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.
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”.
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
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