IP policy and government relations. 

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

Definitely yes - My interests always lay in history, government, law, and politics, and I had the hopes of going to law school since at least high school. My parents are career diplomats - these topics were hashed out often in our family - and I also had an inspiring and talented history teacher who encouraged this interest. 

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

I don’t know why it came together the way it did, but against all odds, it was an intellectual property class that hooked my interest (I am not so blinkered as to think IP is interesting to most. Or any). It wasn't even the “sexier” copyright or trademark issues, but plain old patents.  I wanted to understand the role that patents played in health care and access to medicines.  I began to focus in on the questions of how does a society fund research, encourage innovation, but ensure that patients have access to privately developed medicines through what we feel is essentially a public right to health. 

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

Enforcement of patent rights on HIV/AIDS medicines during the AIDS epidemic made my blood boil. I may have blocked out the classes which made me snooze? It could be postpartum brain but I’m having trouble even remembering the dull classes. The highlights are what stand out. Oh, and med students taking all the library carrels in the law library during exams was pretty annoying. 

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

Well right now I am on maternity leave, so my day is like: don’t sleep ever, hang out with my baby, and get my 3 other kids settled in Iceland, where we moved 6 months ago. I have 4 kids under the age of 6 - you don’t want to know what a day in my life looks like. I don’t even want to know what a day in my life looks like.

This fall I am starting a new job heading up government relations for a company making generic pharmaceuticals in Iceland. It’s hard to say what my day there will look like, but I expect a big part of it is going to be figuring out how we get cheap medicines to the patients who need them most; working with industry associations in different regions; reaching out to NGOs to support access efforts, and working with governments and international institutions to make sure Big Pharma are not the only ones at the table when health and trade policy are being discussed and negotiated. Somehow, I am going to try to do this job, and still be present with my kids - I will be working in an extremely flexible, family-friendly work environment, with gender parity and progressive policies and attitudes, and this, I am certain, will make the difference. 

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

I applied to all the big law jobs, interviewed with them, and even got offers - but from the outset, it didn’t seem like a good fit for me. I was drawn instead to a brand new boutique litigation firm that sort of billed itself (no pun intended!) as the opposite of a big law firm. I felt like I would get a lot of hands on experience, room to act on personal interests, and space to be myself. The firm at that time was also working squarely in my field of interest. It had a growing government relations practice, and I spent several years shuttling back and forth to DC, working on legislation, meeting with Congress and other USG bodies, and getting a taste for policy. Our clients were generic pharmaceutical companies and the laws and policies we worked on all had the aim of curtailing Big Pharma monopolies or measures which delayed access to generic medicines. We also started non-profit work on access to medicines - getting involved in trying to reform the (now totally failed) compulsory licensing regime in Canada, and working with the Ghanaian government on its patent laws. After several years, one of our clients approached me to take over their international relations work, and keen to leave jurisdictional work and go full time into international policy, I accepted. That led to a few international moves, a big love story, several kids, and a dream job.

How did you make the jump from the boutique firm into access to medicines? At what point did you pivot? Or was it more of a gradual shift?

I don't know that there was a pivot or a change of direction even. It was a natural progression of the work I was doing for generic pharmaceutical companies. From fighting the patent infringement cases, to arguing for certain legal reforms to address patent monopoly abuses, to realizing that generic drug companies can and should be playing an important role in policy making around IPRs and health- and they weren't. Big Pharma was of course and had been for decades, and NGOs were in the fight too- but generic companies- the actual suppliers of the low cost medicines, had largely stayed out of the  arena, especially as it relates to trade law and policy. That made no sense to me as they should be the natural allies of social welfare states, patients and NGOs. 

How has your transsytemic legal education helped you while working these different jobs in different countries?

The truth is I'm not sure I thought a lot about the trans systemic model once I left law school, but I will say that the approach in general encourages its students to look at fundamental principles- which has been valuable

Do you still see law all around you?

My husband thinks I do! I think going to law school creates a paradigm for viewing the world and it can be difficult to step out of that and try to understand situations, motivations, consequences in non-legal terms. I am getting much better at this now, but am often surprised by how deeply that way of processing problems or questions became instilled. 

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

To not believe the hype. I remember going through those interviews for summer jobs - the curtained booths, the bell ringing, and later, the assembly line interviews in high rise towers. It creates a false sense of urgency, of importance - like the penultimate success of going to law school is securing a “big law firm” position. Follow your real interests, because they will lead you to meaningful, satisfying work. Or at least, you have a higher chance of ending up there. So many of my classmates and friends who started out on Bay Street left within a few years anyways. That’s not to say that there isn’t satisfying work in the big law jobs, but just that it will only be meaningful to you if that exact type of work is what interests you.  So many law students fall into the trap of “qualifying” - like word hard in high school to qualify for law school; work hard in law school to qualify for….big law. But when you have a law degree, when you are motivated and committed, you have so so so many ways of contributing to society and working. You don’t need to qualify anymore, you need to direct your own life.

Was there another skillset you wish you cultivated during law school that might have been helpful in your career now?

I think the curriculum was maybe a bit light at the time on the international regimes and institutions, international trade law, on IP and health- it's a large and complex and fascinating area, and also one which is extremely relevant from a social justice perspective. The U.N.'s focus this year was on access to medicines through it's High Level Panel; the TPP negotiations came down to the wire on the single issue of appropriate IPR protections for biologic medicines-- these are areas which I learned "on the job" but would love to have had more robust academic footing on. 

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

Sleep. Maybe go to the gym, but probably I would end up sleeping there too.

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

I wish I hadn’t rushed through law school. I packed in my credits to finish both degrees in 3 years - for financial reasons mostly - but I wish I had slowed down to really absorb more of the materials and left the worry of practice for later. I kind of wish I could go to law school now.

Jeff John Roberts / Journalist at the Intersection of Law, Culture and New Tech

Jeff John Roberts grew up in Vancouver, studied at McGill Law (2004), earned an MA from Columbia Journalism School (2010), and now lives in Brooklyn. He has always been fascinated by journalism and the media business and, after working three years as a lawyer (Ont and NY), he decided to try his hand at being a full-time writer. From clerking at the Federal Court of Canada, working as counsel for the CRTC, to representing aboriginal clients in private practice, he now reports about IP, blockchain and cyber security for Fortune. He likes to watch baseball, drink bourbon, explore New York and go camping. Follow him and his work on Twitter!

Jeff, the IP aficionado.

Jeff, the IP aficionado.

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

No, I worked a lot of manual jobs when I was younger so the world of lawyers and other professionals always struck me as foreign and removed. I felt privileged simply to have obtained a BA (neither of parents had one - my father was a miner), and so getting into law school was hard to get my head around at first.

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

I always enjoyed writing and contributing to the McGill student papers, and also freelancing for newspaper and magazines. I always felt more passionate about media than law because journalism lets you tell a new story each day in crisp and lively prose.

But after getting a clerkship, I thought "oh well," I should article. The clerkship was good training but, frankly, it was a lonely and often deadly boring experience (though I might have been one of the only ones to feel this way). 

And after finishing the clerkship and writing my bar, I thought "I guess I should practice." So I did. I worked for a year as counsel to the CRTC in life-sucking concrete edifice in Hull, QC where people—even those in their 20s—talked about pension a lot. Fed up with that, I left to work in private practice in northern Ontario where my clients were Ojibway bands and residential school survivors. This was more interesting and more rewarding, but still I found journalism more exciting. So finally, I left to do an MA at Columbia and change careers for good.

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

I really enjoyed the intellectual crackle of the place. I came in expecting to dread the people and love the law, but it worked out the other way around. I drew enormous stimulation from the people around me but often found the law a bore. 

But not entirely. I became fascinated with the use and abuse of intellectual property—the idea of awarding monopolies over creativity and ideas—and write about it to this day in my reporting. I also enjoyed administrative law (how to run shit) and legal philosophy.

Jeff catching up on world politics in his kitchen during his time at McGill Law.

Jeff catching up on world politics in his kitchen during his time at McGill Law.

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

I became frustrated with the political group think in the legal community, and the claims by certain professors that their political views were entirely rooted in law. 

The teaching of "legal meth" was deeply flawed as the Faculty ignored the movement to make legal materials open source—and instead surrendered to Lexis/Nexis et al.

The Canadian bar societies are an anachronistic disgrace. Compare the prices and process of LSUC versus New York state and you'll see what I mean. 

5. Do you still see law all around you?

Yes, after McGill, it's impossible not to see legal norms imbued into all sorts of everyday activities. I also appreciate the analytic rigour a legal education supplies. Lawyers are very good at identifying the nub of any given issue, and getting to the point—I'm often frustrated by the inability of many journalists to do this.

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

Try and participate in everything you can. Give everyone you meet a chance. You have to be sharp, tough and smart to succeed, but this doesn't mean you can't be kind as well.

Jeff at an interview at Cheddar, the online news service from the floor of the New York Stock Exchange.

Jeff at an interview at Cheddar, the online news service from the floor of the New York Stock Exchange.

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

I get up around 7:30 and review news related to tech and the law—stories about privacy, IP, surveillance and so on. I may write a story or two from home, and then go into the office at Time Inc in lower Manhattan where I work on longer features for the web or the print magazine. 

My days can also include travel to tech conferences in SF or Atlanta, and source meetings in TriBeCa with prosecutors, FBI agents or corporate counsel.

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

Read more books, including fiction. I try to read things unrelated to my job because it is a great way to stay apprised of the larger world around us. Many of us work very hard in particular fields and it's easy to lose site of the bigger picture. Books, especially novels, keep us rooted. 

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

I wish I'd taken tax law. It's a foundation for a lot of other professions and society as a whole. 

Maroussia Lévesque / From Working on Gender-Based Violence in Haiti to Exploring the Impact of Technology on Civil Liberties

After graduating from Concordia University with a B.F.A. in Computation Arts, Maroussia lead teams of designers, artists and programmers at the Obx lab for experimental media. She graduated from the McGill Law Faculty in 2012. During her studies, she researched stem cell innovation and intellectual property at the Center for Genomics and Policy. Following a two-year clerkship with Quebec’s Chief Justice at the Court of Appeal, she spent six months in Haiti working on gender-based violence and pre-trial detention. Having recently completed a mandate at the Quebec inquiry commission on the electronic surveillance of journalists, she pursues her interest in the impact of technologies on civil liberties. Stay up to date with @_m_a_r_o_u_ on twitter!


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

No. Coming from a background in interactive arts and critical theory, I chose the Faculty of Law to understand the grammar of power. Somewhat naïvely, I thought I could subvert it. I didn’t intend to practice law initially. But I found intellectually satisfying opportunities within the field.

I learned about judicial decision-making while clerking at the Court of Appeal. As volunteer legal counsel in Haiti, I grappled with, then leveraged, my white lawyer privilege in criminal defense efforts.

I keep a healthy dose of criticism about whether law changed me more than I changed it. It’s an ongoing dance, a healthy struggle. I saw a lot of people going in wanting to work in human rights / social justice only to end up golden handcuffed in corporate jobs. It’s important to be clear about your metrics for professional fulfillment. And that requires perspective, a really hard feat when working in a fast-paced environment.

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

Five years after graduation, I’m still figuring out how much I want to be embedded in the system. I like how effective you can be in litigation. I also cherish the freedom that comes with operating in more peripheral spaces like academia (#sorrynotsorry). I’m moving towards more speculative/activist stuff now, with graduate studies on the horizon. I’m interested in civil liberties in technologically-mediated environments, namely how data mining dovetails with privacy and equality protections.

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

A fascinating exam question in Property Law by professor Piper: who owns placenta? Professor Campbell, who managed to make Wills and Estates interesting, and so many other spectacular professors. It was an outstanding education.

The Christie Bike Ride, a tradition honouring struggles for social justice, where we get to put our money and quads where our mouths are (that sounds weird).

During opening remarks for a debate tournament in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, where Maroussia was a member of the jury.

During opening remarks for a debate tournament in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, where Maroussia was a member of the jury.

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

Face-value judgements ignoring structural inequalities definitely made my blood boil. A lot of oppressive, majority-centered ideology went unquestioned in course content and discussions. In second year, I made a deal with a few classmates to speak up once a week when such content came up.

It seemed like the Faculty was committed to diversity on paper, but the real life dynamics often pit a token minority (racial minorities, LGBT+, etc) against the group. There weren’t a lot of woke people to commiserate/strategize with. While there were pockets of resistance, such as student-led seminars and art shows, I wondered if the Faculty walked the walk on its commitment to diversity. At any rate, I found the dynamic draining and chose to put my energy elsewhere. In the long run, the ideological rigidity I struggled against gave me the strength to defend my point of view.

Do you still see law all around you?

Yes. The formal training gave me the power to articulate injustice. The informal training, in the form of feeling like the underdog at the Faculty, provided me a sensibility to the (over)power of law to prevail and coopt worldviews.

I try to be careful when exchanging with people from other disciplines (or laymen as we problematically call them), not to talk law at them. Lawyers have a tendency to think they’re always right – a pre-existing condition for many of us – that gets amplified with the social status.

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

 I’m not at coffee house. I’m having lunch or 5 à 7, reminding her of life outside the Faculty. At the commencement speech, my cohort was told to keep doing what we were doing before law school. That’s excellent advice I ignored to my own detriment. I’d remind her that the Faculty selected her because she does amazing things outside core studies. First year was an overwhelmingly steep curve and I couldn’t find the confidence to keep being awesome. You have to learn to work smart early on to still feed your soul.

All smiles after 70 kilometres of cycling at the 2011 Christie Bike Ride.

All smiles after 70 kilometres of cycling at the 2011 Christie Bike Ride.

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

 I alternate between high intensity marathons and deep recuperation.

Up until recently, I was at the Inquiry Commission on the Protection of Journalist Sources. I’d get there around 7h30 / 8h to prep for the hearings, then put out fires throughout the day and squeeze a few more hours of work in the evening when things got more quiet. I’d go for drinks, late dinner or a show at least twice a week (weeks sometimes being 6 days affairs), and workout also least twice a week. I ate a lot of frozen lasagna.

I just returned from Toronto where I gave a workshop on algorithmic accountability at the Citizen Lab Summer Institute. I’m scheduled to give a workshop on safe sexting soon.

I’m now entering an explorative phase, planning my next move. I’ve learned to tolerate uncertainty and wait out for the right opportunity. It’s very exciting and a little scary. In the morning I read scholarly articles about topics of interests for my thesis such as artificial intelligence ethics, mass surveillance, and constitutional protection in the realm of data mining / analysis. In the afternoon I work on grant applications and try to blog. In the evening, I live. Sometimes, I do nothing and the best things happen.

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

Teach myself AI / relearn Arabic / read Bill C-59. 

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

I made lifelong friends, learned from excellent professors, and settled a few scores on the dance floor. As time passes, I reap more and more benefits from my time at the Faculty and its challenges fade away. 

Robert Fabes / From Corporate & Governance Counsel to Transition & Transformation Advisor

Robert, now living in Ottawa (via his hometown Montreal and stints in Vancouver and Toronto), is currently not practicing law.  When not training for long distance triathlons or trying to figure out how to control his two spirited Wheaten terriers,  Robert is exploring how his athletic, social work and varied legal and business experiences can help organizations and executives with their governance,  strategic planning and motivational challenges. You can contact Robert Fabes on LinkedIn or directly through Email.

Robert at his current "work" - the end of the Espirit triathlon in Montreal in September 2016.

Robert at his current "work" - the end of the Espirit triathlon in Montreal in September 2016.


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

Not even for a second! I wanted to be an actor and did a 2 year theatre degree at Marianopolis College in Montreal. I then received my BA in clinical psychology from York University and worked as a social worker in Toronto for a few years. I left social work not knowing what it was that I wanted to do. While working as a chauffeur, I won a car on a gameshow. With the money I got for selling the car and some wise advice from the man I drove for, I decided to go to law school. Still, I wasn’t committed to becoming a lawyer but knew that a law degree would present me with options.

What makes your career lawfully uncommon?

I think that my career has been unique in that I have taken chances rather than playing it safe: Going from an established firm to in house at a startup, leaving the law for a business role at the Toronto Stock Exchange, returning to private practice to solidify my governance experience and finally moving to Ottawa to head the legal department at Canada Post, one of Canada’s largest and most iconic companies.

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?

Without a doubt, it was when I was offered the General Counsel position at a start up telecom company that was a client of the firm I was at. I was given the opportunity to help build and grow a business, while contributing not only as a lawyer but also as a business person. Also, as the only lawyer, I could provide advice and guidance that was practical and helped move the business forward rather than being couched in endless disclaimers.

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

Without a doubt, I was motivated by the people I was at law school with. So many different perspectives, so much knowledge and so much passion.

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

I found common law contracts and civil law obligations frustrating and still think that the concept of consideration is overrated. Also, I could never figure out people’s fear of the “slippery slope”.

Robert and his very proud grandmother at convocation in 1992.

Robert and his very proud grandmother at convocation in 1992.

Do you still see law all around you?

I do actually. Fundamentally we use the law to govern all our relationships, be they commercial, political, familial or social. I believe part of my success is due to having an intuitive understanding of this.

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.

Use the analytical skills you’ll acquire to define your career rather than your career defining you. #goyourownway #trueself

What is the day in the life of Robert Fabes look like?

I’m semi-retired and still thinking about what my next work adventure might be, which may not involve me working as a lawyer. My time is currently focused on training for long and ultra distance triathlons.  I’ve completed eight iron distance races (3.8 kilometre swim, 180 kilometre bike and a 42.2 kilometre run) and one ultra distance race (a 3 day event comprised of a 10 kilometre swim, 425.6 kilometre bike and an 84.4 kilometre run). I’ll be representing Canada at the world long distance triathlon championship being held in Penticton this August and will be racing at Ironman Louisville in October.  I’ve also been accepted to do another ultra distance triathlon in Penticton in August 2018. So currently I’m training between 3 and 4 hours a day. The rest of my time is spent with my dogs and with friends. @Ultra520K @ITUmultisport #Penticton2017

Robert, his two sisters and his mom who have supported Robert throughout his career.

Robert, his two sisters and his mom who have supported Robert throughout his career.

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

Any extra hour would be a blessing and would definitely be used for sleeping and cuddle time with my dogs. #wheatenterrier

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

None. I am happy today because of learning from both my successes and my failures. #noregrets


Do you have lawfully uncommon story you'd like to share with us ?

Drop us a line | communication.dalamcgill [at] gmail.com 


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"?"