Life Without Parole: Why you should treat your child like a client

“Mommy, my taco broke,” shouts your four-year-old son. “Fix it.” It’s Tuesday Taco Night and from the look on your son’s face, things are about to get decidedly un-fiesta like, and fast.

You have a flashback to that afternoon, to the moment when the unruly client sitting across from you yelled, “You are my lawyer! Fix it.” Both as a parent and as a lawyer, you are supposed to be a miracle-worker. Fix everything or brace yourself for a tantrum.

Earlier, you tried to explain to your client, “I’m sorry, but the law is not on your side.” It didn’t work. Your client seemed on the verge of throwing a fit. You know the look. And so, when you tell your son, “I can’t put the taco back together,” you aren’t all that surprised to hear him scream back, “YES YOU CAN!”

OK, so how did you fix things with the client? To start, you asked for more facts. By rearranging the facts, you reasoned, you could make them fit the law to the client’s advantage. You tried, but it was useless. The facts just wouldn’t fit the law. But you refused to give up. “Mr. Smith, do not worry,” you declared. “We’ll do some research. I’m sure we can find another case that applies the law with a ‘flexible’ approach.” After doing the research, though, you still came up empty-handed. When you delivered the news, your client’s face went red, as smoke shot out of his ears. He shouted at you.

You had wanted to avoid this, but decided it was time to get the senior partner involved. Surely she would be able to manage your client’s expectations. As soon as she walked into the meeting, she said to the client, “You’ve got a great lawyer in your file. She will take good care of you. Got a problem? She will fix it.” With that, she turned around, walked out and shut the door. WHAT?! you thought. This is no time for compliments. Then, you did what you should have done from the start: stopped giving out false hope and stuck to hard truth. Eventually, the client, though unhappy, accepted reality.

Back to Tuesday Taco Night. Just like when you elicited more facts from your client to make them ‘fit’ the law, you get more toppings like salsa and cheese to ‘fit’ the taco. You hope this will distract your son from the broken taco shell but to no avail. Then you search the pantry, but can’t find another taco.

Next, similar to when you brought in the senior partner that afternoon, you call over Daddy, who just walked by. “Good, let him deal with this,” you think. “Daddy, my taco broke,” your son shouts hysterically. “Oh don’t worry,” he replies. “Your mom will fix it.” And he walks away.

As your son falls to the floor, arms flailing, you remember the solution that worked with your client: make him accept reality. And so you issue an ultimatum: “You either eat this broken taco or you’re having Monday’s Mystery Meat again!” In an instant, the crying stops. He eats the taco, broken shell and all.

Looks like your kid won’t be filing a parental negligence complaint with the grandparents after all.














Sharon BauerSharon Bauer is a partner at Fireman Steinmetz Daya LLP and Precedent’s parenting columnist. Follow the mother of two on Twitter at @SharonBauerLLB.



This story is from our Spring 2016 issue.




Illustration by Hudson Christie

Opinion: Meditation is your secret weapon against stress

When I started articling three years ago, I was overwhelmed and constantly on edge. Frustrated, I decided to try meditation. At first, I would spend five minutes a day, using the timer on my phone, inhaling “let,” exhaling “go.” After two weeks, it made a real difference. I was less reactive and more focused — I was hooked. Since then, daily meditation has kept me happy as I meet the demands of the profession. And I’m not the only one.

Mindfulness has reached its tipping point. Once a mysterious, fringe practice, it simply means becoming more attuned to the present moment, often through meditation. Top achievers — from financier Ray Dalio to media magnate Arianna Huffington — have raved about its benefits. And a recent feature story in Time magazine argued that we are in the midst of a “Mindful Revolution.”

It’s easy to see why. A team of researchers from Harvard recently found that consistent meditation can actually decrease the size of the amygdalae, the area of the brain that processes emotional responses. (When the amygdalae are activated, your heart beats fasts, your hands shake or your cheeks go red.) As a result, those who meditated were less prone to stress. Better still, meditation can increase the size of the hippocampus, thereby growing our capacity to make rational decisions.

As this research has gone on, lawyers continue to feel stressed. Studies continue to proliferate that show how lawyers flounder when it comes to managing anxiety. And what do people do when they are unable to cope?

For some, it means they drink in excess or use drugs to escape. For others, it means they completely shut down on their partner and alienate the people in their lives who are their best support. This, in turn, can cause them to neglect their work and fail their clients. And sadly, some will become downright hopeless, slipping into depression. Stats are hard to come by, but a well-known study on the mental health of people from across 28 professions, published by Johns Hopkins University in 1990, found that lawyers were the most likely group to suffer from depression.

Mindfulness and meditation offers a better option. They can alter the way our brains process stress, and make us better at managing the pressure points of our jobs.

Even that low-grade, buzzing feeling we get before a deadline gets the stress receptors in our amygdalae going. And when that happens, the pre-frontal cortex essentially goes offline, meaning our brains cannot think in a completely logical, rational way. This makes us stressed and, as lawyers, bad at our jobs.

One of the fastest ways to calm down the amygdalae is through deep breathing — a key part of meditation. Over time, through consistent meditation, I’ve even found that I am more aware of my own breath and can control it when not meditating. This helps calm down my amygdalae (easing stress), and bring my hippocampus back online (helping me think more clearly).

Meditation can do a lot more, too. Research has found that it can significantly increase empathy, improve how the immune system functions and boost cardiovascular health.

The benefits are so astounding that the profession has taken notice. Several law schools — such as those at Dalhousie University, Berkeley and UC Davis — now offer courses that show how mindfulness can make lawyers healthier and better at work. And this February, the Ontario Bar Association launched, for the first time, a professional development series called The Mindful Lawyer. The mindfulness revolution is here. It is helping all sorts of professionals. And it can help lawyers too.

















Catie Fenn is a third-year associate at Brown & Burnes. Since taking it up as an articling student, she now teaches meditation in her spare time.



Illustration by Jeannie Phan

The Circuit: The South Asian Bar Association celebrates its tenth anniversary

What: The 2015 South Asian Bar Association Gala
Where: The Liberty Grand, Toronto
When: December 1, 2015

Last week more than 450 lawyers and supporters attended the 10th annual South Asian Bar Association (SABA) Gala at the Liberty Grand — where Kenneth J. Fredeen, general counsel at Deloitte LLP, won SABA’s 2015 Diversity Award.

Each year, the gala recognizes the achievements by South Asians in the legal profession and champions of diversity. Fredeen, for instance, is perhaps best know for being a founding member of Legal Leaders for Diversity.

“In 10 short years, SABA Toronto has established itself as a leading voice for South Asian lawyers in the Toronto area and for diversity in the profession,” says Ranjan Agarwal, president of SABA and a partner at Bennett Jones LLP. “The gala and awards night is an opportunity to celebrate the achievements of our bar with our members and supporters.”

The organization also presented three Legal Excellence Awards to members of the Ontario legal profession for their outstanding initiative, achievement, contribution to the community and pro bono activities. This year’s awards went to:

  • Bindu Dhaliwal, Bank of Montreal
  • Hussein A. Hamdani, SimpsonWigle LAW LLP
  • Isfahan Merali, Consent and Capacity Board

The evening’s guest speaker was Renu Madhane, the chief commissioner of the Ontario Human Rights Commission.

The South Asian Bar Association of Toronto is dedicated to promoting the objectives of South Asian members of the legal profession. To find out more, please visit the SABA website.

Best Practices: How Renatta Austin built a public-interest firm out of the Great Library

Renatta Austin can’t afford an office. And she might not be able to any time soon. But that’s kind of the point. The 29-year-old lawyer is hell-bent on building a solo practice that serves those with the least money, so if she’s making enough to afford office rent, she’s charging too much. Especially when her current base of operations — the Great Library on the second floor of the Law Society of Upper Canada — is free.

“It’s nearly perfect,” says Austin, as she ushers me into one of the library’s meeting rooms. Clients can’t get in after 5 p.m., but otherwise, the space is great for meetings. “It’s private, and clients don’t care about having bells and whistles,” she tells me. And it keeps her prices ultra-low: Austin offers unbundled legal services and charges flat fees, based on hourly rates between $100 and $150. Yet the library is more than a cheap meeting spot. It comes with access to Wi-Fi, law journals and a first-rate librarian. “You can run an entire practice out of this place.”

And since last fall, that’s what Austin has done, on top of working from home. It started as a part-time gig. Austin saw clients in the evenings, and worked nine-to-five as policy counsel at the Association of Municipalities of Ontario. But after six months, she got antsy. Austin wanted to work for herself. By late summer, she quit her day job. “I’m relationship- and child-free,” says Austin. “There would never be a better time to make such a crazy decision.”

Renatta Austin

Renatta Austin at the Great Library, which she uses for office space

Every area of law has its own access-to-justice crisis. But Austin is tackling the one in administrative law — mostly education, a field entirely outside the remit of Legal Aid. She defends children who have been suspended or expelled (usually for fighting), and pressures schools to adequately accommodate students with special needs (by, say, providing them with an in-class assistant). Austin cut her teeth in the area shortly after law school as a volunteer at Pro Bono Law Ontario. Education files kept hitting her desk. “I absolutely loved it,” she says, smiling. “I’ve become passionate about helping young people.”

From the moment Austin started her firm, calls have flooded in from parents on almost every foothold of the economic ladder. Some make minimum wage; others earn $80,000 a year. None can find an affordable lawyer. “If you’re willing to work at a reduced rate,” says Austin, “you’ll have no problem getting clients.”

Austin hastens to add, however, that her firm couldn’t survive on those clients alone. Which is why, a few months into her practice, she cultivated a sideline in municipal law — in which she bills $300 to $400 an hour. Austin came by the idea while at the Association of Municipalities of Ontario. For example, when a bill comes up for a vote, city councillors need legal help to determine if they have a conflict of interest. Austin found this problem most acute in small towns, “where most elected officials are part-timers who have businesses in the community.” Now she advises councillors and mayors — she wouldn’t name any — from rural municipalities across the province. “That’s the trade-off,” she says, matter-of-factly. “To make ends meet, I do some work that might be less fulfilling.”

Austin also refuses to work for free. In the early days of her firm, she offered pro bono consultations, but it went terribly. “If people don’t have a stake in their case, if it hasn’t cost them something, they’re difficult to manage,” she says. “They wouldn’t show up to meetings, wouldn’t return phone calls, would sometimes just disappear.”

When public-interest lawyers are willing to work for free, that unrestrained altruism can seed their downfall. “I’ve see it happen,” says Lorne Sossin, dean of Osgoode Hall Law School, and an authority on access-to-justice. “When clients call in a crisis, lawyers often feel they can’t say no.” Austin, though, is prepared to do just that. “I love public-service work,” she says. “But I also have student loans to pay.”

Austin has put a lot on the line to start her firm. But why? Growing up in Roncesvalles Village, with her mother and father both working in public service, she never felt downtrodden or disadvantaged. So what drives her? “I’m sure my parents are also curious,” she answers when I ask her. Then she pauses, and struggles to find the right words. “Some people are just, sort of, meant to do public service. That’s part of me and I don’t know why.”

Whatever the reason, Austin is part of a pattern. “It’s always young lawyers who risk the most,” says Joanne St. Lewis, a bencher at the Law Society who has known Austin, through the Black Law Students Association, for a half-decade. “Renatta is re-thinking what it means to be a lawyer. And it’s gratifying to see: this is what re-invigorates us as a profession.”

Before our interview ends, Austin tries to answer my question again. “This is interesting work and I’m having fun. As long as that doesn’t change, I’ll keep doing it.”

Renatta Austin

Timeline of a young sole practitioner

2003: In high school, Austin begins a six-year volunteering stint at Hearing Every Youth Through Youth, which runs a teen helpline.

2005: Austin graduates from Bloor Collegiate, in downtown Toronto. “It was incredibly diverse. I met people from all walks of life.”

2009: With a degree in political science in hand from the University of Toronto, she enrolls in the faculty of law at the same school.

2012: Austin articles at the City of Toronto.

2013: To quench her thirst for more education, she enrolls in the Master’s of Public Administration a tWestern University.

2014: Austin makes two career moves. First, she takes a job at the Association of Municipalities of Ontario. At the same time, she starts her own law firm, dedicated to low-income clients.

2015, Spring: At 28 years old, Austin runs for bencher at the Law Society of Upper Canada. Her campaign is inspired. She doesn’t win a seat, but earns an astounding 2,329 votes. “I spent no money, I was a second-year call, and I did better than lawyers with the backing of Bay Street firms,” she says.“So I think I did really well.”

2015, Summer: Austin quits her day job to make her solo firm her only gig.

Winter-2015-cover-smallThis story is from our Winter 2015 issue.




Photography by Anya Chibis

The Discovery: The next Silicon Valley?

Think lawyers are slow to change? Well, not the ones behind these three new apps designed to make law better.

Miranda appMiranda

Mastermind: Sean Robichaud, criminal defence lawyer

In a nutshell: TripAdvisor for lawyers

Bells and whistles: A directory of legal professionals that users can search based on criteria like location, years of experience, expertise and price

How it makes money: Lawyers pay about $950 per year to be listed

Claim to fame: Robichaud is a co-founder of King Law Chambers (and a former Precedent magazine cover star)


Mastermind: Christien Levien, a first-year sole practitioner

In a nutshell: Free legal information for dealing with the police

Bells and whistles: The app guides users through an encounter with the police, informs them of their rights and records videos that are sent to their Dropbox

How it makes money: It doesn’t. Legalswipe is a free educational tool

Claim to fame: During launch week, it crashed from the flurry of downloads

StandIn appStandIn

Masterminds: Andrew Johnston, Osgoode Hall master’s student, and Peter Carayiannis, founder of Conduit Law

In a nutshell: Helps lawyers find colleagues to cover short-notice court appearances

Bells and whistles: GPS lets users contact lawyers close to specific courthouses, and those lawyers can charge whatever they like to make an appearance

How it makes money: $7.50 usage fees

Claim to fame: Brought to life in the Ryerson Digital Media Zone, a startup incubator

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

Opinion: The inside story of the first female South Asian bencher

On May 1, 2015, I woke up early, my heart racing. Ontario lawyers had just spent more than two weeks voting in the bencher election and the results were about to be announced. After four months of campaigning I had to know: had I been elected a bencher or not?

I tried not to get my hopes up — after all, it’s difficult for new candidates to get elected, especially racialized lawyers from the public sector.

Then came an email from the Law Society of Upper Canada with the results. Every four years, 20 lawyers are elected from within Toronto, and 20 from elsewhere in the province. I was not listed in the Toronto 20. Officially not a bencher.

I was sad, but I didn’t fret for long. I was too proud of my campaign — our campaign, I should say.

For the first time, two bencher hopefuls ran in tandem, buying ads together and cross-pollinating with each other’s networks. Credit for the idea goes to my running-mate Janet Leiper, a defence lawyer, Toronto’s former integrity commissioner, an incumbent bencher and, more recently, my mentor.

Janet wanted to go beyond the typical framework of mentorship — well beyond meeting for coffee and chatting about career possibilities. She wanted to champion someone she felt would add value and diversity to the bencher group, someone who wouldn’t normally have a strong chance of being elected. She chose me — a relatively unknown South Asian human-rights lawyer working for the province.

By now, the benefits of diversity are well known. Studies show that diverse organizations outperform non-diverse competitors. As author Lauren Rivera noted in the New York Times, “Too much similarity can lead to teams that are overconfident, ignore vital information and make poor (or even unethical) decisions.

”It’s critical that the Law Society reflects the lawyers it governs, as well as the public it serves. (After the last election, in 2011, non-white lawyers made up a disheartening 7.5 percent of Convocation.)

Janet’s plan involved lending her credibility and reputation to me. We attended events as a pair and she sang my praises to her network of prominent members of the legal community. Her plan was to take me with her. And she did.

You see, I was voted number 21 in Toronto. And at the first Convocation of the newly elected benchers, Janet Minor (it’s been a good year for Janets) would revert back to her status as treasurer of the Law Society and the lawyer voted number 21 would bump up to fill the final bencher spot. In other words, I was now a bencher.

On May 28, 2015, I joined the Law Society of Upper Canada as the first South Asian female bencher in its 218-year history. (Plus, Convocation is now more diverse than ever, with 22.5 percent racialized benchers.) I admit the achievement brought a few tears. But the good news doesn’t end there. As they say, a rising tide lifts all boats.

When Janet Leiper was elected in 2011, she earned a respectable 12th-place standing among Toronto candidates. This year? Janet placed second, with support from 33 percent of all voters. Not only did my running-mate’s support help me get elected, but running together served her campaign as well. She benefitted from the added exposure to my network of public-service colleagues and the joint endorsement that we received from the Canadian Hispanic Bar Association.

The lesson of my story is this: if you want something, you can’t just hope it will show up before your eyes. It never will. Janet knew Convocation needed a fresh, diverse voice. And she took action.

So look around your office, your board of directors, your kid’s parent council. Whose voices are missing? If you want them to show up and speak up, then you have to seek them out, champion them and act as their megaphone.

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




Isfahan MeraliIsfahan Merali is a bencher in Toronto and tribunal counsel with Ontario’s Consent and Capacity Board, with a focus on administrative and mental health law.




Illustration by Yarek Waszul

Grounds For Appeal: How to pick the right beans for perfect homemade coffee

“This morning, with her, having coffee.” Johnny Cash, on his definition of paradise. It’s the kind of quote that stays with you, mostly because of how true it is: a good day usually starts with well-made coffee and great companionship. And recreating Cash’s definition of morning bliss doesn’t even require a daily trip to a hip café. With the right beans, you can make high-quality coffee right in your kitchen. (You’re on your own for the companionship part.)

While you can get decent coffee beans at the grocery store, if you want a really unforgettable cup of coffee, you should buy your beans from a specialty roaster. Most independent coffee shops sell custom blends prepared for them by local roasters. (Or, you can buy directly from the roaster online.) Just a few examples are Detour Coffee Roasters in Burlington, Pilot Coffee Roasters in Toronto and Social Coffee & Tea Company in Richmond Hill. Some even offer coffee subscriptions, so you can try different beans every few weeks. If you pick a Canadian roaster, the shipping fees are usually pretty reasonable.
Wherever you get your coffee beans, ask these questions before picking up a bag.

What’s the roast date?

Brett Johnston, head of innovation at Pilot, says good coffee should have a roasting date on the bag and suggests consuming beans within about four weeks after they were roasted. “Not because coffee beans go bad,” he says, “but the flavour dissipates and becomes flat after a month.”

Will you go to the dark side?

You’re going to have to make a choice between light-, medium-, and dark-roast beans. But what do those even mean? “As coffee gets browner, it gets more caramelized, more chocolate,” says Sam James, of Sam James Coffee Bar in Toronto. “The flavour becomes simpler the darker it is. The lighter it is, the fruitier it tastes.”

The choice is yours, but don’t stress too much about the decision — nearly every roaster I spoke to said there’s too much emphasis placed on the roast level. Instead focus on what flavours intrigue you. Specialty coffee should always list its flavour notes, which can vary from blueberries to Reese’s Pieces.

Do you want to buy ethical?

You’ve got choices: fair trade, direct trade, certified organic and eco-friendly, to name a few. Their definitions are complicated, so I suggest you worry less about the formal certifications and ask the roaster which beans make a difference to the farmers and their communities.

Where are you going to keep the beans?

“Store your coffee in a cool, dark place,” says Geoff Woodley, head roaster at Detour. A cupboard usually works fine. He says the trick is to keep your coffee beans out of direct sunlight.

Contrary to popular opinion, freezing or refrigerating your beans does not keep them fresh. You just have to keep the oxygen out, either by wrapping them up tight in the bag or storing them in an airtight container.

Consider yourself ready to make coffee worthy of paradise. Now you’ve just got to carve out the time in the morning to make it.

Iman’s go-to coffee choices:

Coffee Choices










Iman AkoborIman Abokor is an insurance defence lawyer at Lawson LLP and Precedent’s coffee columnist.



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

Best Practices: Meet the reigning expert in aboriginal-banking law

TIFFANY MURRAY’S BIG BREAK CAME IN 2013, just one day after giving birth to her second child. The timing wasn’t perfect, but she had received an email she couldn’t ignore. A big aboriginal organization needed legal advice on creating a brand new financial product. The deal is still pending, so the details can’t be released, but suffice it to say that it would completely innovate the way aboriginal communities can achieve financial independence. It’s a big deal for the parties involved, and they wanted a lawyer with a particular expertise in a complex new area of law: aboriginal banking.

For years, Murray had worked to build an aboriginal-banking practice at her firm, Borden Ladner Gervais LLP, where she launched her career as a summer student in 2006. But it was hard. Murray already had a full finance-law workload. “When you want to establish something new,” she says, “you have to inch it forward over and above what you’re already expected to do.”

But with this email she could prove to the firm that her idea for a new practice area in aboriginal banking had potential — and, more importantly, a client base. “I could then make the business case for this area to the firm,” recalls Murray. “It was a game-changer for my practice.” So, with a two-day-old in her arms, she got down to work.

Murray, now 35, had long seen the demand for lawyers with an expertise in aboriginal finance law. She knew that, under the Indian Act, “Indian bands” are unable to use most on-reserve property as collateral. So borrowing money to raise capital is difficult. “Because they can’t leverage all of their assets,” she says, “they often have to pay higher interest rates when they get a loan.” Yet bands need to borrow money for all kinds of things: to build community centres, schools or wastewater plants. Which means they need lawyers to help them navigate the maze of securities law and aboriginal law to make these financial transactions possible.

Tiffany Murray, Canadian Mortgage and Housing Corporation

Tiffany Murray, Canadian Mortgage and Housing Corporation

Earlier this year, two years after that email showed up, Murray made partner. Her firm, clearly, was impressed. “Tiffany’s distinctive expertise will become more in-demand,” says Stephen Redican, a partner in BLG’s financial-services group. “Aboriginal bank- ing is an emerging market in Canada, and major financial institutions in Canada are targeting this growth area.”

Murray has been drawn to aboriginal issues since her undergraduate days. At the time, she took a co-op position with the Department of Indian and Northern Affairs transcribing old church and residential school records. “As you can imagine, some of those records were very difficult to read,” she says. “My experience there was one factor in why

I wanted to go to law school.” Murray identifies as Haudenosaunee (Six Nations, Mohawk Nation, Turtle Clan, to be precise), but her relationship with her own history is complicated. “I have struggled with my authenticity as an urban First Nations person who is disconnected from reserve life,” says Murray, who grew up in St. Catharines, Ont. While some of her aboriginal law-school friends at the University of Toronto — a group Murray calls “the community I felt most at home with” — have returned to reserves, Murray has spent her legal career at an office on Bay Street. “I struggle with being disconnected.”

After nearly a decade at BLG, Murray is leaving Bay Street. Later this year, she will join the Canadian Mortgage and Housing Corporation as an in-house lawyer. It’s a dream job for Murray, but it means she’ll be moving her daughters and her husband of eight years from their home in Etobicoke to a brand new life in Ottawa. She sees it as an adventure, rather than a sacrifice — plus, in her new role, she’ll be able to make a direct impact on communities in need.

“It’s a Crown corporation that helps Canadians access housing — which is pretty important,” she says. “They work with First Nations on-reserve housing programs, one of the things that drew me to the opportunity.”

Murray wasn’t looking for a career change, but when the job offer came her way, she had to say yes. “Every now and then, life pushes you in a new direction. This was a major sign. I couldn’t ignore it.”

Tiffany Murray

The lowdown

Year of call: 2008

Favourite legal character: Erin Brockovich

Favourite item in closet: A Kate Spade purse given to me by a dear friend

Greatest extravagance: Flying to Florida to participate in runDisney races

If I weren’t a lawyer I’d be: A university professor

Pet peeve: Tim Hortons at Scotia Plaza (I really need to start going somewhere else)

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




Photography by Raina + Wilson

Career: Meet the lawyer whose office sits above a grow-op

When Mark Zekulin was in law school a decade ago, his current job would have seemed unimaginable. As president and general counsel at Tweed, a two-year-old company that grows and sells medical marijuana to patients across the country, he’s basically a legal drug dealer. Precedent sits down with the 35-year-old to find out what on earth a marijuana lawyer does all day.


Why does Tweed need an in-house lawyer?

For two reasons. One, the regulations around growing medical marijuana are intense. Our facilities have to be secure. And like any pharmaceutical product, we need the ability to do recalls and we have to test our product to make sure it’s safe.


And the second reason?

We sell a controlled substance, so we can’t advertise. So it makes sense to have a lawyer who can direct the marketing strategy, because we need to think carefully about what we’re allowed to do. We have to find creative ways to make sure doctors and patients choose us for their medicine.


What marketing ideas have you come up with?

I run a call centre that patients can contact to learn about our product. And we have a team of pharmaceutical reps that meet with doctors to educate them about our product. I also talk to the media. We can’t control what they write, but hopefully a few readers do a bit of research and realize this medicine helps people. Then they might say, ‘Gee, maybe this is right for my uncle. I should tell him to go talk to his doctor.’


Mark Zekulin of Tweed

Mark Zekulin, Tweed

So, like plenty of in-house lawyers, you get to make both legal and business decisions. Do you like that?

Absolutely. I truly get to wear a bunch of different hats.


What do you spend most of your time on?

Lots of meetings. We’ve grown from five employees to more than 70 in two years, so there’s a lot to coordinate. It can be overwhelming, but that’s also what makes it a lot of fun.


Is it hard to be known as the weed lawyer?

When I first got going, I was worried about the stigma. But those barriers are being knocked down. When I talk to my grandma, I’m not sure she buys into the concept, but when I talk to a group of people out at dinner, I don’t sense any stigma. People are just fascinated to learn more.


The high road

It only took Mark Zekulin six years to find his dream job. What follows is a year-by- year breakdown of his one-of-a-kind career path:

2008: After finishing his articles at what was then Fraser Milner Casgrain LLP (now Dentons), in Ottawa, the University of Ottawa law grad spends two years as a policy advisor to Ontario Finance Minister Dwight Duncan.

2010: He enrolls in the Master of Laws program at the University of Cambridge — just for fun.

2011: Zekulin heads to Toronto to work on Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty’s successful re-election campaign.

2012: Zekulin starts at Cassidy Levy Kent LLP, an international-trade firm in Ottawa.

Mark Zekulin's Desk2013, summer: He quits without securing another job. “I loved the firm, but couldn’t see myself there in 20 years.” He spends four months networking.

2013, fall: Zekulin lunches with Bruce Linton, CEO and chairman of the newly founded Tweed, who needs a lawyer to navigate the thorny regulations of the cannabis sector. Zekulin is rapt and quickly joins as employee number five.

2015: After nearly two years as general counsel, Zekulin nabs a second job title: president of the entire company.

Student-Issue-2015-CoverThis story is from our 2015 Student Issue.




Photography by Nathan Cyprys

Edible Witness: How to make killer Mexican bean dip

Hey, you!

Yes, you. The person who showed up to a party with a bag of chips and store-bought dip. You probably think you’re a pretty good party guest. And let’s face it — nobody’s going to kick out the guy with chips and dip.

Mexican Bean DipBut why set your standards so low? You’re an adult now. So you should probably be aware of the general progression of acceptable party contributions, in order from teenage idiot to full-blown grown-up party guest:

1. You bring nothing. You are hoping your host has chips. It’s fine — you are a teenager, and dumb and poor and people expect little of you.

2. You bring beer, just enough for yourself to drink. Maybe four king cans, but then
you only drink three, and you slip the fourth into your bag when you leave. You eat a taquito from 7-Eleven on the way home. You are the worst.

3. You bring a six-pack, a bag of Ruffles and some Philly onion dip, and leave whatever you don’t drink for the hosts. You’re a good guy.

4. You bring a bottle of wine for the host, plus whatever you plan on drinking, plus some classy, artisanal tortilla chips and THIS DIP. It’s got creamy black beans and is spiked with lime and garlic and chili and made juicy by diced tomatoes. You’re a classy person. Everyone loves you and you’re invited to many fun parties for years to come.

Any questions?

Mexican Black Bean Dip

  • 1 clove garlic
  • 7 ml (1 1⁄2 tsp) grated ginger
  • 5 ml (1 tsp) chili powder
  • 5 ml (1 tsp) ground cumin
  • 2 dashes Tabasco or red pepper sauce
  • Juice from 1 lime
  • 60 ml (1⁄4 cup) cilantro, chopped
  • 1 540-ml can black beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1 large tomato, diced
  • Kosher salt


  1. Boil the garlic clove in an inch of water for 1 minute, and remove.
  2. Place garlic, ginger, chili powder, cumin, red pepper sauce and lime juice in a blender or food processor and pulse until a consistent paste forms.
  3. Add green onions and cilantro, then black beans. Pulse to mulch up beans to desired consistency (I prefer to leave about 1⁄3 of the beans unblended). If using a blender, you
may need to use a spatula to scrape down
the sides a few times to redistribute the beans. Avoid over-blending or you’ll wind up with bean paste!
  4. Remove the mixture to a medium mixing bowl and stir in diced tomatoes. Season to taste with salt — it’s always best to test with the chips you’re using as they tend to be pretty salty already.
  5. Chill for about an hour, if you have time, to let the flavours develop. Serve with tortilla chips.


Avacado and limeWhen I dip, you dip, we dip

Take this dip to the next level with your pick of extra layers on top: guacamole (just smash avocado with lime and salt), sour cream, shredded cheese, diced tomatoes, green onions, pickled jalapeños and/or sprinkled cilantro.


Sara Chan is in-house counsel at Corus Entertainment, food enthusiast and unprofessional home chef. Her favourite food group is pork. Check out more of Sara’s great recipes.

Student-Issue-2015-CoverThis story is from our 2015 Student Issue.




Illustration by Jeannie Phan