The Insider: Will your firm be passing out edibles at its next networking event?

On a muggy July afternoon in Toronto’s Financial District, a mob of buttoned-down 20- and 30-somethings crowds around the bar at Assembly Chef’s Hall. They order beers and cocktails before racing to score a spot on the patio. It’s a familiar Friday ritual, except for the section of the bar that’s topped with lighters, pipes, vaporizers and sleek brochures titled “Higher Learning,” which define a glossary of terms — THC, sativa, kush — that were once familiar only to stoners. A plate of brownies sits next to the paraphernalia. The treats don’t have cannabis in them. At least, not yet.

That area of the bar is operated by Tokyo Smoke. Come October 17, this nationwide chain of coffee shops will start selling legal weed in every province that permits private pot sales. (Ontario will be one of them.) The company is betting that it can turn today’s after-work drinks into tomorrow’s after-work smoke sessions.

It won’t be easy. In an April 2018 Statistics Canada report, only 14 percent of Canadians said they had used cannabis in the past three months; only six percent said they would either increase their consumption or try the drug for the first time. To win over lawyers, bankers and other professionals, Tokyo Smoke will need to replace the stereotype of the lazy stoner with a new, more elegant vision of what it means to consume cannabis.

The first strategy is to create a posh weed culture. “We want retail environments that urban professionals feel comfortable walking into,” says Will Stewart, vice-president of communications at Tokyo Smoke’s parent company, Hiku. “Instead of a plastic neon-green bong with a big pot leaf on it, we sell beautiful porcelain bongs that could be vases in your living room.”

No matter their decor, cannabis companies will struggle to convince the masses to embrace the physical act of smoking. “When people think of cannabis, they think of someone smoking a joint,” says Mark Zekulin, the president and CEO of Canopy Growth, one of Canada’s largest cannabis companies (it signed an agreement to acquire Hiku in July). “And as a society, we are generally moving away from smoking.”

Edibles and cannabis-infused drinks, however, don’t carry the same stigma. “It’s still going to be a long time before corporate events offer edibles,” says Stewart. “But it won’t be long before lawyers hosting a dinner party offer beer, wine and an infused beverage or edible for dessert.”

high hopes, dalbert vilarinoIn the legal profession, the stigma around cannabis has started to recede. When Rami Chalabi, an associate at Bennett Jones LLP, started to represent cannabis companies three years ago — advising them on mergers, acquisitions and initial public offerings — it was relegated to the fringes. “We kept it a little quiet,” he says. “Now, it’s one of the largest parts of our practice.”

Though cannabis has become a legit practice area, lawyers are hesitant to admit they’re users. “Legal culture is predicated on being on your game and sharp,” says Chalabi. “That’s not something you associate with cannabis.”

Zekulin is convinced lawyers will become more comfortable with cannabis, but knows it will take time. “You’ve had decades and decades where it was illegal, and people don’t talk about things they do that are illegal,” he says. “That stigma will not just disappear because the law has changed.”

This story is from our Fall 2018 Issue.

Illustration by Dalbert Vilarino

Career Counsel: How to land clients without a big expense account

When it comes to business development, it seems like the profession has run out of ideas. Lunches, hockey games and golf tournaments are the standard fare.

These options favour the partners with the firm credit card. They can rack up big tabs at restaurants and take clients to see the Raptors courtside. But there are so many other ways to rock business development. You just need creativity and some healthy shamelessness. Here are some outside-the-box strategies that any busy lawyer can adopt.

Really use that LinkedIn account.

If you spend time writing thoughtful blog posts on legal news, hoping to catch the eye of a potential client, don’t just post them on your firm’s website. Publish them on LinkedIn, too. Think about it. People check social media throughout the day, but how many of us cruise law-firm websites?

Be creative with client outings.

Don’t reflexively take all your clients to fancy dinners. Instead, take a minute and think about what they might actually find fun. If one client is bookish, head to Indigo and browse around with coffees in hand. For the gamer, try a games room like The Rec Room in downtown Toronto. And if you have a bona fide sports fan on your client roster, why not skip the run-of-the-mill Jays game and go axe-throwing?

Know what keeps your clients up at night.

If your client runs a tech startup, research the heck out of their product. Set a Google alert on your phone so you instantly receive news that affects the industry. Then, next time you’re on a call, mention what you’ve learned. This will show your clients that they’re always on your mind.

Business development isn’t just for the most senior lawyers. It’s something every lawyer should start doing from day one. Try different things and find what works for you. And you if you keep it fun and enjoyable, your clients will notice.


Kathryn MarshallKathryn Marshall is an employment-litigation lawyer at MacDonald & Associates in Toronto. She writes about career advancement for Precedent.




This story is from our Summer 2018 Issue.

Illustration by Alina Skyson

On the Record: How to grow a law firm during a recession

Over the past decade, competition in the legal marketplace has been ferocious. The reason is simple enough: after the financial crisis of 2008, cash-strapped corporate clients cut their legal budgets, forcing law firms to scramble for their piece of a shrinking pie.

Most firms, as a result, had little reason to add lawyers to their rank-and-file. But we’ve had our eye on two firms that have, indeed, grown. Since the recession, Miller Thomson LLP, a national firm, has surged from 407 lawyers to 537, a 32-percent spike. And the Toronto-based Torkin Manes LLP has grown by 23 percent, having gone from 73 lawyers to 90. We spoke to the managing partners at both firms to get their secret formula for growing a law firm.

1. Identify industries that are about to take off

If business is drying up in traditional markets — say, banking and insurance — firms can only grow if they target under-the-radar industries set to catch fire.

Ten years ago, at Torkin Manes, the firm could see that the baby boomers were entering old age. At the time, the firm employed two lawyers with expertise in estates and trusts, as well as in serving the business-law needs of nursing homes and long-term-care facilities. Today, it has eight. “This is a huge area,” says Jeffrey Cohen, the managing partner. “And it will continue to be over the next 20 years.”

Meanwhile, Miller Thomson has pinpointed industries that are rife with fast-growing companies. “We’ve gained clients in many technology areas, such as agriculture, financial technology and cybersecurity,” says Peter Auvinen, the firm’s GTA managing partner. “So we’ve had to add lawyers in all of these areas.”

2. Poach third-tier partners from other firms

When staffing up, neither Torkin Manes nor Miller Thomson prioritize elite partners with long client rosters. Instead, they look for partners at other firms who aren’t living up to their potential. “Often, they’re third or fourth in the chain of command of a practice group,” says Auvinen. “But it’s clear they could achieve more if their career wasn’t blocked by a hierarchy.”

Cohen, over at Torkin Manes, employs a similar tactic. “We want lawyers with the skills needed to generate business,” he explains, “and we’ll help them take it to the next level.”

3. Open an office in the suburbs

In the past year, Miller Thomson has hired two-dozen lawyers to work at its brand-new office in Vaughan. “There’s all sorts of economic activity there,” says Auvinen. “Real estate development. Manufacturing. Everything you could imagine.”

Couldn’t the firm land that business from Toronto? Well, maybe. But as the only national firm in Vaughan, Miller Thomson has an advantage. “Most clients from outside Toronto hate driving into the city — it takes half a day,” says Auvinen. “I meet with potential clients who want a full-service firm, but don’t want to sit through Toronto traffic to see their lawyer.”

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




Illustration by Alina Skyson

On the Record: Even among second-year lawyers, women earn less than men

Walk into any big law firm in the country and select a pair of associates, one a man and the other a woman, both called to the bar two years ago. Ask how much they make a year. Odds are the man will out-earn his colleague by about $10,000.

Such is the reality at the largest firms in Canada (those with more than 100 lawyers), according to a recent survey of junior lawyers published by the University of Toronto. And it doesn’t get much better at smaller firms or other sectors of law. The study shows that, on average, second-year male lawyers make $5,500 more than their female counterparts.

“It’s hard for lawyers to imagine how this could happen,” says Ronit Dinovitzer, the sociology professor who authored the study. Indeed, conventional wisdom holds that men start earning more than women at the senior-associate level, as women take maternity leave and prioritize raising children over their careers. But this can’t explain pay inequity among second-year lawyers. As Dinovitzer points out, of the more than 1,000 lawyers she surveyed, a greater percentage of men had children than women.

So what’s going on? Dinovitzer suggests the answer lies not in base salaries — which large firms often fix for junior associates — but in bonuses. The most likely cause of the pay gap, she says, is that partners are more likely to put men on the most lucrative files, meaning they rack up the most billable hours. “If women are systematically kept off these files, they’ll earn smaller bonuses.”

Though the statistics are grim, says Dinovitzer, they’re hardly surprising. “I’ve studied American lawyers for the last decade, and I’m used to finding a gender gap,” she says. “People think that Canada is different, but it’s not. We need to accept that this is going on.”


The scales of imbalance

Total average compensation of full-time, second-year lawyers across Canada:

Type of practice



Solo $60,000 $47,500
Private firm (2-20 lawyers) $75,000 $70,000
Private firm (21-100 lawyers) $85,000 $80,000
Private firm (101-250 lawyers) $86,000 $76,000
Private firm (250+ lawyers) $110,000 $100,100
Provincial or local government $78,000 $76,000
Federal government $70,000 $65,000
Non-government public sector $62,000 $65,000
Private sector (in-house and non-practising lawyers) $100,000 $79,000
Other $88,500 $83,304

Source: A 2015 study published by the University of Toronto

Cover of the Fall 2015 Issue of PrecedentThis story is from our Fall 2015 issue.

Follow Suit: Three stylish, court-appropriate ties

Less than a year into my career as a litigator and I’ve already faced that inevitable and completely embarrassing rite of courtroom passage: a verbal cuffing from a judge.

I was in set-date court, at the Ontario Court of Justice, on a criminal matter (where lawyers aren’t robed) and had decided to forgo my tie. I thought I might push the envelope on what men have to wear in the courtroom. My mistake.

Once my matter concluded, the judge politely, but curtly, let me know that it was inappropriate to abandon my tie in court. Had I appeared before anyone else, he said, I could have been kicked out of the courtroom.

Lesson learned: wear a tie to court. And if that’s a non-negotiable, it might as well be a tie with style. For those looking to have a little fun with their tie choices, here are three stylish and yet totally court-appropriate options to wear at work.

Regimental stripe tie 1. The regimental stripe
This tie took off in the mid-twentieth century when British men returned from the war and kept wearing their regimental colours. It’s versatile because it’s conservative (if they can wear it in the army . . .) but still adds bright colour to your outfit.

Knit tie2. The knit tie
This bad boy is often made out of silk, but it’s knitted like your grandmother’s slippers. Usually it comes in one solid colour and strikes a nice balance between casual and refined. Plus, it’s the long-favoured choice of Bond. Need I say more?

Foulard tie3. The foulard
This tie is covered with a pattern of tiny, repeating whimsical shapes (anything from chickens to fire trucks). From a distance, the pattern appears to melt together, creating a deceivingly conservative look — perfect for getting away with a little sartorial playfulness without getting a dressing down from the bench.

This story is from our Summer 2015 issue.




Chris KalantzisChristopher Kalantzis is an assistant Crown attorney with the Ministry of the Attorney General and a referee for the Canadian Fencing Federation

Trial & Error: How lawyers can leverage LinkedIn (part 1)

Hey lawyers — it’s time to get on LinkedIn. Or, if you’re on it and barely use it, it’s time to get your act together. Your career will thank you.

For the uninitiated, LinkedIn is essentially an online CV — a summary of your experience and accomplishments, connected to a network of your contacts. Many associates erroneously believe that they only need a profile if they are looking for a job. However, LinkedIn can be a powerful business development and profile-building tool and need not be limited to those on the job hunt.

Here the top four ways I use LinkedIn:

  1. As a database of experts
    As part of my litigation practice, I often look for the leading experts in a particular field. LinkedIn is a great database for searching for individuals with specific expertise. I often find that potential experts are more responsive to a LinkedIn request because the expert will know that I am a lawyer, can review my background and experience, and can see if we have any common connections.
  2. As a tool to stay in touch
    LinkedIn helps me stay in touch with a broader network of people and helps me keep track of individuals as they move around. I aim to message someone I have not seen in a while or who I do not know very well once a month and suggest meeting for coffee or lunch. It may initially be intidimating to visit a profile, because LinkedIn tracks it — users can see who’s viewed their profile. However, there’s no real downside to a little LinkedIn “creeping.” After all, that’s kind of the point of making a  profile. I often look to who has viewed my profile as an inspiration for who I might reach out to for a coffee.
  3. As a way to help others in my network
    I also use LinkedIn proactively to help other people. For example, if I notice that a contact has moved to a company where I already have a friend, I will offer to make an introduction. Helping others in this way brings me joy and keeps me plugged into my network.
  4. As a vehicle to promote my writing
    I am always sure to post my latest Precedent column on LinkedIn. This allows me to keep my contacts updated on me and grow the reach of my writing.

The more you use LinkedIn, the more profile views you’ll generate. It doesn’t matter how impressive your resume is if no one sees it. The profile-building value of the LinkedIn profile lies in the number of times it’s viewed.

Coming next month, Part 2: Best practices for creating your LinkedIn profile.

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

House Call: Turn Ikea shelves into designer furniture

The InspirationWhat I want: Jonathan Adler’s Jacques Étagère

What it costs: $2,400

My budget: $100 

The Solution: Ikea Hack. Time to take a cue from some of my favourite innovative designers and purchase a simple, run-of-the-mill piece from Ikea and give it a facelift with a bit of time and ingenuity. 



Domaine Home online shows us just how stylish these pieces can be:

ikea hacks    Screen Shot 2015-03-13 at 7.40.21 AMScreen Shot 2015-03-13 at 7.40.33 AM



Bloggers at Pencil Shavings Studio and Little Green Notebook also have a wonderful step by step instruction manual to turn your brown utilitarian bookshelf into solid gold (no pun intended).

You’ll need:

How To:

I purchased my VITTSJÖ bookshelf and bought some gold spray paint from Michaels. You’ll need about four cans. You could use gold leaf paper, but it would be incredibly time-consuming and I was happy with the outcome using the spray paint.

Put the bookcase together first before spray painting (without the glass shelves) to get a more even flow with the spray paint and also to ensure that it dries properly with out sticking or spotting. You’ll also need a backyard or an open space to do the spray painting, as the fumes were pretty intense.

The idea is to make the shelves look like marble (without actually forking out for marble), but I painted the two black shelves white as my marble-contact-paper-application skills leave a lot to be desired. But if you’re game, give the marble contact paper a shot — the results are pretty stellar.

Check out what I came out with:

Before:                                            After:

vittsjo shelving unit, ikea, ikea hack

The basic bitch of bookshelves.

bookcase, ikeahack, gold spray paint

Pure gold. (Except, not actually.)










Adorable puppy not included, so don’t even think about it. But do check out these other awesome Ikea hacks for more inspiration:

Editor’s Note: Decoding the bencher elections

Every time someone joins our staff, they get a vocabulary lesson. Most people on the Precedent team are not lawyers — they bring other skill sets, like marketing, editing, writing and design, and then learn the law part when they walk in the door. It’s a smart group of people, but there are aspects of legal reporting that are indecipherable to an outsider. And now that it’s bencher election season, our language is at its most obtuse. Case in point: We are electing benchers to lead the Law Society of Upper Canada. They will meet once a month under the leadership of the treasurer at Convocation.

It’s like a secret code. And so I explain: Well, a “bencher” is an elected representative. The “Law Society of Upper Canada” is really the Law Society of Ontario. “Convocation” is a meeting. And the “treasurer” is really the president. Ah, now it makes sense.

It’s not just language that makes the profession’s self-governing body inaccessible. As you’ll read in our coverage of the 2015 bencher elections, getting elected as a bencher can be pretty inaccessible, too. Running a campaign can be expensive and it’s tough to win without the support of a big firm. And yet, it’s in our best interest that Convocation represent the diversity of the profession. Not only when it comes to area of practice (right now almost half of all benchers are litigators), or gender (60 percent are men), but also when it comes to age. Today, only two out of 40 benchers are under the age of 50.

Over the next four years, benchers will have to decide whether to continue the Law Practice Program, and discussion will be heated about whether to allow alternative business structures in Ontario. With so much future-thinking on the docket, it would be nice to see some younger lawyers leading the discussion.

Of course, Convocation isn’t the only place where you can be a leader in law. In this issue, you’ll meet more than a dozen productive lawyers who excel at their careers and manage to fit the rest of their lives into their busy days. See our feature story “Making it work.” I promise you, you’ll be blown away by these amazing role models.

While the lawyers we’ve featured are awesome all on their own, you might notice they look especially great in this particular issue: Precedent has undergone a redesign. We’ve changed our fonts, updated our style and added new departments. We make this magazine just for you. We want to be sure that we continue to both inform and delight. I hope you agree that Precedent looks better than ever. Thank you to my dedicated staff (who now can discuss “benchers” and “Convocation” with the best of them) for working so hard to bring us something so clever and beautiful.





Melissa Kluger
Publisher & Editor


Post Script: My secret productivity weapons

Metropass by mail

Every month, the TTC debits my account and mails me my pass. Even when I don’t get my money’s worth in terms of cost-per-ride, it’s worth it for the convenience.

OurGroceries iPhone app

This brilliant app lets you sort your grocery list by area of the store. Plus, you can keep recipes on your phone and add the ingredients to your list with the touch of a button.

Uber everywhere

The taxi app with estimated pick-up times, automatic billing (tip included) and, best of all, professional invoices. No more of those pesky blank receipts.

More from the spring issue:

Angela ChaissonEdible Witness by Jeannie PhanJesse Razaqpur secret lifeEmma Gregg House CallHarvey Specter suits wardrobe


The Crime Traveller: Three top-notch golf courses in southern Florida

Four o’clock dinner specials. Car selection that ranges from a beige Crown Victoria to a white Grand Marquis. Pleated pants that cinch just inches below your armpits. Florida retirement has its quirks, but it also boasts nearly 250 days of sunshine per year and 1481 golf courses.

It should therefore come as no surprise that I am a regular visitor to the heart of southern Florida. In my selfless desire to assist my fellows at the bar, I give you my three favourite courses in the region.

Boca Raton Resort & Club

Price: $215 to $450

Make sure your chinos are pressed and your Footjoy’s freshly spit-polished. The Boca Raton Resort & Club sits beside the swanky Waldorf Astoria resort. On my last visit, I pulled up in my partner’s Honda Civic, and was politely directed to a parking lot across the street. The eagle-eyed bag boy claimed he wanted to “save you gentlemen the $20 valet fee” — but he clearly couldn’t bear the sight of our dull grey ride marring the space between a sunburst-yellow Maserati and a red Ferrari.

From the first tee, this course immediately distinguishes itself from your typical Florida fare, with its deeply rippled and undulating fairways. Playing only 6253 yards, distance is not the challenge. It’s the water and well-laced bunkers you should fear (15 holes feature one of the two). The signature 18th hole is another challenge, but its ends with a classic island green.


Price: $39.99- to $139.99

Both of its two full courses provide a private-club feel at a value-laden public price. Most rounds, even at prime times, cost around $100. For the price of that Benjamin, you get can play up to 7247 yards — if you have the muscle to hit from the bleachers. Both courses are full of water hazards and plenty of sand, but you’ll lose most of your strokes to the sea of mangrove trees that turn wide-open fairways into risk/reward debates of epic proportions.

As good as the course is, the GPS system on every power cart deserves an honourable mention. Not content to merely spit out yardages, the system plays a flyover video at the start of each hole. Approaching the greens prompts an overhead view of the dance floor with precise yardages to the daily pin position. It uses a simple digital scorecard to track your performance and will e-mail you the results as you round the curb on the 18th hole on your way to the club for drinks.

The Club at Boca Pointe

Price: $75

Restricted to private members throughout the winter, guests are occasionally permitted in the hot, muggy summer months.

Designed by Jack Nicklaus, the Club at Boca Pointe is immaculately maintained. But it’s also an intense challenge. Water protects most of the greens. And, even if you manage to stick your approach, lightning-fast sloping greens still leave challenging two-putts to save par.

The course winds its way through a gated residential development. Indeed, Boca Pointe is a personal injury lawyer’s dream: narrow fairways skirt well-trafficked roads, screened patios and jogging trails. If you can’t practice your drives, at least warm up you “Fores!” before teeing off.

Edward Prutschi is a Toronto-based criminal defence lawyer. Follow Ed’s criminal law commentary (@prutschi) and The Crime Traveller’s adventures (@crimetraveller) on Twitter, read his Crime Traveller blog, or email

Meet the junior lawyers taking on Heenan Blaikie’s veteran counsel

It’s not every day that a rookie lawyer gets to sue a giant law firm. Yet, out of the seven ex-Heenan Blaikie legal assistants suing the now-defunct firm, six have tapped junior associates to lead their claims. Why? As employment lawyer Andrew Pinto explains, young lawyers are all “the assistants can afford.” So these lawyers can thank their lower billable rates for getting the chance to go head-to-head with a fallen Goliath, represented by Greg McGinnis, a partner at Mathews, Dinsdale & Clark LLP. He’s a labour and employment lawyer with almost two decades of experience, and a former Heenan Blaikie partner.

The rookies

2012 call
· Cavalluzzo Shilton McIntyre & Cornish LLP
· Working with Christopher Perri
· One joint lawsuit, total claim: $56,886.26


2012 CALL
· Samfiru Tumarkin LLP
· Two lawsuits, total claim: $125,006.37



2011 CALL
· Koskie Minsky LLP
· Two lawsuits, total claim: $530,000



2010 CALL
· Cavalluzzo Shilton McIntyre & Cornish LLP
· Working with Daniel Rohde
· One joint lawsuit, total claim: $56,886.26



What we know about the law suits so far

Since the collapse of Heenan Blaikie LLP more than 10 months ago, seven legal assistants have launched lawsuits in Toronto against their former firm, seeking a combined total of close to $1.1 million, according to court documents obtained by Precedent. At the time of the dissolution, according to one statement of claim, Heenan Blaikie’s Toronto office employed more than 160 legal support staff. These claims, which range in value from around $15,000 to $418,000, offer a window into how Heenan Blaikie might have treated its support staff after it dissolved in February.

In one suit, two assistants (who found work after the collapse) claim Heenan Blaikie failed to pay them the minimum amount of termination and severance pay required by law. They allege the firm should have paid them eight weeks of termination pay, plus severance based on their tenure. Instead, according to the statement of claim, Heenan Blaikie gave them just two weeks of working notice. “I do find [Heenan Blaikie’s alleged conduct] very surprising,” says employment lawyer Andrew Pinto. Most employers “have no difficulty whatsoever paying the minimum standard.” (Heenan Blaikie says it will defend the claim, but, at press time, had not filed a statement of defence.)

Three other assistants, still unemployed, claim that, when they joined Heenan Blaikie, the firm agreed to recognize years they spent at their previous employer when calculating tenure (in fact, Heenan Blaikie reportedly gave them service awards acknowledging those previous years). But, when Heenan Blaikie drew up their severance packages, they allege the firm reneged on that promise, only counting time they spent at Heenan Blaikie. In one statement of defence, Heenan Blaikie says it agreed to recognize the assistant’s “prior service… if at all, only for the purposes of benefitsrelated entitlements such as vacation.”

Four assistants are also seeking punitive or bad faith damages, on the grounds that Heenan Blaikie misrepresented its financial health in the weeks leading up to its collapse. Heenan Blaikie, in one statement of defence, denies this allegation and says there is “no basis for punitive or exemplary damages, ‘bad faith’ damages, or any other form of damages.”

That only seven assistants out of a possible 160 have filed lawsuits is not surprising, says Daniel Lublin, partner and co-founder of Whitten and Lublin LLP, a Toronto employment firm. When it comes to enduring the stress of a lawsuit — and the prospect of cross-examination — he says “some people just don’t want that fight in their life.”

Lublin also says that, even if the ex-Heenan Blaikie assistants win, they might not collect any money. Before Heenan Blaikie pays out, he explains, the firm may have to first pay large creditors, such as banks and property owners, that have secured loans. Once these assistants resolve their cases, the firm could be out of assets, leaving them with no more than “a paper judgment.”

Legal assistants aren’t the only former employees suing Heenan Blaikie. At press time, a patent agent, a non-equity partner, an engineer and a mining lawyer all had pending lawsuits against the firm.