The Circuit: Precedent Setter Awards 2018

Precedent Setter Awards 2018

What: Precedent Setter Awards 2018
Where: The Spoke Club, 600 King St. W.
When: June 20, 2018

Our annual cocktail party to celebrate our Precedent Setter Award winners is always a memorable moment.

This June, more than 100 lawyers and guests gathered at the Spoke Club to honour this year’s winners. The event brought the legal community together to mingle with the six winners, all of whom, in their first 10 years of practice, have emerged as leaders in law.

“Every year, we receive many nominations for the Precedent Setter Awards,” said Precedent’s publisher and editor Melissa Kluger, in her remarks at the event. “We look for lawyers who’ve done outstanding legal work and been active members of their communities. This year’s winners are exceptional examples of just that.”

Congratulations again to all our winners:

Ren Bucholz-icon

Ren Bucholz
Associate, Paliare Roland Rosenberg Rothstein LLP
Read Ren’s profile

Marianne Salih-icon

Marianne Salih
Associate, Edward H. Royle & Partners LLP
Read Marianne’s profile

Daniel Naymark icon

Daniel Naymark
Principal, Naymark Law
Read Daniel’s profile









Atrisha Lewis icon

Atrisha Lewis
Associate, McCarthy Tétrault LLP
Read Atrisha’s profile

Mariam Moktar-icon

Mariam Moktar
Associate, Lenczner Slaght Royce Smith Griffin LLP
Read Mariam’s profile

Ron Podolny-icon

Ron Podolny
Partner, Rochon Genova LLP
Read Ron’s profile









We’d also like to thank the sponsors of the 2018 Precedent Setter Awards.

Presenting sponsor
RainMaker Group



Event sponsors:

5ive15ifteen Photo Brattle logo Laurel HillRyerson LPPLawyers Financial Osgoode Professional Development


Event photography by 5ive15ifteen Studio

Winners’ portraits by Kayla Rocca

Precedent Setter Awards 2018: Atrisha Lewis

Atrisha Lewis

Associate, McCarthy Tétrault LLP
Called to the bar in 2013

As a racialized woman in law, Atrisha Lewis is used to standing out. But the litigation associate at McCarthys has never stood out quite so brightly as when she wrote an article last year that articulated what it’s like to work as one of the few racialized lawyers on Bay Street.

Atrisha Lewis

The piece went viral. Lewis, age 30, received hundreds of supportive emails from members of the legal community. McCarthys has also launched a diversity initiative and tapped Lewis to be a part of it. Given that she’s the only associate on the team, it’s a noteworthy nod. “One of Atrisha’s strengths is that she knows what she wants,” says Geoff Hall, a partner at McCarthys who works with Lewis. “She’s made sure diversity issues are on the agenda.”

Lewis’s advocacy streak dates back to her childhood in Ottawa, when she wrote letters on behalf of her parents, recent immigrants from the Seychelles who lacked advanced English skills. By seven, she wanted to be a lawyer. But as she grew older, she realized it would be a hard road. “I always felt that, as a woman of colour, I would never be taken seriously unless I had top-notch credentials,” she says. “That’s the only way to have standing.” So when she went to law school, at the University of Toronto, she studied hard. It paid off: when she graduated, Lewis won the Dean’s Key, in recognition of her academic and extracurricular work.

In her first five years at McCarthys, her caseload has ranged from medical malpractice to patent litigation. Lewis has unbridled ambition. “In the way that people think Marie Henein when they think, I want the best criminal lawyer, I want them to think Atrisha Lewis when they want the best civil litigator.”

Don’t forget to read about our other amazing winners.

This story is from our Summer 2018 Issue.

Photography by Kayla Rocca, hair and makeup by Michelle Calleja, shot on location at the Assembly Chef’s Hall

Trial & Error: How to manage your time (Part 3)

In my last two columns, I offered up tips on how to bundle tasks and up your efficiency game — all to help you manage your time better. But no matter how much you bundle, or how efficient you are, you will never be able to do it all. In then end, some things just won’t get done, which means you have to prioritize — that is, decide what is truly important and what can be safely left at wayside.

And, all of my friends who went to business school have taught me there’s a tried-and-tested method to figure this out: the Eisenhower Matrix, invented by, you guessed it, former American president, Dwight Eisenhower. This is a standard concept at any MBA program and, in my opinion, it ought to find its way into the legal profession.

Here’s how it works: you build a chart (see below) that allows you to sort everything on your to-do list by urgency and importance.

Here’s how I might use the matrix on an average day:

Urgency vs. Importance


As you can see, once I know what’s most important and most urgent, I know I have to do that first. If it’s urgent, but not all that important, I delegate the task; and if it’s important, but not that urgent, I’ll schedule it for later. If it’s neither important, nor urgent, I know I don’t have to do it.

Learning about this paradigm has shifted the way I think about my time and has forced me to focus on what is important.Time is, after all, our most precious resource. And this matrix helps me establish a plan. Give it a try and you should be prioritizing in no time — pun intended.

Atrisha LewisAtrisha Lewis is a third-year associate in McCarthy Tétrault’s litigation group. Follow her on Twitter: @atrishalewisAnd also check out all of her past columns.



Photo from Sean MacEntee

Trial & Error: How to manage your time (Part 2)

In my last column, I discussed how you can bundle your tasks together to free up extra time. But, today, I want to talk about efficiency — another useful time-management tactic that will help you do more with the time you have. Here are three ways to boost your efficiency:

Give yourself deadlines

It’s easy, when I’m working on a task without a hard deadline, to let calls and e-mails distract me. My solution is to assign myself deadlines. If I’m drafting a statement of defence, for instance, I give myself two hours to finish the job. This artificial boxed-timeline forces me to ignore everything else and get it done. It’s also consistent with Parkinson’s Law, which says the time required to complete a particular task will expand according to the amount of time allotted to it.

Make calendar appointments with yourself

Endless to-do lists overwhelm me. How do I know where to start? But by making calendar appointments with myself to finish specific tasks, where I allot a reasonable amount of time, I am both organized and committed to the task at hand. Plus, it keeps me from feeling guilty that I’m not doing something else.

Ask for help

Our profession is remarkable: even the busiest among us are generous with our time and are happy to discuss cases and files with those asking for help. When I’m truly stuck on something, it’s far faster to talk to more senior lawyers at my firm than remain frustrated. My colleagues often save me from “reinventing the wheel” by offering up a solution to a problem they once had, and know how to easily solve.

Next month, in part three of this time-management series, I will discuss the importance of making priorities.

Atrisha LewisAtrisha Lewis is a third-year associate in McCarthy Tétrault’s litigation group. Follow her on Twitter: @atrishalewisAnd also check out all of her past columns.



Photo from Sean MacEntee

Trial & Error: How to manage your time (Part 1)

Let’s face it: lawyers are busy. Thanks to the billable hour, time is literally money. So what are the best practices for managing one’s time? I asked some of the busiest lawyers on Bay Street to see how they do it, and discovered three important principles: unlocking time, being efficient, and prioritizing. I will discuss each in a separate post over the next three months. First up: How to unlock your time. By that I mean, how to find new time in your day. Here are three ways to do just that:

Bundle your tasks

Bundling refers to combining two or more important activities together so you can do them simultaneously — a common way lawyers I surveyed unlock extra hours in their day. Bundling is different than multitasking, though. For instance, reading a book while working does not save time if you need an hour to work and an hour to read your book, and doing both at the same time takes two or more hours.

One lawyer “bundles” by taking his mentees for “check-in” walks where he heads to Shoppers Drug Mart to buy items he needs at the same time. Sonja Pavic, an associate at Osler, lives five kilometres away from the office. She “bundles” her inevitable commute with her workout, and runs to work most mornings in the spring and summer. She also listens to BBC news podcasts during the run to catch up on the main headlines. Other lawyers schedule calls during their commutes. I try to meet a friend at the gym so I can “bundle” my workout and stay in touch with the important people in my life.

Learn to say “no”

Your downtime is precious, so there’s a tremendous about of benefit that can come from learning to say “no.” Outside of work, busy lawyers turn down everything that does not bring them joy. Many of the lawyers I canvassed decline social engagements they aren’t up for, and have people to help them with their house chores. Eliminating activities from your schedule that you feel forced to do will free up time for more of the things that you actually want to do.

Delegate (and trust) your team

Delegating to your team (which includes your legal assistant, law clerks, students and junior lawyers) is the biggest key to unlocking time. While it’s easy to fall into the trap of believing it’s faster to do things yourself, consider the time you spend teaching as an investment. Perhaps the first few times you delegate a task, it takes longer to teach and review than to do yourself, but eventually your team will learn how to do it correctly with minimal to no supervision. If you can’t delegate to your team, perhaps you need to reconsider who is on it, or if you are giving them the right support.

Next month, in part two of this time-management series, I will discuss strategies for working more efficiently.

Atrisha LewisAtrisha Lewis is a third-year associate in McCarthy Tétrault’s litigation group. Follow her on Twitter: @atrishalewisAnd also check out all of her past columns.



Photo from Sean MacEntee

Trial & Error: How to write the perfect email

In my last column, I tackled a subject lawyers are all too familiar with: email, and when to use it instead of in-person meetings or talking on the phone. Sometimes, I concluded, email is the best choice. And for those times, here are six tips for drafting the “perfect” email. (Shout out to Bindu Cudjoe, the deputy general counsel and chief administrative officer at BMO Financial Group, who helped develop this list.)

1. Be careful about who is in the “to” and “copy” address lines

Most people receive hundreds of emails every day. So try not to unnecessarily load up someone’s inbox. Also, to ensure everyone receives the email, make sure there is no “auto-fill” error.

2. Cater your salutations to the recipient of each email

I use email for all kinds of matters, so I use salutations to convey the level of formality in the communication. I start my informal emails with “Hi” and I sign off with my name or, simply, “Cheers.” For formal emails, to clients and co-workers, I address recipients by their name only. I address them by their first name if I’ve met them before, and “Mr./Ms.” followed by their last name for everyone else. I sign off formal emails with “Regards” or “Best.”

3. Always include your contact information in your e-mail

Quite often, when you send an email, the recipient will want to phone you. Make your phone number east to find. Not doing so is one of Bindu’s pet peeves — and it likely is for several of your clients and co-workers, too.

4. Have a clear, detailed subject line

I typically send and receive a couple hundred emails a day, so clear subject lines help me locate the emails I want when dashing between meetings. In each subject line, I include the name of the matter or file, followed by the specific item or task under discussion. If appropriate, I add what our next step should be. For example, in a transactional context, a good subject would look like: “Acme Inc. Deal – Prospectus – MT Comments.” In litigation, a good subject line would be: “Jane ats Joe – Discoveries – Please Hold Jan 1, 2015.”

5. Put new thoughts in a new e-mail

All good e-mail threads must come to an end and new thoughts require a new thread. This is important for many reasons: it makes it easier to forward emails without the baggage of old threads, and for the litigators in the audience, creating a clean motion record.

6. Make your email easy to read

Consider that most people read emails on mobile devices. Bold, highlight, and underline key passages or phrases to draw the reader to your most salient points.

Do you have any other suggestions for e-mail? If so, please share with me on Twitter at @atrishalewis.

Atrisha Lewis is a third-year associate in McCarthy Tétrault’s litigation group. Follow her on Twitter: @atrishalewisAnd also check out all of her past columns.

Trial & Error: Email etiquette for lawyers

Every day, I send and receive at least a couple hundred emails. Yet we, as a profession, rarely step back and consider how we use email — and how we can use it better. And so, I’ve put together what I call “The Lawyer’s Code of Conduct for Email” — drawing on my working experiences and those of Bindu Cudjoe, the deputy general counsel and chief administrative officer at BMO Financial Group. What follows is the first half of my two-part guide, which offers three tips on how to maintain proper email decorum.

1. Use email for scheduling, not decision-making

There are basically three ways to communicate with someone: in-person, on the phone and via email. When I spoke to Bindu, she said email is best used as a scheduling tool — to set up meetings and longer calls — rather than for detailed discussions or making substantial decisions. You can use email to record those decisions and suggest next steps, but when you want to go in-depth, hop on the phone.

2. Respond to clients promptly, even if you can’t answer their questions

Clients demand timeliness. So when they email me, I respond in a couple of hours, or within 12 hours if they email outside of business hours. If I need more time to consider the request, my response might be as simple as “Will do” or “Will get back to you.” And if I know I’ll be away from my email, I always set up an out-of-office alert that tells the sender when to expect a response. The point is: clients should never be kept out of the loop, wondering when you will get back to them.

3. Stop sending emails at 4 a.m.

Okay, I’m as guilty as anyone of sending emails whenever the impulse strikes. But, when working late, unless the recipient needs the information right away, wait until the next day to hit “send.” In Microsoft Office, use the “delay send” feature so the email arrives at more appropriate time — say, 9 a.m. the next morning. I often schedule emails to arrive when I know the recipient starts his or her workday (that’s 7:30 a.m. for known early-risers). That way, my messages are less likely to sink to the bottom of their inboxes.

Atrisha Lewis is a second-year associate in McCarthy Tétrault’s litigation group. Follow her on Twitter: @atrishalewisAnd also check out all of her past columns.

Trial & Error: How lawyers can leverage LinkedIn (part 2)

In my last column, I suggested a few ways that lawyers can use LinkedIn to enhance their professional band. But all of that effort will go to waste if you don’t start with a strong profile. So here are six simple tips for building and managing a stellar LinkedIn page:

  1. Write your summary in the first person
    When people visit your profile, this is probably the only thing they’ll read. So take some time to write a punchy, 30-second snapshot of who you are professionally. And to make it more personal and authentic, write it in the first person.
  2. Include your contact information
    You might have concerns about privacy, but LinkedIn is only helpful if connections can actually contact you — and the LinkedIn messenger service is not user-friendly. I find it helpful to include my email on my profile. (Plus, my work email is Google-able anyway.)
  3. Accept most invitations to connect
    But don’t blindly accept every request. At worst, you’ll be spammed and, at best, you’ll have an unwieldy and impersonal network. As a general rule, filter out people you’ve never met, unless they send you a message explaining why they want to get in touch.
  4. Post updates regularly
    Even if you’re just commenting on a piece of legal news, posting often will keep you top-of-mind within your network and enhance your professional brand. I also use Hootsuite, which lets me manage both my LinkedIn profile and my Twitter feed at once.
  5. Be cautious about endorsements
    It’s flattering to receive endorsements from other users — and they are the mark of a strong profile — but be wary if someone endorses you for a skill you don’t possess. It both muddies your professional brand and it can mislead potential clients.
  6. Use groups sparingly
    In theory, groups should help you meet new people in your field, discuss the latest trends and learn about cool events. But in my experience, most groups are more annoying than helpful. Be thoughtful about which groups you join or you might be overwhelmed with spam. I prefer to join closed groups with moderators who are selective about who can become a member. Feel free to join and exit groups until you find a few that work for you.

Happy linking!

Atrisha Lewis is a second-year associate in McCarthy Tétrault’s litigation group. Follow her on Twitter: @atrishalewis


Trial & Error: How to be a good mentor

During my first year as an associate at McCarthy Tétrault, I benefited from a roster of fantastic mentors, and I’m sure I’ll continue to long into my career. But now that I’ve got a year of experience under my belt, It’s time to start paying it forward. And so, I’ve become a mentor myself. I take the job seriously, and I believe it’s my duty and a privilege to pass along what I’ve learned. 

Here are my top five tips for newly minted mentors:

  1. Recognize when you are mentor

Often associates don’t appreciate when they mentor more junior associates and students. For example, I’m not a formal mentor, so I didn’t recognize that I had stepped into an informal role until a student told me explicitly. While organic mentorship relationships are preferable, they can often be unrecognized. Appreciating that you are a mentor is the first step to being a good one.

  1. Make the time

The most important ingredient in the mentorship relationship is time. Even at my busiest, I always make time for a student who walks into my office. I also make an effort to seek out my mentees so they know that I am available to them. Making time can be as simple as inviting a mentee to a quick afternoon coffee, out for an after-work drink or to join you at a networking event.  

  1. Be candid

This is crucial to being a good mentor. I always try to be honest and forthright about my feedback and opinions. I’m also open about my own experience with career growing pains. Being candid allows me to share teachable moments. It also encourages mentees to be candid with me, which helps me better advise them and learn from them in return. Which brings me to my next point:

  1. Learn From Your Mentee

I learn as much (if not more) from my mentees as they do from me. As a mentor, I get to learn about their exciting cases and new developments in the law, and I gain insights into new ways of thinking about a problem. I think learning from a mentee is one of the most overlooked opportunities. They can observe you as an outsider and can provide a refreshing perspective on your practice.

  1. Offer Relevant Advice

Recognizing that mentorship is a two-way street, it’s important to look for ways to enhance other people’s development. For example, I often send a blackline copy of my changes to students along with an offer to discuss the changes in person. At the conclusion of a significant matter, I suggest a feedback coffee so that we can both learn from the experience. 

Atrisha Lewis is a second-year associate in McCarthy Tétrault’s litigation group. Follow her on Twitter: @atrishalewis

Photo by Stephan Rosger

Trial & Error: Practice resolutions for the junior lawyer

Tis the season for New Year’s resolutions. So why not include a practice resolution on your list? After canvassing resolution recommendations from peers in various practice groups, firms and practice settings, here are my top 5 practice resolutions for the junior lawyer — or any lawyer looking to improve her practice in the new year. 

  1. Implement a Bring Forward (BF) system. 
    Many litigators already have a BF/tickler system in place, but why let them have all the organizational fun? This habit can also extend to a transactional practice. I “bring forward,” or put in my calendar, a future reminder to do something, ensuring all of my deliverables are diarized and nothing falls through the cracks. Consider extending your BF system for business development purposes. For example, if you meet a new connection at a networking event, use a BF system as a reminder to reconnect in a few months. Better yet, set up a Google alert for news related to your connection’s employer so you get both a reminder and a conversation starter.
  2. Create a personal plan.
    A personal plan outlines your professional goals and specific ways to achieve them. If you do not have one, write down your professional goals and be accountable to them throughout the year. You can BF a quarterly review of your plan to make sure you are on track. Ask other lawyers or your human resources department for precedents. If you already have a plan, consider showing it to a more senior lawyer and ask for feedback.
  3. Join a new industry group. 
    There are a plethora of practice groups to join in your area. Resolve to join a new OBA section, or a group like Women in Capital Markets, and commit to attending at least three events throughout 2015. It’s a great way to expand your network.
  4. Make social media your friend. 
    Do you have a LinkedIn page? When was the last time you updated it? Do you have a Twitter account? How often do you tweet? This year, resolve to break into, update or expand your presence into one social media outlet. Chris Horkins, an associate at Cassels Brock LLP, wisely told me that social media is a strategic advantage that juniors can have over our more senior counterparts in building our practice. Why not use it? (Of course, always be sure to respect your firm’s social media policy.)
  5. Spend time strategically.
    So how will you make time for these resolutions? Resolve to be strategic in how you spend your valuable time. Examine your plate with a critical eye and consider what work can be better served by another colleague, articling or summer student who would be eager for the learning opportunity.  Consider reducing the amount of work you take on and re-allocate that time to digesting the work you are doing and to investing in your professional development.  

Atrisha Lewis is a second-year associate in McCarthy Tétrault’s litigation group. Follow her on Twitter: @atrishalewis

Special thanks to Rachel Allred for all the help with this column in 2014.