The 2016 Precedent Setter Awards

Precedent Setter Awards 2016

One has sparked a tech revolution in tax law. Another has brought free legal help to hundreds of refugees. And one more kick-started his career by defending gun owners. The winners of this year’s Precedent Setter Awards are a varied bunch. But they all have this: wicked-smart legal minds that have thrust their careers into overdrive. And with an eye to community work, these lawyers are remaking the profession for the better. All in their first 10 years of practice.

Which is why, for their photo shoot, we took them out for brunch at Cluny Bistro & Boulangerie, perhaps the most stunning restaurant in the Distillery District. With its legit Parisian cuisine and elegant design, we could think of no better place to pamper lawyers who deserve a hard-won break.

May we proudly present the lawyers to watch in 2016.

The Winners

Lawyer Tanya Walker of Walker Law Professional Corporation

Tanya Walker
Founder, Walker Law Professional Corporation
Read Tanya’s profile

Lawyer Solomon Friedman of Edelson Clifford D'Angelo Friedman Barristers LLP

Solomon Friedman
Partner, Edelson Clifford D’Angelo Friedman Barristers LLP
Read Solomon’s profile

Lawyer Peter Aprile of Counter Tax Law

Peter Aprile
Founder, Counter Tax Lawyers
Read Peter’s profile









Lawyer Jacqueline Swaisland of Lorne Waldman Professional Corporation

Jacqueline Swaisland
Associate, Lorne Waldman Professional Corporation
Read Jacqueline’s profile

Lawyer Suhuyini Abudalai of Cassels Brock & Blackwell LLP

Suhuyini Abudulai Associate, Cassels Brock & Blackwell LLP
Read Suhuyini’s profile

Lawyer Sunil Gurmukh of the Ontario Human Rights Commission

Sunil Gurmukh
Counsel, Ontario Human Rights Commission
Read Sunil’s profile









The Judges

Scott Hutchison, Partner, Henein Hutchison LLP

Lena Koke, Co-Founder, Axess Law

Isfahan Merali, Counsel, Consent and Capacity Board and Bencher, The Law Society of Upper Canada

Jason Woycheshyn, Partner, Bennett Jones LLP

Behind-the-scenes photos

Check out the behind-the-scenes photos from the photo shoot with the winners!

Precedent Setter Awards 2016 - photo shoot

Photography Ian Patterson, hair and makeup by Jessica Haisinger, shot on location at Cluny Bistro & Boulangerie

The Precedent Setter Awards 2015

Every 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.

From a record number of nominations, six winners have risen to the top — six hardworking, trailblazing, communityminded lawyers who, in their first 10 years of practice, are already proving themselves to be the next leaders of the profession.

With all that trailblazing and hard work, we thought our winners deserved to have a little fun. So, for their victory photoshoot, we took them to play a few rounds at Toronto ping-pong bar Spin. Turns out, they are not only winners, but good sports as well.

May we proudly present the lawyers to watch in 2015.

The 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








The Judges

Afshan Ali, Senior Counsel, CIBC

David Bronskill, Partner, Goodmans LLP

Shantona Chaudhury, Associate, Pape Barristers

Ryan Edmonds, Owner, Ryan Edmonds Workplace Counsel

Web bonus

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

Party photos

On June 9, lawyers and guests gathered to celebrate this year’s winners. Check out our party photos.

Photography by Jaime Hogge, Hair and makeup by Shawna Lee, Shot on location at Spin Toronto

Precedent Setter Awards 2015: Jason Woycheshyn

Jason Woycheshyn

Partner, Bennett Jones LLP
Called to the bar in 2007
Law school: University of Calgary

Former elite decathlete and, by his own admission, a “jock.” Co-founder of the Ukrainian Canadian Bar Association. Awesome commercial litigator at Bennett Jones. Ten or so associates under his wing at any given time. So he’s a Harvey Specter-esque hotshot with a metric ton of swagger, right? Nope. Despite every reason to be cocky as hell, Jason Woycheshyn, 37, is a mildly spoken Albertan mensch.

Woycheshyn grew up in Vegreville, Alberta, a proudly Ukrainian-Canadian town (he’s fifth-generation on both sides), and speaks fluent Ukrainian. This connection to his heritage compelled him to spend part of May 2014 in Ukraine as a volunteer international election observer. “This was a legitimate grassroots revolution,” Woycheshyn says of the movement that saw Petro Poroshenko voted into power.

His wife Melanie and their two small children (a third was born in May) stayed home while he made the journey. “Being a father, I knew I had to contribute and preserve the Ukrainian identity.” By the time he travelled home to Oakville, “I felt an obligation to help preserve the culture here in Canada,” he says, in his quiet way. That was the catalyst to spearhead the Ukrainian Canadian Bar Association in October, now 200 members strong.

Jason WoycheshynAt work, he’s an innovator in alternate fee arrangements (AFAs). “Jason is a great lawyer, and a great partner in rethinking the way we approach litigation,” says Adrian Lang, associate general counsel at BMO Financial Group, with whom Woycheshyn negotiated an AFA for small claims. “Jason provides us with great service, at a low cost, with effective results.”

“The billable hour isn’t going to disappear anytime soon,” Woycheshyn says. “But AFAs force you to work with the client. It’s risk-sharing. Historically, there has been almost no risk to the lawyer.”

His greatest professional pride is mentoring the associates and students he oversees, helping with not just legal but work-life balance issues and career guidance. There’s no one single file he’s most proud of. “It’s helping young lawyers develop,” he says. “This profession is one of mentorship. Clients come and go.”




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



Photography by Jaime Hogge; Hair and makeup by Shawna Lee; Shot on location at Spin Toronto

Making It Work: The Precedent guide to getting it all done

Precedent Spring Issue 2015 CoverLet’s face it: in order to a lawyer (and a damn good one at that), it means that you are making a commitment to a profession that demands a lot of time and energy. But that doesn’t mean you want to sacrifice the rest of your life.

So how does it all get done?

You’ve got to be resourceful. You’ve got to let some things go. And you’ve got to work hard to achieve balance.

Find out how some of Toronto’s most productive lawyers are killing it at the office and making time for their hobbies, vacations, families, fitness and even sleep. Don’t believe us? Check out the stories below:


Angela Chaisson

How Angela Chaisson finds time to go for lunch with her firm every day

Cornell Wright

How Cornell Wright finds a way to make it to soccer practice

Bindu Cudjoe

How Bindu Cudjoe makes time for friends, family and annual vacations








Unfiltered advice from lawyers with kids

Shelby Austin

Learn from Shelby Austin’s day planner

healthy lawyer

How to keep your job from killing you







Photography by Daniel Ehrenworth

Illustration by Naila Medjidova

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,
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