2013 Precedent Setter Award Winner: Carole Dagher

Meet 2013 Precedent Setter Carole Dagher

Carole Dagher
Managing counsel, CIBC
Called to the bar in 2002 (New York) and 2006 (Ontario)

• Senior editor, Osgoode Hall Law Review
• Worked on 20-plus financings worth $10 billion at Shearman & Sterling LLP
• President of the board of directors, Barbra Schlifer Commemorative Clinic

“Dramatic, sad, lonely, scary.” That’s how Carole Dagher describes growing up in Beirut during Lebanon’s civil war. She and her five sisters lived in bomb shelters and lined up for rations, but she considers moving to Toronto in 1988 the toughest time of her life. The then-13-year-old and her family lived with six other relatives, and classmates picked on her mercilessly. Her only friend was a teacher who taught her English, which she mastered in just a few months. Throughout high school, Dagher worked almost every day after school and did homework in the wee hours.

Her first law job was with New York’s Shearman & Sterling LLP, where she specialized in cross-border financing out of its Toronto office. After three years, she moved to CIBC’s 100-strong legal team. “I always saw in-house roles as sort of settling,” says Dagher, who has a three-year-old daughter, Madeleine, with husband Arif Ahmad, general counsel for non-profit music licensing company Re:Sound. “In fact, it’s a lot more satisfying; you get to understand how your advice is applied.” Within three years, she was promoted to senior counsel and worked with other banks and industry groups to reshape some of Canada’s securities laws. Last year, Dagher became one of the youngest lawyers to be promoted to managing counsel at CIBC.

She quickly accepted when invited to join the board of the Barbra Schlifer Commemorative Clinic. “It’s one of the happiest areas in my life,” says Dagher, who has worked on Charter challenge cases with the clinic — its anti-violence work at the clinic level and at the Supreme Court resonated with Dagher and her war-torn childhood. “The ability for us to change lives is incredible.”