Precedent Setter Awards 2018: Mariam Moktar

Mariam Moktar

Associate, Lenczner Slaght Royce Smith Griffin LLP
Called to the bar in 2013

Mariam Moktar was born in Mogadishu, Somalia, during a time of peace and political stability. But in 1991, rebels toppled the state government, plunging the country into a civil war that still rages today. When her father, a police officer, died in the violence, the family fled to Egypt. In 1994, they arrived in Toronto.

Mariam Moktar

Moktar grew up in Weston, a neighbourhood with a large Somali population that was sometimes a target for police brutality. These childhood experiences informed her worldview. “I came to value political structures that are held to the highest levels of accountability,” says Moktar, now 31. “I’ve seen what life is like when that doesn’t exist.”

This sparked an early interest in law. Today, she’s an associate at Lenczner Slaght, one of Canada’s top litigation boutiques. Tom Curry, the managing partner, is impressed by how she excels on her feet. He remembers watching one motion that, at first, he thought was a long shot — until Moktar stood up to argue. “There was a noticeable shift,” he recalls. “Our side breathed easier. She has a natural gift of persuasion.”

Despite an all-consuming career and the demands of planning a wedding — this summer, she will marry her fiancé, Daren Wagar, a web coordinator and screenwriter — Moktar still finds time to volunteer. In 2015, she co-founded the Canadian Association of Somali Lawyers, which advocates for diversity in the profession and against police misconduct and racial profiling. “Growing up, I didn’t see Somali lawyers,” she says. “There wasn’t someone I could look up to and learn from.” She has become the role model she wishes she’d had.


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


This story is from our Summer 2018 Issue.


Photography by Kayla Rocca, hair and makeup by Michelle Calleja, shot on location at the Assembly Chef’s Hall

Precedent Setter Awards 2018: Ren Bucholz

Ren Bucholz

Associate, Paliare Roland Rosenberg Rothstein LLP
Called to the bar in 2011

Ren Bucholz works in the future
. Before you start protesting, consider his track record. He’s in the midst of defending the right Canadians have to parody companies online. And when a Toronto accountant was the victim of an online smear campaign, Bucholz helped win him $700,000 in damages. He’s also represented Google twice, once on a case that reached the Supreme Court of Canada. He is, quite simply, one of the country’s top technology litigators.

Ren Bucholz-2

He often confronts a unique challenge: explaining social media and the internet to judges. “I try to simplify the concepts,” says the 37-year-old associate at Paliare Roland. “Most of the people I appear before didn’t grow up with this technology.”

Bucholz, by contrast, has been submerged in tech his whole working life. During his undergrad, he interned in San Francisco at the Electronic Frontier Foundation — a non-profit that, through pro bono cases, defends civil liberties in the digital world. Upon graduation, he worked there for five years before he decided to become a lawyer. That led him, in 2007, to Osgoode Hall — and, nine years later, to Paliare Roland. Today, he lives in the West End with his wife, theatre professor Laura Levin, and life is busy taking their two young sons to rock climbing and swimming lessons.

His caseload never lets up, but neither does his cool demeanor. “He has a mature presence,” says Rob Centa, the firm’s managing partner. “He’s always calm.” Meanwhile, tech law never stops evolving. “I can rarely find a precedent that is clearly analogous to my case,” says Bucholz. “But getting decision-makers to do something novel is exciting.”


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


This story is from our Summer 2018 Issue.


Photography by Kayla Rocca, hair and makeup by Michelle Calleja, shot on location at the Assembly Chef’s Hall

Precedent Setter Awards 2018: Atrisha Lewis

Atrisha Lewis

Associate, McCarthy Tétrault LLP
Called to the bar in 2013

As a racialized woman in law, Atrisha Lewis is used to standing out. But the litigation associate at McCarthys has never stood out quite so brightly as when she wrote an article last year that articulated what it’s like to work as one of the few racialized lawyers on Bay Street.

Atrisha Lewis

The piece went viral. Lewis, age 30, received hundreds of supportive emails from members of the legal community. McCarthys has also launched a diversity initiative and tapped Lewis to be a part of it. Given that she’s the only associate on the team, it’s a noteworthy nod. “One of Atrisha’s strengths is that she knows what she wants,” says Geoff Hall, a partner at McCarthys who works with Lewis. “She’s made sure diversity issues are on the agenda.”

Lewis’s advocacy streak dates back to her childhood in Ottawa, when she wrote letters on behalf of her parents, recent immigrants from the Seychelles who lacked advanced English skills. By seven, she wanted to be a lawyer. But as she grew older, she realized it would be a hard road. “I always felt that, as a woman of colour, I would never be taken seriously unless I had top-notch credentials,” she says. “That’s the only way to have standing.” So when she went to law school, at the University of Toronto, she studied hard. It paid off: when she graduated, Lewis won the Dean’s Key, in recognition of her academic and extracurricular work.

In her first five years at McCarthys, her caseload has ranged from medical malpractice to patent litigation. Lewis has unbridled ambition. “In the way that people think Marie Henein when they think, I want the best criminal lawyer, I want them to think Atrisha Lewis when they want the best civil litigator.”


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


This story is from our Summer 2018 Issue.


Photography by Kayla Rocca, hair and makeup by Michelle Calleja, shot on location at the Assembly Chef’s Hall

Precedent Setter Awards 2018: Daniel Naymark

Daniel Naymark

Principal, Naymark Law
Called to the bar in 2009

In 2011, as a second-year associate at Lax O’Sullivan LLP, Daniel Naymark got his first chance to deliver a closing argument (in an investor-fraud case). The night before, he perfected his dramatic opening, but a minute into the address, the judge cut him off: “Mr. Naymark, there’s no jury here. Just skip to the facts.”

Daniel NaymarkNaymark has since dropped the theatrical style, but he remains passionate about the courtroom. In 2015, he started a solo practice, specializing in civil, commercial and regulatory disputes. “I don’t like having a boss,” says the 35-year-old. “Now, I can do whatever cases I want.”

When he told Clifford Lax, of Lax O’Sullivan, that he was leaving, Lax supported the decision. “I thought he’d have a brighter future starting his own firm,” he says. “I knew he had the kind of personality that would attract people to him.”

“I want to help people,” says Naymark, who is married to Joanna Lambert, a high-school drama teacher, and has two young kids. “If they trust me with their problems, I take that responsibility seriously.”

One case stands out. He recently represented a lawyer suffering from depression, whose conduct was investigated by the Law Society of Ontario. When investigators contacted the lawyer with questions, he would, as a result of his depression, freeze and fail to respond. For that, the lawyer faced disciplinary charges. Naymark argued that the Law Society should allow lawyers with a mental illness to respond to investigators with, say, a phone call instead of written communication. In May, the Law Society Tribunal ruled in his favour. He hopes the case leads to lasting reform. “I’m trying to change things for the better through litigation.”


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


This story is from our Summer 2018 Issue.


Photography by Kayla Rocca, hair and makeup by Michelle Calleja, shot on location at the Assembly Chef’s Hall

News: Laura Baron helps Bay Street find its centre

Laura Baron Yoga Be

In her days as a litigator at Fasken Martineau DuMoulin LLP, Laura Baron often turned to yoga to re-energize, ease back and neck pain and improve focus. But there were no dedicated yoga studios near her Bay Street office, just a few gyms that happened to offer classes. “As a lawyer, it’s hard to justify a hefty monthly membership when you can’t commit to going on a regular basis.”

Baron spotted a business opportunity. So, she left Faskens, where she worked for almost four years after summering and articling at the firm, to found Yoga Be — which opened in August with a full roster of classes, some specifically geared towards the needs of hardworking lawyers and other professionals. For instance, a 3 p.m. “Better than Coffee Yoga Break” class is just 20 minutes long — and Baron says you can do it in your suit. And “Computer Back” focuses on stretching and strengthening the muscles in the neck and back. “Whether it’s 20 minutes or an hour and a half, it’s just taking that first step and getting on the mat that counts.”

Yoga Be’s classes start as early as 6:30 a.m. and clients have a choice of a 45-minute or 60-minute class at lunch. With either option, you can pre-order a meal from the popular vegan and glutenfree Kupfert & Kim and pick it up from Yoga Be staff as you head to the office. “This way, you don’t have to choose between a healthy lunch and doing your yoga practice,” says Baron. (As a bonus, you won’t have to wait in Kupfert & Kim’s notoriously long lineup.) Located in the MetroCentre on Wellington Street West, Yoga Be is also the first dedicated yoga studio to open in Toronto’s underground PATH system.

Baron insists that her move from litigator to entrepreneur wasn’t a response to burnout or dissatisfaction with the legal profession. “I loved being a lawyer. I still use my legal skills in contract negotiation and business management,” she says. “But I saw an opportunity and felt called to follow my dream.”

Precedent Setter Awards 2014: Paul-Erik Veel

Paul-Erik Veel

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Paul-Erik Veel

Associate, Lenczner Slaght Royce Smith Griffin LLP

Called to the bar in 2010

Paul-Erik Veel is a nerd and proud of it. He loved law school, where he spent day after day in the library immersed in legal theory. In the end, his hard work paid off: he graduated with the gold medal from the University of Toronto and went on to clerk for Justice Louise Charron at the Supreme Court.

After that, Veel, also known as Dash 
— a nickname bestowed on him during his undergrad by a pal on the McGill debate team — looked for a job that would allow him to continue his legal education outside the classroom. At Lenczner Slaght, one of Toronto’s top litigation boutiques, he found one: Veel works on cases across a range 
of practice areas, each one offering a new intellectual challenge. “If a case is black and white, it’s going to settle quickly,”
 he says. “So litigators spend most of their time in the grey area where both sides have a reasonable argument. Litigation affords 
a lot of space to think through interesting questions.”

In just four years since being called to the bar, he’s already served as counsel
 on homicides and a competition law trial. He also spearheaded a pro bono case that led to charges against two Toronto city councillors for violating elections law. But Veel’s favourite case is still his first: a successful challenge to exclude unconstitutionally obtained evidence from a perjury trial. A scholar at heart, he enjoyed the case because it reminded him of a “law school exam problem.”

These days, Veel gets to think up exam questions of his own: he’s an adjunct professor at the University of Toronto’s faculty of law. And his talent for teaching extends to his work at Lenczner Slaght, where he mentors articling students. “Paul-Erik’s experience in court has made him a role model. His mentoring is thoughtful, constructive and effective,” says Peter Griffin, the managing partner of the firm. Plus, it’s not hard to convince Veel to make time for students. “I like helping people find answers to tough questions.”


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

Precedent Setter Awards 2014: Andrea Gonsalves

Andrea Gonsalves

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Andrea Gonsalves

Partner, Stockwoods LLP Barristers
Called to the bar in 2006

Andrea Gonsalves walks into a Starbucks in midtown Toronto with her four-week-old daughter snuggled against her chest. As she did with her now-three-year-old son, she’s taking nearly a year of maternity leave.

She misses work intensely — she used to read her son Supreme Court rulings in lieu of Dr. Seuss, and sent work-related emails within hours of delivering her daughter — but she is determined to show younger lawyers at Stockwoods that it’s possible to be a successful litigator and spend time at home, too. “I’m usually out of the office at 5 p.m. to have dinner with my family,” says Gonsalves, whose husband works for an IT company from home. “I want other lawyers to know that if they choose to do that, it’s okay.”

When Gonsalves joined Stockwoods in 2007 — after clerking at both the Ontario Court of Appeal and the Supreme Court of Canada — she was part of the team representing the Chippewas of Rama First Nation, who claimed they had a right to 35 percent of net profits generated by Casino Rama. “My role was primarily pulling up documents and scrolling to the right place,” says Gonsalves, but it didn’t sting any less when they lost. “You feel really shitty for the first few days, but you have to learn to bounce back.”

Gonsalves doesn’t shy away from tough cases. She was on the team that received the 2012 National Public Health Hero Award for successfully intervening at the Supreme Court of Canada after the federal government chose not to renew a legal exemption that would allow employees at the Insite safe injection facility in Vancouver to legally handle narcotics. Now, she’s acting for three Canadians seeking compensation from the federal government for torture they suffered in Syria.

She’s drawn to tough cases where the stakes are high. “I’d really like to be on my feet at the Supreme Court,” she says. But that will have to wait. A tiny cry comes from the blanket on Gonsalves’s lap. It’s time to head home.


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

Trial & Error: How to build your personal brand within your firm

As a junior associate, you want to develop your practice area by working on files you’re interested in. But to get those files, you have to make yourself known as the woman (or man) for the job. If your colleagues don’t know your skills and interests, why would they bother to staff you on a file? To build your brand, you just need to build your colleagues’ awareness of who you are and where your interests lie.

Building your profile involves two basic steps: general profile-building, and targeted profile-building. Here are some examples:

1. General profile-building

If your profile needs a boost, consider these simple tactics:

  • Make the most of your elevator rides. Time in an elevator is a great opportunity to get to know someone who likely has your undivided attention for the next two minutes. As a general rule, I try to introduce myself to any colleague I haven’t met. That can be as simple as: “Hi, I don’t think we’ve met. I’m Atrisha Lewis, an associate in the litigation group.” It’s a great way to break the elevator silence, meet new people and become a familiar face around the firm.
  • Get involved in student recruitment. It’s actually fun, and it’s also a great way of familiarizing yourself with your colleagues, particularly if you’re at a large firm.
  • Attend the firm’s social events. This will help you connect with lawyers from different practice groups and years of call. To make the most of these events, I make it my goal to talk to at least one new person at each event so that I expand my internal network.

2. Targeted profile-building

Being a recognized name and face at your firm isn’t enough. You have to associate your name with the work you’re interested in — this is how you create your personal brand. I’m interested in mining litigation, so my goal was to ensure that my colleagues know. 

Here are some ways to stay top-of-mind with the right people:

  • Join an industry group and share your experiences. I joined Women in Mining, and when something noteworthy comes up during a networking event, I’ll share it with the mining litigation team in a short email.
  • Offer to help with major events in your desired area of practice. The Prospectors and Developers Association of Canada conference is the biggest mining event in Canada. I knew it was important to mining litigators, so I proactively asked the lawyers if they needed help preparing for the conference.
  • Offer to cowrite articles. A great way to build your profile is to approach a senior lawyer in your desired field and ask to co-write an article with them. Chances are, they will take you up on your offer. This is a great way to develop your expertise and build relationships.
  • Stay on top of industry trends. I follow mining news and cases and often forward new developments along to lawyers who practice in that space. This is a simple way to build your knowledge of the industry and stay top-of-mind with the right people.

Building your brand is a long and difficult process. It takes years to become an expert in your field. That’s why taking small, frequent steps towards your goal will help you move forward. If you have any other strategies for building your internal brand, send ’em on over