Precedent Setter Awards 2023: Husein Panju

In his legal and community work, Panju tirelessly promotes the public interest
Portrait of Husein Panju

By day, Husein Panju is a litigator at the Ontario Motor Vehicle Industry Council. In his job at the government regulator, he ensures consumer protection by helping to oversee the province’s registered vehicle dealers. A typical case, for instance, might involve a seller who rolled back an odometer and peddled a heavily used car to an unsuspecting customer. “It’s rewarding work, since cars are among the most expensive purchases people make in their lifetime,” says the 34-year-old. “I love advocating for the public interest.” 

Portrait of Husein Panju

Husein Panju

Legal counsel, Ontario Motor Vehicle Industry Council 
Year of call: 2013

On evenings and weekends, Panju directs his spirited advocacy to pro bono files. His clients have included people who’ve faced discrimination in the workplace and members of the Muslim community who’ve been unfairly targeted by national-security agencies. 

He’s also a popular podcaster. As the host of Lawyered, Panju has interviewed leading lawyers on the latest developments in dozens of practice areas. He uses plain language to keep the content approachable for lawyers and laypeople alike. The listening public has responded. About 750 people tune in to each episode, no small feat for a Canadian law podcast. 

Meanwhile, Panju also leads the Canadian Muslim Lawyers Association (CMLA). After he became chair of the organization, in 2021, he helped support an outreach campaign to lawyers outside of Ontario, many of whom went on to establish their own local chapters. In the past few years, paid membership has increased from about 15 to more than 250, thanks in part to this initiative. 

Panju also heads up the organization’s legal advocacy committee, which combats Islamophobia in society at large. Over the years, for instance, the committee has intervened in several cases that involve racial or religious discrimination. “Under Husein’s leadership, the CMLA has grown from a provincial to a national organization,” says Fatema Dada, a board member and one of Panju’s mentors. “His leadership style is collaborative, and that’s how we’ve been able to grow. He guides and pushes us a little bit but doesn’t step on anybody’s toes. Instead of saying, ‘We need to get this done,’ he asks, ‘How can I support you?’” 

This story is from our Spring 2023 Issue.

Photography by Daniel Ehrenworth. Hair and makeup by Jasmine Merinsky.