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 team players

When Josh Koziebrocki interviewed Lidiya Yermakova in 2012 for an articling position, the two mostly talked about music. On his office wall, the associate at Lerners LLP had hung a poster of his favourite band, Wilco. Yermakova was a fan, too, although she wasn’t as obsessed as Koziebrocki, who’s made repeat pilgrimages to Massachusetts to see the band play.

Over the next four years — as Yermakova went from summering to articling to getting hired back as an associate at the firm — she often worked closely with Koziebrocki, who ran a busy litigation practice. For Koziebrocki, who is 39, Yermakova was like the ultra-reliable rhythm guitarist who keeps the tempo steady and never misses a rehearsal. He could assign her court submissions and know the final product would be elegantly written, impeccably researched and delivered on deadline. For Yermakova, now 29, Koziebrocki was the magnanimous bandleader who gives his players plenty of time in the spotlight. She got many of her career firsts — for instance, an opportunity to handle a client on her own — thanks to Koziebrocki’s support.

Josh Koziebrocki and Lidiya Yermakova

Josh Koziebrocki and Lidiya Yermakova are pictured here in front of their office in the Annex. “We love our building,” says Yermakova. “It’s an old Victorian home that’s been converted into offices. We also love the neighbourhood, which is full of beautiful residential streets and small businesses.”

But in early 2017, Koziebrocki left Lerners. He decided to found his own firm, Koziebrocki Law, which specializes in professional regulation. His clients include doctors, dentists, pharmacists, accountants and lawyers — anyone whose line of work makes them answerable to a professional college or administrative body. Some are fending off minor allegations; others are facing serious disciplinary hearings that could affect their ability to practise.

Koziebrocki saw growth potential in the area. For starters, vocations that were once loosely regulated — for instance, patent and trademark agents — now operate under more stringent regulatory bodies. And as stories of workplace misconduct continue to make headlines (think of the #MeToo movement) professional bodies are taking more action. “Regulators want to make sure they’re taking every complaint seriously,” he says. “This, in turn, puts pressure on professionals to defend themselves.”

More importantly, he finds the work meaningful. When he helps people stay in their line of work, he enables them to maintain their identity. “If you think of any individual, their profession is often the first thing you think of.”

He landed clients fast. By summertime, he needed a second lawyer. Yermakova was a natural fit, thanks to her knack for written advocacy and extensive litigation experience. (The latter was of particular importance, since a professional-regulation tribunal is a lot like a courtroom.)

Suddenly, Yermakova was staring down a tough career question: should I stay or should I go? “I listened to that Clash song over and over,” she jokes. At the time, she hadn’t been seeking an exit strategy — “I was very happy at Lerners,” she says — but leaving would have its perks.

For one thing, she would join a growing firm in a busy practice area. And there were the interpersonal factors, too. Yermakova describes Koziebrocki as “the right kind of person” to work with. “Josh gives me a great deal of responsibility,” she says. “He trusts me to do things I haven’t done before. It puts me out of my comfort zone, but once I’ve done something new, I’ve done it.”

So in September of 2017, she decided to join Koziebrocki Law. Shortly thereafter, the duo was going over notes for an oral submission, with Yermakova pointing out strategies Koziebrocki might use in court. Suddenly, he told her that he, personally, wouldn’t be taking any of her suggestions. “I’m not going to be arguing this,” he said. “You are.” That moment was a significant vote of confidence.

Koziebrocki and Yermakova have developed a kind of workplace symbiosis — a mutual willingness to accommodate one another. In spring of this year, after a busy few months at the firm, Yermakova took a weekend off in New York City. After arriving, she got an email from Koziebrocki saying that he’d landed a major file and would be conducting a hearing within the week. Yermakova’s first response was, “That’s so exciting! Can I change my flight and come back early?” To which Koziebrocki replied: “No, you can’t do that, but I will arrange the timing of the client meeting so you can come straight from the airport.”

Yermakova showed up at the office in her vacation clothes: a leather jacket and a T-shirt for the ’80s punk group the Replacements. Koziebrocki had no problems with her informal attire. “Simply put, I was taken with her dedication,” he says. Also, it doesn’t hurt that he likes the band.

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

Photography by Ian Patterson, hair and makeup by Shawna Lee

The Referral: Why you need David Bowie’s Five Years vinyl box set

lawyer, Josh Koziebrocki

Recommended by: Josh Koziebrocki, Lerners LLP 

Making the case: “I bought it the day he died,” says Josh Koziebrocki, a partner at Lerners LLP, referring to the 13-piece David Bowie Five Years vinyl box set. “It’s every album that he produced, including live albums, during the first five years of his career. And it’s named after the song ‘Five Years’ that’s on Ziggy Stardust.

“It’s something I listen to when I’m done work and want to take myself to a more fun place. It’s very excitable music but complex at the same time: it’s full of very interesting lyrics, incredible melodies and just a great sound. It’s the perfect soundtrack for going home, relaxing and enjoying life. And everyone should listen to this on vinyl, so they can appreciate it properly.”

Where to find it: Sonic Boom at 215 Spadina Ave. or online at store.davidbowie.com.

How much you’ll pay: The vinyl box set costs $250 (USD) online, and up to $285 (CAD) in stores.

Bonus material: The whole box set includes six original studio albums, and a book with technical notes from the producers of each classic Bowie album.

Cover of the Summer Issue of Precedent MagazineThis story is from our Summer 2016 issue.