Evan Thomas answers the Precedent questionnaire

The head of legal at Wealthsimple’s cryptocurrency trading platform on document review, fitness and the power of taking risks
Evan Thomas sits on a leather couch at the Wealthsimple office

What’s the best part of your job? I work in a business, cryptocurrency trading, with a small body of established law. As a result, I have an opportunity to influence how that law develops. 

Tell us one thing you’d change about the legal system. Documentary discovery in civil litigation. As a former litigator, I know it adds incredible cost and complexity without materially affecting most cases. 

Do you have any pets? A one-year-old Labradoodle, named Piper, who loves rope toys and stealing food. 

What would you be if you weren’t a lawyer? I’d write code. I had a prior career as a software developer, but I left it behind for law school. 

Who’s your favourite author? Neal Stephenson, the speculative-fiction master who, back in the 1990s, wrote novels like Cryptonomicon and Snow Crash. These books were prescient about technology, both the good and the bad. 

Evan Thomas sits on a leather couch at the Wealthsimple office

Who: Evan Thomas 

Areas of practice: Regulatory and commercial 

Role: Head of legal at Wealthsimple’s cryptocurrency trading platform 

Family profile: Married to Maryse, with two children, Olivia, seven, and Ben, nine

What hobby are you passionate about? Skiing. I like the fresh air and the scenery. It can also be solitary or social, depending on your mood. 

What’s your hope for the future? In my career, I hope to positively influence the law and society. In my life, I just want to make sure my kids have the luxury of choice in terms of education and career. 

How do you stay in shape? There’s a big assumption baked into this question, but I try to stay in shape through walks with the dog, riding my Peloton and skiing. 

What’s the best investment you ever made? In 2016, I bought Ether when it was valued at $10. Unfortunately, I didn’t buy very much, so I still have to work. 

Where do you live in the city? Sherwood Park, otherwise known as the neighbourhood north of Yonge and Eglinton. I love being close to the ravines that feed into the Don River. 

What advice do you have for new lawyers? Take more risk. Pursue a new practice area. Change employers. Start your own firm. The upside, particularly in the early part of your career, vastly exceeds the downside. 

Who’s your favourite fictional lawyer? The various lawyers on The Good Wife and its spin-off show The Good Fight. I can’t pick just one. The writers did an impeccable job of portraying the many types of lawyers that exist in the profession: the ambitious new associate, the narcissistic partner, the quirky yet brilliant advocate.

What do you most value in your colleagues? Our shared belief in our mission and values. We debate, but then we commit. This is particularly important in difficult or stressful situations.

What’s your favourite long-weekend getaway within driving distance of the city? Beaver Valley, for skiing.

When are you at your happiest? I grew up in Alberta and lived in B.C. during my late teens and early 20s, so I’m happiest when I’m in the mountains—or at least on a steep hill.

What overlooked legal skill should law schools teach? The importance of facts: how to learn what they are and how to use them. The best legal advice comes from deeply understanding the factual context of a legal matter, but legal education leaves the impression that only legal research is important.

What keeps you up at night? The tension between traditional institutions and technology. On one hand, traditional institutions—governments, the media, the legal system—tend to be skeptical of technological developments like the internet, AI and decentralized networks. Meanwhile, many in the tech world are similarly skeptical of traditional institutions and their role. I worry that this mutual skepticism will lead to narrow-minded policy and business decisions that make everybody worse off.

A condensed version of this story appears in the print edition of our Fall 2023 Issue.

Photography by Nick Wong. Hair and makeup by Alanna Chelmick.