sponsored content: How this Bay Street partner became a top constitutional lawyer

Ranjan Agarwal, Bennett Jones

Ranjan Agarwal
Partner at Bennett Jones LLP
Osgoode LLM: Constitutional law, 2011
Year of call: 2004

Ranjan Agarwal was frustrated. He was a fifth-year associate at Bennett Jones LLP and he wanted to work on a big constitutional case. That was the reason he went to law school in the first place.

But he had a problem: his firm didn’t have a constitutional practice group. Which meant that a case was never going to fall in his lap. “I had no way to master the subject matter,” says Agarwal. “Without experience, I wouldn’t be able to market myself.”

So he decided to be proactive. He signed up for the constitutional law specialization of the Osgoode Professional LLM. And, over the next two years, he completed the rigorous graduate program on a part-time basis.

When Agarwal graduated, in 2011, he had acquired the know-how and the credentials to reach out to both clients and fellow lawyers to let them know he was ready to take on constitutional files. “The LLM gave me the confidence to pick up the phone,” he says. “Over the course of the program, I had also published several papers. That made it easier to demonstrate that I had expertise in the area.” It worked. Now a partner, Agarwal is his firm’s leading lawyer in constitutional law. He’s been to the Supreme Court of Canada 17 times. “The program helped me build the career I have.”

Fast facts about the Osgoode Professional LLM

1. Flexible: The program is designed for professionals. Evening and weekend classes let you earn a degree while working.

2. Specialized: Dive deep into one of 14 areas of specialization, including tax, securities, constitutional, criminal, labour, and dispute resolution.

3. Rigorous: Throughout the program, you’ll complete detailed papers on a complex area of law, honing your legal writing and analytical skills.

Osgoode’s Professional LLM is designed with the working lawyer in mind. To learn more, visit the program’s website or call (416) 673-4670.

This story is from our Fall 2018 Issue.

Feature: White out

When Precedent’s first issue came out, a decade ago, less than 12 percent of lawyers in Ontario identified as racialized. But since then, that figure has climbed to 19 percent. For this special anniversary edition of the magazine, we sought out three racialized lawyers — whom we’ve profiled in these pages before — and asked them to reflect on how the profession has changed.

Their message: don’t get too excited by the numbers. For one thing, lawyers in Ontario remain less diverse than the province’s general population, which is 26 percent racialized. And, as research from the Law Society of Upper Canada shows, discrimination — ranging from unspoken bias to outright harassment — is a reality for many racialized lawyers. What follows are three status reports on the battle for racial equality in law.


Ranjan Agarwal

Ranjan Agarwal

Ranjan Agarwal
Partner, Bennett Jones LLP
First appearance in Precedent: Summer 2012

Eighteen months ago, Ranjan Agarwal, a partner at Bennett Jones LLP, was preparing an RFP. The potential client said it wanted to hire a diverse legal team, so Agarwal assembled a lineup with both experience and diversity that no firm could match. He told a colleague, “We’ve got this.”

Then the client picked a team of five white, male lawyers — a harsh reminder that some clients merely pay lip service to diversity. Until clients refuse to hire non-diverse teams, explains Agarwal, firms won’t feel genuine pressure to advance racialized and female lawyers. In his view, this won’t happen until clients grasp that diversity is good for the bottom line. And, indeed, it is: a 2015 McKinsey study found that racially diverse companies outperform industry norms by 35 percent. “At some point, people will realize they could be making more money,” says Agarwal. “And money is the one language that everyone in business speaks.”

Agarwal, a past president of the South Asian Bar Association, says he’s never personally experienced overt racism in his career. But he agrees that to succeed as a racialized lawyer requires (sadly) a balancing act. He often takes phone calls from Sikh students wondering if they should shave their beards before interviews or from Muslim students asking if they should whitewash their resumés and remove evidence of their religious affiliations. And his wife may roll her eyes when he talks to colleagues about going to the cottage or having kids in hockey — two Ontario-centric experiences that Agarwal, a son of Indian immigrants, knows little about — but he sees such banter as a necessary step toward the ultimate goal: moving up the ranks, so there’s one more diverse lawyer in an influential role. “Change will only come,” he says, “as we move into places of power.”


Katherine Hensel

Katherine Hensel

Katherine Hensel
Principal, Hensel Barristers
First appearance in Precedent: Winter 2012

Katherine Hensel is used to being an outlier. When she was called to the bar, in 2003, she was both one of the few Indigenous women and single mothers on Bay Street. She started her career at McCarthy Tétrault LLP and later moved to Stockwoods LLP. These days, the Secwepemc lawyer runs Hensel Barristers, a firm dedicated to Indigenous litigation.

In the courtroom, where Hensel handles all manner of civil and criminal trials, casual racism is common. “There are times,” she says, “when Indigenous lawyers show up and the court staff will ask, ‘Do you need to see duty counsel?’” This has happened to Hensel. When she hears such comments, she speaks up, but knows that not everyone does.

The justice system itself can also be deeply ignorant. Hensel often represents survivors of residential schools, who are making claims against the government. And in court, she still has to educate judges and opposing counsel of the consequences — intergenerational trauma, for instance — of one of Canada’s darkest moments. Thanks to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, she can simply hand its final report to the judge. But it still means that she has to deliver a history lesson to the court. “Every case that comes up is an opportunity for me to educate people,” says Hensel. “But I don’t want to have to educate people. I want access to justice for my clients.”

Hensel would love to hire Indigenous lawyers and students, but, at the moment, doesn’t have one. Part of the problem is that litigation runs counter to the consensus-based decision-making common in many Indigenous communities, which drives young Indigenous lawyers away from the area. “Indigenous litigators are thin on the ground,” says Hensel. “But I’m actively looking.”


Paul Jonathan Saguil

Paul Jonathan Saguil

Paul Jonathan Saguil
Associate VP, TD Bank
First appearance in Precedent: Summer 2015

Paul Jonathan Saguil never asked to be a poster child for diversity. But in 2008, as a first-year associate at Stockwoods LLP, he decided to be open about the fact that he’s gay. Because he was so outspoken, the requests — first, to speak on diversity panels and, later, to sit on boards — flooded in. “I just kept saying yes,” says the associate vice-president at TD Bank. Fast-forward 10 years and Saguil, who is Filipino, holds executive positions on — ready for this? — the Law Society’s Equity Advisory Group, Out on Bay Street, and the CBA’s Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity Forum. And he previously held positions on the Federation of Asian Canadian Lawyers and Pride Toronto.

Over the past decade, the 35-year-old has seen tangible change. Both law firms and in-house departments now hire diversity officers, host panels and throw cocktail parties for Pride Week.

But Saguil fears that such initiatives have started to outlive their usefulness: he often sees the exact same people showing up at diversity events. “Sometimes it’s frustrating,” he says. “I look around the room and think, Are we just in an echo chamber?”

Saguil’s tireless dedication to equality has also taken a personal toll: a recent relationship ended, in part, because of how many hours he put into the cause. He wonders if his relationships would be stronger if he took a step back.

But until he stops getting middle-of-the-night messages on LinkedIn from strangers asking for help because a colleague has made a pejorative remark, his work isn’t over.

One thing, though, is certain: the increase in the number of racialized lawyers has forced the profession to take their concerns seriously: “We can’t be silenced anymore.”

Fall 2017 CoverThis story is from our 10th anniversary issue, published in Fall 2017.




Photography by Luis Mora; Hair and makeup by Michelle Calleja

Not Your Average Vacation: This Bay Street partner spent her holiday Antarctica’s highest mountain

Halfway up Mount Vinson, the highest peak in Antarctica, Claire Kennedy pauses: For a fraction of what I paid to be here, I could be in the Seychelles with a private chef. For the last five days, the corporate tax partner at Bennett Jones LLP has been lugging around 50 pounds of gear and food, all while sleeping in a two-person tent, bundled in a Canada Goose jacket and using a funnel to pee into an opaque Nalgene bottle. This is not your average vacation.

hiking on mount vinsonA year earlier, in January 2015, Kennedy registered for the expedition with True Patriot Love, a group that funds and organizes programs for Canadian veterans. Kennedy was one of 15 Canadian civilians who would make the trek with a team of eight former soldiers and five guides. She paid a $50,000 registration fee, which covered the cost for her and 50 percent of one of the veteran’s trips. Each civilian also had to fundraise $60,000, but Kennedy brought in over $120,000. “I had a huge amount of support from my colleagues.”

Before the trip, she completed a half-week training camp in the Canadian Rockies, where the team learned how to don crampons (ice-walking shoe attachments) and rescue someone from a crevasse. Kennedy also spent a year fitting in workouts and long hikes over the hills of Hoggs Hollow (with dumbbells in her backpack) between a busy practice and two kids at home.

On the mountain, exhausted and cold, Kennedy was forced to slow down her thought process and address one task at a time. Everything, from doing up a zipper to manoeuvring an ice axe, took intense focus. Muddled thoughts would only waste time. “Up there,” she says, “slow is smooth and smooth is fast.” It’s a mindfulness technique she’s been able to bring back home into her practice.

On the final day of ascending, Kennedy’s body started to shut down. She turned around, short of the summit, and waited at the closest campsite with a few others from her group. “I have absolutely no regrets. I’d proven enough to myself already.”

Kennedy was both humbled and strengthened by the adventure. “You look out at the landscape and think: I am nothing in this space. I have no power here,” she says. “If Mother Nature wants to do this” — she flicks her hand — “you’re done.”


Thinking of climbing Mount Vinson? Here’s what you need to know: 

The cost: To start, registration is $50,000. But also prepare to fundraise at least $60,000 and dish out as much as $15,000 for flights, evacuation insurance and gear, including merino-wool long underwear and an ice axe.

The training: You’ll need to train hard for more than a year to prepare your body for the exhaustion that comes with mountaineering. To train properly, Kennedy suggests hiring a personal trainer who can design an intensive custom plan.

Personal safety: “I never felt in mortal danger,” says Kennedy. Her sense of security came from the expert guides who lead the expedition. But there are some threats: sunburn (snow is a great reflector), frostbite and the occasional avalanche warning.

Precedent Summer 2017 Issue

This story is from our Summer 2017 issue.




Photo courtesy of Kristian Bogner

The Circuit: Precedent Setter Awards 2015

What: Precedent Setter Awards 2015
Where: Spin Toronto, 461 King St. W.
When: June 9, 2015

Last week, more than 150 lawyers and guests gathered to recognize this year’s Precedent Setter Award winners. Held at downtown ping-pong bar Spin Toronto (the same place where we held this year’s photo shoot), our annual event brought guests together to mingle and meet our winners, who, in their first 10 years of practice, are at the top of their game.

During the evening, Melissa Kluger, publisher and editor of Precedent, presented the winners with their award. This year, we decided to put a spin (no pun intended) on traditional awards and presented each winner with a ping-pong paddle featuring their photo from the magazine.

We’d like to extend a big thank-you to our presenting sponsor RainMaker Group and our event sponsors Laurel Hill Advisory Group, Alexa Translations, Flex Legal Network and the Project Gallery.

Congratulations once again to all our winners:

Aida Shahbazi

Aida Shahbazi
Senior Counsel, BMO Financial Group
Read Aida’s profile

Patric Senson

Patric Senson
Associate, Phillips Gill LLP
Read Patric’s profile

Omo Akintan

Omo Akintan
Counsel, City of Toronto
Read Omo’s profile








Paul Jonathan Saguil

Paul Jonathan Saguil
Counsel, TD Bank Financial Group
Read Paul’s profile

Jason Woycheshyn

Jason Woycheshyn
Partner, Bennett Jones LLP
Read Jason’s profile

Lisa Feldstein

Lisa Feldstein
Founder, Lisa Feldstein Law Office
Read Lisa’s profile








Event photography by Yvonne Bambrick

Winners’ portraits by Jaime Hogge

Making It Work: Unfiltered advice from lawyers with kids

Can you be a killer lawyer, a great parent and a well-adjusted non-zombie-like human despite the sleep deprivation that parenthood entails? Yes. Is it easy? Well, no. But these working moms and dads have a few tricks for making the process less painful. We’ve got advice, war stories and real talk from Toronto lawyers who’ve had kids, excelled in their careers and lived to tell the tale.

Katherine Hensel

Katherine Hensel

Founding partner of Hensel Barristers
First Nations litigation

Age: 44
Mom of three: ages 18, five and one

She knows when her kids need her most. It’s not just the early years that you have to make time for — it’s also the teen years. “It’s a short time when they’re this young,” she says of her little ones. “They need you again at adolescence. It’s the most difficult time in their lives. They’re struggling to form an identity.”

planeShe tries to limit travel to day trips. Even if she travels as far as Saskatchewan, Hensel will fly home that night. “Psychologically it’s much better for everyone than me sleeping away.”

She relies on lots of domestic help. “It’s real work running a house, raising kids and caring for two dogs. It’s time-consuming,” says the single mother. So she’s hired a cleaner, a live-out caregiver and a backup babysitter. “If you’re going to be a professional and a parent, somebody has to be doing the housework.”

Cynthia Kuehl

Cynthia Kuehl

Partner, Lerners LLP
Commercial litigation

Age: 41
Mom of two: ages 10 and four

She’s made peace with her wacky schedule. The only way she can get home for dinner and make the occasional parent council meeting is to leave the office at 5:30 or 6 p.m. “I go home, hang out, we do what we do. I put the kids to bed at nine,” she says. A few times a week, she heads back to the office for 9:30, where she works until 12 or 1 a.m. A full-time nanny, even though the kids are in full-day school, helps things run smoothly for her and her husband, an assistant Crown attorney.

She makes fitness a priority. In 2008, a senior lawyer said to her, “You need to start working out,” when she looked run-down and tired. Instead of being defensive, Kuehl took the advice to heart. Now she sees a trainer twice a week and unapologetically carves the hours out of her workday.

She makes time for herself. She takes a few weeks off each summer. She goes on an annual ski vacation. She even has a board game night with co-workers. “If you don’t have fun for yourself, this profession is tough. It can be demanding, overwhelming and stressful. You have to balance that.”

Rohit Parekh

Rohit Parekh

Legal counsel and director of innovation, Conduit Law; Founder, Grapplelaw.ca
Intellectual property law and civil litigator

Age: 43
Dad of three: ages 11, nine and six

gavelHe became the parent-on-call. He left Gowlings in 2004 at the end of his wife’s first maternity leave (she’s a criminal defence lawyer). “Something had to give, because it would be daycare and a nanny,” he said of the away-from-home hours both were working. Big-firm culture was not for him, anyway.

He clumps his kids’ extracurriculars together. “The deal I made with my wife is the kids will do activities at the same place at the same time,” he says. “Turns out two of them figure skate and one swims in the same facility. We’re there every Saturday from 9:20 to 2:30.”

The Crock-Pot is the weekday dinner hero. On Sunday, Parekh throws simple ingredients into the slow-cooker to make, say, a huge batch of tomato sauce that he’ll use as the base for pasta dishes all week.

Jake Sadikman

Jake Sadikman

Partner, Osler, Hoskin & Harcourt LLP
Energy and infrastructure

Age: 38
Dad of three: ages seven, six and three

He sacrifices weeknights at home. “I generally work later hours during the week, so my weekends are as clear as possible,” he says. “We’re Jewish, so Friday night Sabbath dinner is an important tradition I try not to miss.”

His wife is a stay-at-home mom. “She’s the secret to making it all work,” he admits. “There’s no way I would be able to devote so much attention to work without her keeping everything together at home.”fork & knife

Saturdays are Family Date Night. “We go out to dinner. It does a lot of cool things: it bonds us, and it teaches the kids about eating out, about manners and about trying different types of foods.”

Jason Woycheshyn

Jason Woycheshyn

Partner, Bennett Jones LLP
Commercial litigation

Age: 37
Dad of two: ages three, two and a baby due in May

He used to wake up at 4 a.m. to get in a workout, catch the train from Oakville and hit Starbucks at 5:30 a.m. before getting to his desk. Obviously that’s crazy, so nowadays he catches the 6:55 a.m. train. “I also make a strong effort to get home by 6:15 to have dinner with the kids.”

As a senior associate, he brought his baby to a meeting. “My wife said, ‘I’m exhausted, I need some me time.’” So she dropped off the baby at his office. “An emergency strategy session came up and I was holding my daughter. Then she starts crying, and I’m rocking her.” As he remembers, one of the firm’s partners was not impressed. “I thought, ‘Well, this is the right thing to do for my family. If that’s the difference between staying here or not, that’s how it goes.’” Everything blew over the next day.

He would have had his kids when he was younger. “If I could do it again, I probably would have started a couple years earlier.”

Sudevi Mukherjee Gothi

Sudevi Mukherjee-Gothi

Partner, Torkin Manes LLP
Civil litigation

Age: 40
Mom of three: ages three (twins) and one

Her husband used to work in Quebec City as a lieutenant commander in the navy. After their twins were born he could only come home some weekends. “It didn’t work for our family,” she says. He requested a transfer. Now he works near Barrie, a long drive to their Oakville home, but he starts early so he can be back by 5 p.m.

6 p.m. onward is firmly family time. “I leave my phone in my purse and I don’t usually feel the urge to check it.”

diamondsShe takes cat-naps on the GO train. “Sleep has become a premium,” she says. “If somebody were to ask me if I wanted two hours of uninterrupted sleep or a diamond necklace, I’d choose sleep. And I love jewellery.”

Brian Calalang

Brian Calalang

Partner, Hansell LLP
Corporate and security

Age: 41
Dad of two: ages 10 and eight

His home, his office and his ex-wife’s house are all on the Yonge subway line. “You have to think about these things,” he says. “Being close to them is a high priority.” He and his ex share custody. Calalang usually spends time with his kids on the weekends and on one weekday.

He sometimes takes work calls while driving to coach his son’s hockey practice. “Technology today makes it easier to be available to your clients and spend time with your family — you can step away from the office.” He spends a lot of time outside with his kids, going on weekend getaways to the Niagara region and spending a week at the cottage. “Being present goes a long way.”

He’s on-call 24/7. Hansell LLP is a new firm that takes on “mission-critical” cases. But his kids have accepted it. “They’ve come to appreciate that they enjoy a life that a lot of kids don’t.” Technology and the support of his firm allow him to attend to both work and family without sacrificing either.

Maxine EthierMaxine Ethier

Associate, Baker & McKenzie LLP
Energy and infrastructure

Age: 34
Mom of two: ages three, two and another baby on the way in April

She cabs home to save time. “We live near Trinity Bellwoods. The decision to live central allows more time at work.”

The transitions between home and work are stressful. “When you’re trying to get the kids out the door, and when 6 p.m. starts to near and I want to get home for dinner — that’s the struggle. Otherwise, I’m generally fine.”

To succeed in law, you need a partner that supports you. “I know I wouldn’t be able to do it if my husband wasn’t there.” He sells dental equipment, so his time is more flexible.

Starting over isn’t easy. At Heenan Blaikie, where she worked for nine years, “There were a lot of parents with young kids. That was a luxury.” At Heenan, her team had the same motivation to get home for dinner. “Here, the group’s age ranges. A lot of them are single, or they are senior partners with older kids. When I take a call at home and there are small voices in the background on my end of the line, I don’t feel as comfortable because they may not have the same understanding. It was nice to have the certainty.”

Jake Sadikman and family

Jake Sadikman and his family at the cottage in Muskoka.

Cynthia Kuehl and co. on the slopes in Vermont.

Cynthia Kuehl and co. on the slopes in Vermont.









This story is part of The Precedent guide to getting it all done, from our Spring 2015 issue.



Illustrations by Naila Medjidova

The South Asian Bar Association to throw its annual gala next week

When the South Asian Bar Association held its first year-end gala in 2006, about 65 lawyers showed up. Since then, the annual party has surged in popularity. Next Thursday, more than 400 lawyers are set to attend the 2014 SABA Awards Gala at the Fairmont Royal York Hotel — and Justin Trudeau will deliver the keynote speech. 

“We have grown exponentially,” says Ranjan Agarwal, a partner at Bennet Jones LLP and a director at SABA. “We’re going to the Fairmont because we have outgrown most of the hotels downtown.” 

According to Agarwal, the explanation for that rapid growth is twofold. First, there are simply more South Asians moving to Canada and graduating from law school. And secondly, he says, big law firms and in-house departments — such as Blakes, McCarthys and Bank of Montreal — have embraced the event and now buy up entire tables. 

Agarwal finds such success encouraging: it shows that the profession is at least beginning to treat diversity as a serious issue. “Law firms themselves have realized why diversity is important,” he says. “It creates better teams and ensures that they can recruit the best and the brightest.” 

And with racial and gender diversity emerging as a major issue for law firms, SABA has asked Justin Trudeau to weigh in on the subject when he speaks next week. 

“Here is someone who wants to become the next Prime Minister of Canada and the polls suggest he’s got a good shot at it,” says Agarwal. “So we’ve asked him to talk about the Liberal party’s view on diversity in the profession, judiciary and the government.” 

Tickets to the event are still available online.

Photo of the 2013 SABA Awards Gala by Yvonne Bambrick. Check out our Circuit section for more photos from last year’s event.

Precedent Setter Awards 2014: Nikiforos Iatrou

Niki Iatrou




















Nikiforos Iatrou

Partner, WeirFoulds LLP
Called to the bar in 2005

Thirty-six hours straight. That’s how long Niki Iatrou stayed awake, prepping materials for his first appearance before the federal Competition Tribunal. It was 2007, and Iatrou was a “baby junior” at WeirFoulds LLP. The firm had been retained by the Competition Bureau to seek a last-minute injunction against Labatt’s $200-million acquisition of Lakeport Brewing Co. He lost, but 18 months later, the Bureau offered him a two-year secondment in Ottawa. Incoming Commissioner Melanie Aitken wanted an aggressive young litigator. “Niki was someone with terrific common sense and very good intuition,” says Aitken. “He had wisdom beyond his years.”

When the Bureau launched its first full-fledged merger challenge in six years, Iatrou got the file. It was a gruelling year. At the month-long hearing, Iatrou argued that Tervita, owner of two hazardous-waste landfills in northeastern British Columbia, had launched a $6-million bid for a would- be rival to head off future competition. He and his equally junior co-counsel, Jonathan Hood, won. And then they won again on appeal, setting a legal precedent. “Niki didn’t just do an okay job,” says Aitken, now a partner with Bennett Jones LLP in Washington, D.C. “He did a spectacular job.”

Iatrou, who serves as the president of the Hellenic Canadian Lawyers’ Association, returned to WeirFoulds as a partner in 2012 and began building a competition law group. Now, he represents high-profile companies such as Kobo and eBay.

Last summer, Iatrou and his spouse had a baby girl. “It’s so much fun,” he says. “I’m a happier person, and that infects my spirit at work as much as it does at home.” Though he’s now unreachable between 5:30 and 7:30 p.m. for family time, he still pulls his share of non-baby-related all-nighters. “I don’t have to be the smartest guy in the room, but I strive to be the hardest-working guy in the room,” he says. “I don’t take any of this for granted.”

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