Lawyerly Love: Nicole Rumble & Aleksandar Jovanovic

On a Friday evening last September, Nicole Rumble and Aleksandar Jovanovic were on their way to dinner when their cab broke down at St. James Park. As they got out to hail another taxi, Aleks spotted a friend taking photos in the park. After saying hello, the friend insisted, “Let me take a picture of you two.” That was Aleks’s cue. The friend hit record on his camera and Aleks got down on one knee. Of course, Aleks planned the whole thing. (He paid the cabbie to fake the malfunction, and that “friend” was a hired hand.) “When we look at the video, I don’t even remember it happening,” says Nicole. “It was a bit of a whirlwind.”

Nicole Rumble & Aleks Jovanovic

Nicole Rumble
Age: 29
McCarthy Tetrault LLP
Business Law
Aleksandar Jovanovic
Age: 29
Torkin Manes LLP


Aleks and Nicole met six years ago in law school at Queen’s University. They were in the same small section, and had every class together. “I thought Nicole was funny, smart and pretty,” says Aleks. Nicole’s first impression was more critical. “Aleks had a very unique fashion style back then,” she jokes of his graphic Ed Hardy T-shirts. “It was a bit Jersey Shoreesque.” But his warm personality and loud laugh charmed her. They became fast friends.

“We clicked because we’re both sarcastic and like to poke fun at each other,” says Aleks, who, in second year, mustered up the courage to ask Nicole on a date. From then on, they were a couple.

After law school, they both got plum jobs in downtown Toronto. Aleks went to Torkin Manes and Nicole landed at McCarthys. The couple now lives together in an east-end loft. The pair talks on the phone every workday. And with their wedding coming up — it’s set for August at the Royal Canadian Yacht Club — there’s plenty to discuss. “Unfortunately for Aleks,” says Nicole, “now that we’re planning the wedding, there’s been a lot of communication about that.”

This story is part of our feature on Bay Street couples, from our Spring 2017 issue.




Photography by Daniel Ehrenworth, hair and makeup by Michelle Calleja

Opinion: How lawyers can help Syrian refugees come to Canada

The photo changed everything. You saw it. Everybody saw it. The photo of the tiny, lifeless body of three-year-old Alan Kurdi, washed up on the beach on September 2. It was almost too much to take — Alan’s shoes were still on. And we all seemed to think the same thing at once: he should have been playing on that beach instead of lying dead on it.

Suddenly, finally, people took notice of what was happening in Syria. The civil war has displaced millions, triggering the largest humanitarian crisis since the Second World War. And yet, until the photo, many people were not aware of what was happening or how they could help.

Now is the time to help. That’s what we do — lawyers help people. Despite being the butt of tired jokes and having a public reputation just above that of used car salesmen, the reality is that lawyers are warriors of justice.

Our profession boasts a rich history of men and women who go out of their way to help those in need. It is woven into our DNA. There are the grand examples: Lawyers Without Borders, Canadian Lawyers Abroad and Amnesty International. But there are smaller, everyday examples too. I have witnessed some of these myself.

Since July, my law-school friend, Jerry Topolski, of Goodmans LLP, and I have been trying to sponsor a Syrian family to come to Toronto. When the photo of Alan made its way around the world, I tweeted my frustration with Canada’s cumbersome process to bring over refugee families in need. A reporter from the Globe and Mail reached out to interview us about our experience. When the article was published, a flood of offers came in from lawyers — offers to contribute to the cost of sponsorship and to provide free immigration legal services. Other colleagues asked how they too could sponsor a family to come to Canada.

Then I saw other lawyers stepping up to help. Goldblatt Partners LLP committed to sponsoring a family from Syria themselves. McCarthy Tétrault LLP raised more than $100,000 over the course of a few days to assist those in Syria. Ottawa lawyer Jennifer Bond helped create the Refugee Sponsorship Support Program, which offers free legal advice to Canadians who want to sponsor Syrian refugees.

Let’s not stop there. We can do more, on an individual level.

Volunteer at a shelter to help complete forms for refugees that have just arrived. Lend your legal expertise to the Refugee Sponsorship Support Program, which works in partnership with the Canadian Bar Association. The Christie Refugee Welcome Centre and the Red Door Family Shelter also need your help.

Donate to the children of Syria what you spend on a night out for dinner. Islamic Relief Canada, the United Nations Refugee Agency and the Canadian Red Cross can all use your cash — and the Canadian government will match your donation until December 31, 2015.

Organize your firm to do something large and impactful. Or even sponsor a family to come to Canada. can help connect you.

We are uniquely equipped with the skills and tools to make a difference. We can decipher legalese on application forms. We can appear before tribunals and advocate for those who simply do not understand the process. Because of our legal education and our developed communication skills, we are often best-positioned to assist those who need to manoeuvre through the mazes of red tape and unjust decisions. Lawyers can help in many ways. The important thing is just to help. After all — it’s what we do.
















Rebecca Durcan is a partner at Steinecke Maciura LeBlanc. She and Goodmans LLP lawyer Jerry Topolski are waiting to be matched with a family.




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




Illustration by Pete Ryan

Trial & Error: How to write the perfect email

In my last column, I tackled a subject lawyers are all too familiar with: email, and when to use it instead of in-person meetings or talking on the phone. Sometimes, I concluded, email is the best choice. And for those times, here are six tips for drafting the “perfect” email. (Shout out to Bindu Cudjoe, the deputy general counsel and chief administrative officer at BMO Financial Group, who helped develop this list.)

1. Be careful about who is in the “to” and “copy” address lines

Most people receive hundreds of emails every day. So try not to unnecessarily load up someone’s inbox. Also, to ensure everyone receives the email, make sure there is no “auto-fill” error.

2. Cater your salutations to the recipient of each email

I use email for all kinds of matters, so I use salutations to convey the level of formality in the communication. I start my informal emails with “Hi” and I sign off with my name or, simply, “Cheers.” For formal emails, to clients and co-workers, I address recipients by their name only. I address them by their first name if I’ve met them before, and “Mr./Ms.” followed by their last name for everyone else. I sign off formal emails with “Regards” or “Best.”

3. Always include your contact information in your e-mail

Quite often, when you send an email, the recipient will want to phone you. Make your phone number east to find. Not doing so is one of Bindu’s pet peeves — and it likely is for several of your clients and co-workers, too.

4. Have a clear, detailed subject line

I typically send and receive a couple hundred emails a day, so clear subject lines help me locate the emails I want when dashing between meetings. In each subject line, I include the name of the matter or file, followed by the specific item or task under discussion. If appropriate, I add what our next step should be. For example, in a transactional context, a good subject would look like: “Acme Inc. Deal – Prospectus – MT Comments.” In litigation, a good subject line would be: “Jane ats Joe – Discoveries – Please Hold Jan 1, 2015.”

5. Put new thoughts in a new e-mail

All good e-mail threads must come to an end and new thoughts require a new thread. This is important for many reasons: it makes it easier to forward emails without the baggage of old threads, and for the litigators in the audience, creating a clean motion record.

6. Make your email easy to read

Consider that most people read emails on mobile devices. Bold, highlight, and underline key passages or phrases to draw the reader to your most salient points.

Do you have any other suggestions for e-mail? If so, please share with me on Twitter at @atrishalewis.

Atrisha Lewis is a third-year associate in McCarthy Tétrault’s litigation group. Follow her on Twitter: @atrishalewisAnd also check out all of her past columns.

Precedent Setter Awards 2015: Aida Shahbazi

Aida Shahbazi

Senior counsel, BMO Financial Group
Called to the bar in 2009
Law school: Osgoode Hall

Scarcely two years after joining BMO’s law group, Aida Shahbazi found herself seconded to a five-person team leading an internal branding transformation meant to reach the bank’s 46,000 employees. It was a tall assignment, one that drew less on Shahbazi’s legal skills than her grasp of marketing and social media. “It was interesting to take off the legal hat,” says the 33-year-old, who grew up in Windsor, Ont.

Shahbazi joined BMO in 2012 as a securities lawyer after a stint at McCarthy Tétrault LLP. Soon she made her way onto teams dealing with investor relations, social media governance and other marketingrelated projects. The bank then recognized Shahbazi with an award reserved for the top two percent of its employees. And, in May, BMO named her the Canadian regulatory liaison between Canada’s financial regulator and the bank. “It’s a stretch opportunity,” she says. “Every ounce of ability that I have, I need to bring to this job. It’s a role where there’s almost no margin for error.”

Aida ShahbaziSince she was 18, Shahbazi has been an energetic fundraiser for the United Way. Her work began when the charity placed her on the board of a non-profit in Windsor that advocates for seniors and people with disabilities. In 2013, she came up with a three-year plan to increase United Way donations from Toronto associates at large Bay Street firms, who were lagging behind partners. Shahbazi recruited 30 associates from those firms and trained them to spearhead more effective fundraising drives at their offices. Her work helped reverse a downward trend in donations from associates.

Shahbazi’s desire to help others is rooted in the deep gratitude she has for the friends and mentors who, over the years, have supported her career. “The opportunities I’ve received in my life have made me what I am today,” she reflects. “It’s important to me that others have that opportunity.”





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

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

Trial & Error: How to be a good mentor

During my first year as an associate at McCarthy Tétrault, I benefited from a roster of fantastic mentors, and I’m sure I’ll continue to long into my career. But now that I’ve got a year of experience under my belt, It’s time to start paying it forward. And so, I’ve become a mentor myself. I take the job seriously, and I believe it’s my duty and a privilege to pass along what I’ve learned. 

Here are my top five tips for newly minted mentors:

  1. Recognize when you are mentor

Often associates don’t appreciate when they mentor more junior associates and students. For example, I’m not a formal mentor, so I didn’t recognize that I had stepped into an informal role until a student told me explicitly. While organic mentorship relationships are preferable, they can often be unrecognized. Appreciating that you are a mentor is the first step to being a good one.

  1. Make the time

The most important ingredient in the mentorship relationship is time. Even at my busiest, I always make time for a student who walks into my office. I also make an effort to seek out my mentees so they know that I am available to them. Making time can be as simple as inviting a mentee to a quick afternoon coffee, out for an after-work drink or to join you at a networking event.  

  1. Be candid

This is crucial to being a good mentor. I always try to be honest and forthright about my feedback and opinions. I’m also open about my own experience with career growing pains. Being candid allows me to share teachable moments. It also encourages mentees to be candid with me, which helps me better advise them and learn from them in return. Which brings me to my next point:

  1. Learn From Your Mentee

I learn as much (if not more) from my mentees as they do from me. As a mentor, I get to learn about their exciting cases and new developments in the law, and I gain insights into new ways of thinking about a problem. I think learning from a mentee is one of the most overlooked opportunities. They can observe you as an outsider and can provide a refreshing perspective on your practice.

  1. Offer Relevant Advice

Recognizing that mentorship is a two-way street, it’s important to look for ways to enhance other people’s development. For example, I often send a blackline copy of my changes to students along with an offer to discuss the changes in person. At the conclusion of a significant matter, I suggest a feedback coffee so that we can both learn from the experience. 

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

Photo by Stephan Rosger

Trial & Error: Practice resolutions for the junior lawyer

Tis the season for New Year’s resolutions. So why not include a practice resolution on your list? After canvassing resolution recommendations from peers in various practice groups, firms and practice settings, here are my top 5 practice resolutions for the junior lawyer — or any lawyer looking to improve her practice in the new year. 

  1. Implement a Bring Forward (BF) system. 
    Many litigators already have a BF/tickler system in place, but why let them have all the organizational fun? This habit can also extend to a transactional practice. I “bring forward,” or put in my calendar, a future reminder to do something, ensuring all of my deliverables are diarized and nothing falls through the cracks. Consider extending your BF system for business development purposes. For example, if you meet a new connection at a networking event, use a BF system as a reminder to reconnect in a few months. Better yet, set up a Google alert for news related to your connection’s employer so you get both a reminder and a conversation starter.
  2. Create a personal plan.
    A personal plan outlines your professional goals and specific ways to achieve them. If you do not have one, write down your professional goals and be accountable to them throughout the year. You can BF a quarterly review of your plan to make sure you are on track. Ask other lawyers or your human resources department for precedents. If you already have a plan, consider showing it to a more senior lawyer and ask for feedback.
  3. Join a new industry group. 
    There are a plethora of practice groups to join in your area. Resolve to join a new OBA section, or a group like Women in Capital Markets, and commit to attending at least three events throughout 2015. It’s a great way to expand your network.
  4. Make social media your friend. 
    Do you have a LinkedIn page? When was the last time you updated it? Do you have a Twitter account? How often do you tweet? This year, resolve to break into, update or expand your presence into one social media outlet. Chris Horkins, an associate at Cassels Brock LLP, wisely told me that social media is a strategic advantage that juniors can have over our more senior counterparts in building our practice. Why not use it? (Of course, always be sure to respect your firm’s social media policy.)
  5. Spend time strategically.
    So how will you make time for these resolutions? Resolve to be strategic in how you spend your valuable time. Examine your plate with a critical eye and consider what work can be better served by another colleague, articling or summer student who would be eager for the learning opportunity.  Consider reducing the amount of work you take on and re-allocate that time to digesting the work you are doing and to investing in your professional development.  

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

Special thanks to Rachel Allred for all the help with this column in 2014.