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.

Tony smiling.jpeg

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!