Lyla holds a bachelor degree in languages and literature from Acadia University and obtained her LLL and J.D (National Program) from the University of Ottawa. Before law school, she taught English at the University of Rouen in France. She articled at a large international firm in Ottawa, and then practiced for a year in banking law in Montreal, and then opted to work in-house for TD Bank.
Let’s start with the basics. What are you doing now? In a sentence or so, describe your work/practice(s).
I work as in-house corporate counsel for TD Insurance, a division of TD Bank. I work mainly on the contractual side, which entails drafting, negotiating and interpreting various agreements with our suppliers and business partners. I also oversee and help assess the legality of product initiatives. Essentially, I try to help the business side make sound and sensible decisions in order to ensure that the company's practices are compliant with regulations, and that consumers' interests and rights are protected.
Did you always imagine yourself going to law school?
Not necessarily. I love art and always thought I would be an artist or own a gallery. However, not being able to afford a gallery nor being a talented artist, I decided to transfer my skillset towards a new goal. Given I also enjoyed writing, public speaking, problem solving, I decided to utilize these "skills" and give law school a shot.
What were the steps you took and opportunities you seized in order to get where you are?
Although I wasn't your classic straight A student, I wasn’t afraid to put myself out there, meet people, pick up the phone, attend various events, get involved and ask questions! When I realized the big firm practice was not for me, I looked at other options; having a keen interest on how a business operates, I knew that working in-house would be the best fit for me. Although people you need many years in private practice before making the jump (I only had 1….), that didn't stop me! If you have the required skills and the right attitude, anything is possible. At the end of the day, you will gain experience on the job and learn by doing.
What makes your current practice “lawfully uncommon”?
As in-house counsel, you don't only provide legal advice; you must also make business decisions in order that the company evolve and succeed, and at the same time you can’t make decisions that would be unfair to customers. Sometimes you're presented with a product or an idea that sounds groundbreaking, but in practice does not make any business sense or is simply illegitimate. You must therefore help guide the organization in its decision-making to reflect this.
Is there anyone influential in your life that helped you realize your goals? Mentors or role models in the field that inspired you?
Absolutely. I'm lucky to have a very approachable boss and many mentors that I can turn to at any time. People take time at my work to ensure you are making the most of your career and personal development. What I love most about where I work is the incredible support system as well as an invaluable culture that celebrates diversity at the workplace, women in leadership and the community at large.
What got your juices flowing or tickled your fancy while at law school?
Given I was new to Ottawa, and didn't really know many people, I made an effort to get involved in many different extracurricular and fundraising activities as I could. I was kind of shy when I first started law school and becoming VP of the student council forced me to come out of my shell. Also, organizing networking and academic events for the faculty allowed me to meet and mingle with fellow students, jurists and businesspeople within the community most of whom I am still in contact with today.
What made your blood boil while at law school?
False rumors. My biggest piece of advice is to surround yourself with true people who are good (at least relatively speaking) at handling stress and do not get bogged down by negativity. If I would go back, I would phase it all out because at the end of the day we ALL succeeded!
Were there challenges you faced in the transition from law school to the profession?
What you learn in school and what you do in practice (private or in-house) is VERY different. In the real world you get to be creative, think outside the box, and use your common sense, which in my view is way more fun than regurgitating the civil code!
Do you still see the law all around you?
Yes and no. I see law, but I also see business being done and common sense being employed.
What advice would you give to a first-year law student?
Get involved in whichever way possible; student council, pro bono, a semester abroad, and doing things that are outside of your comfort zone. Also, ask questions, and don't be afraid to sound dumb.
If you were given the blessing and curse of an extra hour every day to do whatever you wanted, what would it be?
Having the opportunity to volunteer more. I would need more than an hour however.
No regrets, and very excited to see what the future holds. Regretting is a waste of time!
The Lawfully Uncommon initiative is supported by the McGill Career Development Office.