Founding a brand new law firm in your mid-thirties when you have two young kids is a huge risk. With a mortgage and only his wife’s modest teacher’s salary to fall back on, Andrew Faith simply couldn’t afford for his new litigation firm to go wrong. But he wanted more than for it to simply not go wrong. He wanted to build “an institution,” as he puts it; “the next Lax O’Sullivan or Lenczner Slaght.” For a lawyer barely at the mid-point of his career, these were ambitious goals. “It was like jumping off a cliff and not knowing whether the parachute would unfurl.”
The Toronto native started out with plans to go into business, as was the tradition in his family. But after finishing a BCom at McGill, he decided on a whim to take the LSAT. When he aced the test, law school seemed like the right next move.
After graduating from the UBC’s Faculty of Law, Faith took a job at Shearman & Sterling LLP in London, U.K., but a year later — with their first child on the way — Faith and his wife Laurie returned to Canada to be closer to family. Back in Toronto in 2004, he joined McCarthy Tétrault LLP’s litigation department.
Early on, Faith was eager to get into court as much as possible. After two years, he took a secondment to work as a criminal prosecutor at the Crown Attorney’s office. “You’re like a true barrister, you’re in court every day,” Faith says of the job, which took him far from Bay Street to a modest office on Finch Avenue West. “I did well over 100 trials. I was on four homicide prosecutions. I really got on my feet for the first time.”
When he was offered a second contract, he decided to leave McCarthys for good.
Faith knew his friend at McCarthys, Mark Polley, also wanted to get more trial experience, and convinced him to join the Crown too. Polley always said he wanted to open his own firm as soon as he got the courtroom experience — and kept trying to convince Faith to join him. “He always imagined that we could build something and be at the top of the game doing it,” says Faith. “Up under the power lines at Highway 400 and Finch, battling it out with defence lawyers and trials, it was hard to see. Now looking back, it was a really good training ground for the kind of work we’re doing.”
Eventually, in 2010, Polley’s vision won out and the two quit their stable — and rewarding — jobs and rented an office.
Now, seated behind a large rosewood desk in his ninth-floor Bay Street office, Faith reminisces about those early days of Polley Faith LLP. “We did our first conference call on the carpet in this room, no furniture at all,” he says.
Less than three years later, Polley and Faith are packing up to move to a larger office nearby to accommodate their impressive roster of new hires — five more lawyers and three additional staff members.
Although the firm takes on a broad range of litigation work, Faith says that commercial litigation is its “bread and butter.” The firm also does fraud, securities work and libel.
Right now, Faith is most proud of his work representing the Critical Care Society on a precedent-setting end-of-life case, Hassan Rasouli v. Sunnybrook Health Sciences, which was heard by the Supreme Court of Canada in December. “It’s the biggest case of my career.”
Expect to keep seeing Faith’s name in the news — he and Polley set no limits on their ambitions for their firm. “We want
to be seen as a team of the best litigators in the city.”
Year of call: 2003
Current job: Partner, Polley Faith LLP
Favourite legal character: Atticus Finch
If i weren’t a lawyer i’d be… A journalist
Pet peeve: Blind faith in anything
Favourite item in closet: My old ball glove
Greatest extravagance: Week-long trip to Toyko for sushi
Most treasured possession: My iPhone
Photography by Margaret Mulligan