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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

WHAT MAKES YOUR CAREER LAWFULLY UNCOMMON?

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

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

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

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

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

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

 Bram giving a speech at the CUAAA Awards

Bram giving a speech at the CUAAA Awards

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 Bram's McGill law graduation photo

Bram's McGill law graduation photo

DO YOU STILL SEE LAW ALL AROUND YOU?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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



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

 Easter 2015 with her husband, Dimitri.

Easter 2015 with her husband, Dimitri.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


 "Keep smilin" 

"Keep smilin" 

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


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

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

WHAT MAKES YOUR CAREER LAWFULLY UNCOMMON?

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

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

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

HOW WOULD YOU SAY THE SHIFT CHANGED YOUR LIFE?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

WHAT MAKES YOUR CAREER LAWFULLY UNCOMMON?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 Dan in law school 

Dan in law school 

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

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

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

DO YOU STILL SEE LAW ALL AROUND YOU?

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

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

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

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

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

 Dan enjoying a night out

Dan enjoying a night out

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

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

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

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

FRÉDÉRIQUE LISSOIR / De grand bureau à entrepreneure ingénieuse

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

5 :30 AM : Jogging

6 :30 AM : Hot Yoga

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

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

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

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

21 :00 : Promenade des chiens qui boudent

11 :30 PM : Dodo; on recommence

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

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

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

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

Emilie Wapnick / MULTIPOTENTIALITE - PUTTY LIKE

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

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


 Emilie at Le Cagibi

Emilie at Le Cagibi

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

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

WHAT MAKES YOUR CAREER LAWFULLY UNCOMMON?

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

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

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

 Emilie with her Quebec Civil Code

Emilie with her Quebec Civil Code

HOW MUCH HAS THE SWITCH IN GEARS CHANGED YOUR LIFE?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 One of Emilies' many workspaces

One of Emilies' many workspaces

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 A ROSS Intelligence team photo (minus ROSS!)

A ROSS Intelligence team photo (minus ROSS!)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Yes to the first question, no to the second!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Definitely reading.

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

In my career, zero.

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

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

@jess_salomon
http://jesssalomon.com/

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

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

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

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

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

 Jess hard at work. Photo Credit: Carrie MacPherson.

Jess hard at work. Photo Credit: Carrie MacPherson.

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

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

What makes your current career "lawfully uncommon"?

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

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

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

How much has this shift in gears changed your life?

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

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

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

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

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

 When Jess got sworn into the bar with her grandmother.

When Jess got sworn into the bar with her grandmother.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

SO MUCH GLAMOUR.

 Jess in her office. Photo Credit: Scott Mclean.

Jess in her office. Photo Credit: Scott Mclean.

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

Just chill with my wife. I know, gross.

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

Leaving law. No seriously. Forget everything I said.

Jason Chin / Environmental Lawyer turned Nature Guide in Malaysia


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 Jason talking to plants.

Jason talking to plants.

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

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

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

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

How much has this shift in gears changed your life?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 Jason at his office des, lost in thoughts.

Jason at his office des, lost in thoughts.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

You can read more about Ian here.


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

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

What makes your current career "lawfully uncommon"?

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

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

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

 Ian about to board a bush plane in Labrador.

Ian about to board a bush plane in Labrador.

How much has this shift in gears changed your life?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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