Dynamic Duos: It’s one thing to work together. It’s another to quit together

Legal work is a team sport. No one can succeed, either as a lawyer or as a rainmaker, alone. If you’re a partner, you need energetic associates to enliven your practice. And if you’re a baby associate with grand ambitions, you need a senior colleague to light your way and give you the chance to thrive. The legal profession is a complicated realm, with its unstated norms and Byzantine power structures. Few junior lawyers can navigate that terrain on their own.

In the current legal era, it’s rare to meet a lawyer who has stayed at the same firm for her entire career. Which means that junior associates will often arrive to work one day only to find out that their mentor is leaving. Just like that, the working relationship is over.

But it doesn’t have to be. What follows are three stories about junior associates who faced that exact predicament and, in the end, chose to follow their mentors:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


This story is from our Fall 2018 Issue.


Photography by Ian Patterson, hair and makeup by Shawna Lee and Michelle Calleja 

Dynamic Duos: The changemakers

In 2015, as an articling student at Davis LLP, Jennifer Saville got a rare opportunity: to have a front-row seat at the highest court in the land. Saville had helped Alexi Wood, a senior associate who specialized in administrative and regulatory law, as well as commercial litigation, prepare an intervention on behalf of the Canadian Civil Liberties Association. The CCLA had retained Wood to intervene in a case that, it felt, could expose young people to child pornography charges for possessing images of consensual, lawful sexual activity.

Wood, who is 44, wanted Saville, now 28, to be at her side when she appeared before the Supreme Court of Canada. “I depended on Jenn so much,” she says. “I wanted her there to pass notes to me.”

Saville was elated — and shocked. “This is never done,” she says. “Simply put: articling students don’t sit at counsel table at the Supreme Court.”

Jennifer Saville and Alexi Wood

Jennifer Saville (left) and Alexi Wood share a laugh at the St. Lawrence Market, which is only a few blocks from their office. “We often head to the market to grab lunch or dinner,” says Wood. “I love that we’re not in the PATH all the time and get to be out in the world with real humans.”

In the end, Wood and Saville’s submission carried the day, netting the pair an early victory. From that point on, the duo continued to work together and soon settled into a familiar routine. Wood, whose temperament tends toward exuberance, would get steamed up over a legal injustice of one kind or another and discuss it with Saville, who would help come up with a strategy to tackle the problem. “Jenn is my conscience,” Wood jokes. “I’m more like the foot under the table,” says Saville.

In the summer of 2017, Wood left the firm — which, by then, had merged with the global mega-firm DLA Piper — to found a litigation boutique with Phil Tunley, a veteran trial lawyer and human-rights advocate. Wood and Tunley hoped to run a lean, nimble practice, rooted in social justice. “It was my chance to create a firm the way I wanted to,” says Wood.

Saville was on vacation in Indonesia when Wood told her, via text message, of her imminent departure. “I sent a very explicit message back,” says Saville. She knew that her day-to-day life would not be the same without Wood. Not only did the duo finish each other’s sentences, but they also had a shared philosophy: that a responsible lawyer must both uphold the law and advance it.

Shortly after opening shop at her new firm, St. Lawrence Barristers LLP, Wood landed a high-profile case, one that also dovetailed with her social-justice values. She was contacted by former cast members of Toronto’s Soulpepper Theatre who made sexual-misconduct allegations against Albert Schultz, the company’s founding artistic director. (Schultz has denied all of the allegations.)

At the time, the firm was also growing. So Wood and Tunley decided to hire an associate — and they were delighted when Saville applied. “I told Phil that we could interview 1,000 candidates, and we’d never find one better than Jenn,” says Wood.

In December of 2017, Saville moved into an office within shouting distance of Wood’s desk. Together, along with co-counsel Tatha Swann of Levitt LLP, they launched civil suits against Schultz and Soulpepper on behalf of four actresses. With the #MeToo movement in full swing, a growing number of sexual-misconduct survivors are opting to launch civil suits instead of going to the police. And for good reason: this allows survivors to take control of the narrative and to work through the justice system with a lawyer by their side who represents their interests alone. This summer, the cases against Soulpepper and Schultz reached a settlement.

Wood may have an independent streak, Saville contends, but her choices always serve a higher purpose. Which is why Saville — who wants to build a career centred on innovative, ethically engaged litigation — can’t imagine what her career would look like had she landed a more conventional mentor. “Alexi is fearless, strategic and compassionate,” says Saville. “She is the lawyer I aspire to be.”


This story is part of our feature on dynamic legal duos, from our Fall 2018 Issue.


Photography by Ian Patterson, hair and makeup by Michelle Calleja

The Circuit: Precedent Setter Awards 2014


What: Precedent Setter Awards 2014
Where: Stratus Restaurant, 79 Wellington St. W.
When: June 11, 2014


Last week, more than 120 lawyers and guests packed into Stratus restaurant in Toronto to recognize this year’s Precedent Setter Award winners. Held atop the TD Tower in the downtown core, our annual event brought guests together to mingle and meet our winners, in their first 10 years of practice, are blazing new trails in the profession.

During the evening, Melissa Kluger, publisher and editor of Precedent, presented the winners with a framed version of their photographs from the magazine. Unique to this year, Kluger also handed out commemorative pins to this year’s crop of top lawyers and the past winners in attendance. To see Precedent Setters both old and new come together made the evening all the more special.

We’d also like to extend a big thank-you to our presenting sponsor RainMaker Group and our event sponsors the Cambridge Group of Clubs, Deloitte, Laurel Hill Advisory Group, and Harcourts.

Congratulations once again to all our winners:

Paul-Erik VeelPaul-Erik Veel
Associate, Lenczner Slaght Royce Smith Griffin LLP
Read Paul-Erik’s profile

 

 

Alexi WoodAlexi Wood
Associate, Davis LLP
Read Alexi’s profile

 

 

Andrea GonsalvesAndrea Gonsalves
Partner, Stockwoods LLP Barristers
Read Andrea’s profile

 

 

Nikiforos IatrouNikiforos Iatrou
Partner, WeirFoulds LLP
Read Niki’s profile

 

 

Ronan LevyRonan Levy
Corporate Counsel, Cognition LLP
Read Ronan’s profile

 

 


Event photography by Yvonne Bambrick

Precedent Setter Awards 2014: Alexi Wood

Alexi Wood

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Alexi Wood

Associate, Davis LLP
Called to the bar in 2007

For Alexi Wood, advocating for social justice wasn’t so much a calling as a compulsion. “It’s something that’s just ingrained in my fabric,” she says.

Consider her current case. Almost three years ago, Clare Endicott filed a complaint with the Office of the Independent Police Review Director, saying the police violated her privacy when they misled her neighbour to believe she was about to commit suicide. Endicott’s complaint was dismissed, so she asked the Canadian Civil Liberties Association to appeal. The CCLA asked Wood to seek a judicial review, pro bono, as lead counsel. But before the case was heard, something strange happened: the director refused to disclose any information — emails, meeting notes — related to the decision.

So, Wood had to convince the court she had a right to that information. She won. And then won again at the Ontario Court of Appeal, triggering a decision that will have sweeping implications. “On the surface, it seems like a dry, picky case of administrative law,” says Wood. “But at its core, this case is about the public interest and accountability of our regulatory bodies.”

Wood has a hard time not lending her support to a worthy cause. While earning her undergrad (a BA in history), she volunteered with Planned Parenthood. In law school at the University of Cincinnati, she interned
 at the United Nations’ High Commission
 for Human Rights. She’s also on the board of directors for the Starfish Greenhearts Foundation, a non-profit that helps children impacted by AIDS in South Africa.

Now an associate at Davis, Wood remains passionate about social justice, but is equally passionate about litigation. “I love the law and love what I do,” she says. Her contributions to the profession are many, including teaching, mentoring and judging moot courts.
And if her arsenal of experience weren’t intimidating enough, consider the leisure-time activity she recently took up with
her partner: fencing. “It’s a great cardio workout,” she says. “Plus, it’s just cool to have swords in your house.”


Precedent Setter Award Winners

Don’t forget to read about our other spectacular winnersand have a look at our behind-the-scenes pics from the cover shoot.

 

 

 

 


Photography by Anya Chibis; Hair and makeup by Shawna Lee; Shot on location at Lightform, Toronto

Precedent Setter Awards 2014: Behind-the-scenes at our photo shoot

This April, we traveled to LightForm — a sleek, modern lighting outlet in Toronto — to shoot our fabulous 2014 Precedent Setter Award winners with photographer Anya Chibis. Throughout the day, we snapped these behind-the-scenes photos to capture the excitement and hard work that went into the issue:

 


Precedent Setter Award Winners

Check out the profiles of our spectacular 2014 Precedent Setter Award winners.

 

 

 

 


Photography by Anya Chibis; Hair and makeup by Shawna Lee; Shot on location at Lightform, Toronto

The Precedent Setter Awards 2014

Precedent Setter Award WinnersEvery year, Precedent seeks out and celebrates the most outstanding lawyers in their first 10 years of practice who are excelling in their careers and contributing to our community with their ideas, work and achievements.

The 2014 winners are a particularly inspiring mix of savvy litigators on a clear path to Bay Street success and game-changing rule breakers shaking up the establishment.

We’re proud to celebrate the kind of diversity that makes law such an exciting place to build a career. Here are the five lawyers to watch in 2014.

Here are the five lawyers to watch in 2014:

 

 


The Winners

Paul-Erik VeelPaul-Erik Veel
Associate, Lenczner Slaght Royce Smith Griffin LLP
Read Paul-Erik’s profile

 

 

Alexi WoodAlexi Wood
Associate, Davis LLP
Read Alexi’s profile

 

 

Andrea GonsalvesAndrea Gonsalves
Partner, Stockwoods LLP Barristers
Read Andrea’s profile

 

 

Nikiforos IatrouNikiforos Iatrou
Partner, WeirFoulds LLP
Read Niki’s profile

 

 

Ronan LevyRonan Levy
Corporate Counsel, Cognition LLP
Read Ronan’s profile

 

 

Web bonus: Check out behind-the-scenes photos from our photo shoot with the winners!


The Judges

Rahool Agarwal, Associate, Norton Rose Fulbright Canada LLP

Gerald Chan, Partner, Ruby Schiller Chan Hasan Barristers

Sandra Ka Hon Chu, Co-director of Research and Advocacy, Canadian HIV/AIDS Legal Network

Stacie Glazman, Barrister & Solicitor and Chartered Business Valuator


Photography by Anya Chibis; Hair and makeup by Shawna Lee; Shot on location at Lightform, Toronto