2012 Precedent Setter Award Winner: Gerald Chan

Introducing Gerald Chan, a lawyer who stands out

Gerald Chan
The Defender

  • Partner at Ruby Shiller Chan Hasan Barristers
  • Called to the bar in 2007
  • Associate editor at Canadian Rights Reporter
  • Association for Chinese Canadian Lawyers of Ontario board member
  • Co-author of Sentencing, 8th edition with Clayton C. Ruby and Nader R. Hasan
  • Mentor with the Federation of Asian Canadian Lawyers

On September 21, 2009, Gerald Chan reviewed his notes yet again before bed. It was a sleepless night. The next morning, the then-28-year-old lawyer would argue for the first time at the Court of Appeal for Ontario, requesting a new trial for a father convicted of second-degree murder in the death of his seven-year-old son.

“It was a blur,” he recalls. “You’re so focused on trying to give the best answer you can in the heat of the moment that the only thing I remember afterwards are the answers I didn’t give but should have.”

Chan lost the appeal, but the notoriously tough Justice David Doherty gave Chan a shout-out, noting he “skilfully advanced” his client’s position and complimented the first-timer’s solid debate.

For Chan, who geeks out by listening to U.S. Supreme Court arguments on oyez.org, it was a dream moment in his early career as a criminal lawyer.

Chan’s passion for civil liberties was sparked when he clerked for Justice Rosalie Silberman Abella at the Supreme Court of Canada. Then, after a brief stint as a commercial litigator at Goodmans LLP, Chan joined Ruby & Edwardh Barristers (now Ruby Shiller Chan Hasan) in 2008. In April 2011, he made partner. It was a big year for Chan: he also tied the knot with his girlfriend and bought a house in Bloor West Village.

His successes before the court can be traced back to his university days, when Chan would battle other freestyle rappers in hip-hop clubs. “That experience helped me think on my feet, thickened my skin and taught me how to understand and speak to a critical audience,” he says. “All of those things are key in the courtroom.”