Exhibit A: Why law firms are outsourcing work to Africa

Rico Burnett manages a team of fellow lawyers that supports top law firms and corporations all over the world, from New York to London. Much of the time, they plug away at rote tasks such as document review on corporate mergers and major lawsuits — the basic food groups, at least historically, of a junior associate’s diet. But Burnett lives in Cape Town, South Africa, where he works for Exigent, a global legal services provider with nine offices around the world,from India to Australia. The company employs about 150 lawyers, whose rates are far lower than their North American bigfirm counterparts.

In Canada, sending work offshore to third parties is rare. In the past four years, however, McCarthy Tétrault LLP has increasingly shunted document review to Exigent. “We can save clients up to 50 percent,” says Matthew Peters, a partner at the firm, who leads the firm’s “innovation agenda.” That can translate into hundreds of thousands of dollars. That’s big money — and it’s forcing other lawyers to pay attention. “The Canadian market was late to start,” says David Holme, the CEO and founder of Exigent. “But it’s catching up fast.”

Take Susan Wortzman, founder and president of Wortzmans, a niche firm that specializes in, among other things, e-discovery. This fall, she started offering clients a new option: a team at Exigent’s Cape Town office completes the first stage of a document-review project and sends it back to Wortzmans for further review and quality control. This would reduce the total cost by 30 to 40 percent.

At first, Wortzman was skeptical of offshoring. For instance, could she work with lawyers in South Africa and still guarantee total security to her clients? Wortzman went to Cape Town to find out. “I spent three days looking at Exigent’s operations from top-to-bottom,” she says. That included an inspection of the document review rooms. “The doors are always locked. No one can bring in their bags or their phones. There are no printers. It’s under absolute lockdown.”

Wortzman met the lawyers. “English was their first language,” she says. “And they were trained in a common-law legal system.”

The legal job market in South Africa is, in fact, a dream for Exigent — in part because it’s so dismal. The country licenses about 7,000 new lawyers each year, yet, on average, only 2,000 find a job in private practice. “We have some great universities,” says Burnett, who earned his law degree at Cape Town’s Stellenbosch University. “But the traditional legal market in Cape Town is small, so it’s hard for graduates to find a rewarding practice.” Exigent, as a result, can hire from a sea of well-trained lawyers. Job-hunting lawyers are also drawn toExigent, says Holme, for a chance to work in a cutting-edge environment.

The struggling South African economy — its currency has fallen drastically in the past decade — also means Exigent doesn’t need to pay top salaries by North American standards. “People can have a very good lifestyle — with beaches, wine and good food — at salaries that people in Canada might look at and say, ‘Wow, that’s incredibly low,’” says Holme. “But they also don’t aspire to go on holiday to New York.”

Exigent also offers more than document review. It can manage, for instance, a company’s slate of contracts. “Let’s say we manage a corporation’s leases,” explains Holme. “At a moment’s notice, they can ask: How many are about to expire? Or, how many are up in six months and need to be re-negotiated?” Peters says McCarthys now offers this to clients. “We thought everyone would care about cost savings, but they’re also interested in these kinds of analytics,” he says. “That really surprised us.”

This story is from our Spring 2016 issue.




Photography courtesy of Exigent

Good News From Bay Street: The end of up-or-out?

In 2008, after working at Torys LLP for seven years, Tom Yeo made partner. At first, nothing changed. “It’s funny, I walked in the next day and got to work on the same files with the same people,” he recalls. “Nothing magical had happened overnight.”

But, over time, things did change — and not for the better. At large Bay Street firms, partners and associates are different in one way: partners must bring in new business. And this slowly became Yeo’s least favourite part of the job.

The pressure to land clients, and the spectre of failing to do so, became constant preoccupations. Sometimes, when at home hanging out with his wife and two young sons, he’d feel guilty that he wasn’t out scrounging up business. “I’d be thinking, Should I be out at a dinner or something?” he recalls. By 2012, Yeo had reached his limit. “I just wasn’t as happy as I thought I should be.”

He asked to meet with Les Viner, the long-time managing partner at Torys, and told him just that. Viner proposed a solution: Yeo could step down as a partner — thus freeing him from his business-development responsibilities — but stay on as a counsel in the corporate group he loved. He quickly accepted. “I’m much happier,” says Yeo, now 43. “I’m delighted with how things worked out.”

Tom Yeo

“I just wasn’t as happy as I thought I should be.”
Tom Yeo
Counsel at Torys LLP

Had that meeting occurred a few years earlier, the firm might have encouraged Yeo to look for another job. Such a request would have been in line with the so-called “up-or-out” model, an unwritten code that has governed Big Law for much of the past century. It basically consists of one rule: if a senior lawyer (someone with about eight years of experience) is unable to meet the demands of partnership, he or she must leave the firm. But around the time of Yeo’s meeting, Torys had started to break from that tradition.

And Torys is not alone. It’s not yet widespread, but in recent years some of the largest firms on Bay Street are ditching the “up-or-out” model. Another high-profile example is McCarthy Tétrault LLP. Rather than forcing out every lawyer not cut out for partnership, these firms now allow certain top-calibre lawyers, whose work remains profitable for the firm, to stay at the firm in associate or counsel roles.

But why make this change now? With the post-recession legal market still tight, firms are extra picky about who they promote to partner. In the past, all partners brought in some business, but some brought in far more. Today, only top client-getters can make partner, says Jonathan Veale, managing director at the legal-recruitment firm Vision Legal Recruitment. “It’s all about your ability to generate new revenue.”

“The partnership window is narrowing as it gets more competitive,” confirms Robin MacAulay, a director of professional resources at McCarthys. And her counterpart at Torys, Deborah Dalfen, says the number of opportunities is shrinking at her firm, too. “In just the last five years, the world order has changed.”

Neither firm, however, wants to lose lawyers whose work they value. “Offering alternative career paths is about retaining excellent lawyers who may not want to deliver at the same intensity as partners,” says Dalfen. “We want them to know they can stay here and have a long-term career.”

One clear beneficiary of the new paradigm is Kara Smith at McCarthys. Earlier this year, she went from being a fifth-year associate to counsel, explicitly taking her off the partnership track. “In my heart, I knew I didn’t want to be a partner,” says the 32-year-old, unapologetically. “That level of commitment never interested me.”

Had McCarthys remained faithful to the “up-or-out” model, Smith says she likely would have moved in-house, a long-standing haven for private practice lawyers looking for more work-life balance. These days, Smith splits her off-hours between charity work, and leisure with friends and family. And she doesn’t want to give those up. “I want to make sure I can keep doing all the things I love doing outside of law.”

At the same time, the dwindling number of partnership opportunities in Big Law is heartbreaking for one group of lawyers: those who want to make partner, and might have in previous years, but are forced to accept a future as a counsel or long-term associate. “We are not blind to this,” says Dalfen. “In the current senior-associate ranks, this is a real difficulty.”

Still, as both Dalfen and MacAulay see it, the advantages of moving past the “up-or-out” model far outnumber the downsides. (In the United States, by the way, the tradition began to crumble back in the 1980s.) “It’s going very well,” says MacAulay. “We want to have lots of long-term, experienced lawyers working with us, even if they don’t become partners.”

Cover of the Fall 2015 Issue of PrecedentThis story is part our series on how Bay Street firms are getting better, from our Fall 2015 issue.




Concept photography by Chris Thomaidis.

Good News From Bay Street: Big Law gets a little bit gayer

I have always been out, at least as far as Bay Street is concerned. When I first started my career, in 2000, this made me something of a novelty. Not anymore.

In the last decade or so, Bay Street firms have covered a lot of ground in the race to embrace the rainbow: most large firms have an LGBT employee resource group, many participate in the Out on Bay Street recruitment fair and, in the last few years, more and more firms are throwing Pride events.

Kirsten Thompson

Kirsten Thompson
Counsel at McCarthy Tétrault LLP

I wish I could say these efforts at being inclusive were due to fearless leadership from the firms, but it was our clients who drove the change. Law firms got on board, at least initially, because there was a relationship risk — key clients demanded that their legal teams reflect the diversity of their own staff, and law firms got the message. Now, firms independently recognize diversity, including LGBT diversity, as both a social imperative and a competitive necessity.

At McCarthys, I’ve gone from having to explain what a Pride parade is to having to give the bum’s rush to senior partners, who were having such a good time at the firm’s Big Gay Party that they were still going strong at 1 a.m.

I once made the senior folks nervous if I showed up at their events (is she going to do something… gay?), whereas I am now a bit nervous if they show up at mine (for the love of all that is holy, please please please don’t bust out your disco moves).

In fact, the people who run this place are tripping over themselves to be gay-friendly. People now ask if I’m gay not because they are looking for scurrilous gossip, but because they want to fix me up with their friend (um . . . thanks?).

So is it now rainbows and glitter all the time? Not quite. After decades of being lumped together in the LGBTTQ alphabet soup, it’s clear that the success won by the community is not equally shared by all its members. Women, for instance. While most firms have healthy numbers of queer folks in the junior ranks, they thin out at the partnership level. To the extent firms have LGBT people at the top, they are almost all gay men. Gay women at the top are as rare as unicorns.

Still, these firms have come a long way in a short time. Some are leaders, some are followers, but all have made progress. I’m delighted that my own firm is way out in front, not only because of my own work for the cause, but because of the broader efforts of committed leadership. We were the first Canadian firm to hire a chief diversity and engagement officer and last year’s World Pride party was one of the hottest tickets of the season.

Oh, and to those of you who still want to introduce me to your friend, the line starts on the left.

Cover of the Fall 2015 Issue of PrecedentThis story is part our series on how Bay Street firms are getting better, from our Fall 2015 issue.




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: Essential reading for the junior lawyer

Are you seeking inspiration, insights or talking points? Check out my list of essential reads for the junior lawyer —four that have profoundly impacted my practice: 

1. Chris Hadfield’s an Astronaut’s Guide to Life on Earth

It’s not a book about law, but there are many takeaways that apply to any ambitious lawyer, such as the value of working hard and parking your ego. The biggest lesson I gleaned from this book was to plan for every contingency. I found myself reflecting on this advice earlier this year as I geared up for my first trial. I considered all possible permeations and equipped myself appropriately. I came prepared with materials that my team may need in the face of possible objections and while I did not think of everything, I was able to plan for most contingencies and add a great deal of value to the trial team. 

2. The Rules of Civil Procedure (or whatever legislation is most relevant to your practice)

Phil Moore, Senior Vice President, Deputy General Counsel and Corporate Secretary of TD Bank Group, advised me as an articling student to read the Canadian Business Corporations Act cover to cover… in one sitting. He explained that in so doing, I would obtain insight into the contents and structure of the statute. Regardless of your area of practice, I firmly believe his advice holds true. I recently familiarized myself with the most relevant legislation to my practice, Rules of Civil Procedure, which has helped me immensely. With a thorough understanding of the Rules, I know exactly where to turn when I face new issues in my practice. 

3. Sheryl Sandberg’s Lean In

This one is worth the buzz. The messaging in this book is essential for all junior lawyers. There are many useful nuggets in this book, and I’ve previously shared one in my article on how to properly take a vacation. Lean In is packed with so much practical wisdom that I could write an entire column about this book alone.

4. Daily news

You’ll hear it often in your career that reading the news is important. It took me a few road trips with colleagues and a handful of awkward elevator rides to truly understand the necessity of being current with the daily news. Being current not only provides you with a litany of talking points to fill elevator silences, but it also deepens your perspective of the world around you. 

Notable mentions:

While I haven’t yet carved the time out to read these books, they came highly recommended by my colleagues and sit on my current “to-read” list:

  • Swimming Lessons for Baby Sharks: The Essential Guide to Thriving as a New Lawyer by Grover Cleveland. This book was provided by Osler to all of its first year associates.
  • Tomorrow’s Lawyers: An Introduction to Your Future by Richard Susskin. This one describes what the future of technology has in store for lawyers.

Got any other great must-reads? Let me know

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

The Circuit: Starfish Canada’s annual Care for a Taste fundraiser

What: Starfish Canada’s annual Care for a Taste fundraiser
Where: McCarthy Tétrault
When: Thursday, October 16, 2014

Earlier this month, Alexi Wood — associate at Davis LLP and a 2014 Precedent Setter — co-hosted the annual fundraiser for the Starfish Greathearts Foundation, an organization that “provides sustainable aid to children orphaned or made vulnerable by HIV / AIDS in South Africa.”

“100% of the money we raise goes right to South Africa,” says Wood, a co-chair of the organization. 

As guests of the fundraiser browsed through a selection of silent auction gifts, they sampled wine from both South African and Ontario wineries, and snacked on food provided by Top Chef Canada winner Carl Heinrich of Richmond Station.

Have an event coming up? Invite us to your next party!

News: What’s behind the shrinking pool of Bay Street articling jobs?

For students, the hireback stats look pretty scary. Back in 2009, Precedent surveyed the Toronto law offices that hired the most articling students to find out how many they hired back as first-year associates. Each year, we ask again and report those numbers online in our Hireback Watch. Over the last year, the number of articling jobs at the 16 offices that traditionally hire the most students fell from 297 to 282. Worse still, those numbers don’t include students from Heenan Blaikie LLP, which collapsed in February and, of course, won’t be hiring students in the future.

“If I were a law student looking for work on Bay Street, I would not find any of this encouraging,” says Jordan Furlong, legal consultant at Edge International. For the past 40 years, he explains, clients have blindly paid big legal fees for the work of students, at least in part. Now, that era is over: clients want lower costs, and they don’t think students, who spend most of their time completing routine legal tasks, are worth the money. For that reason, Furlong predicts that the number of articling gigs on Bay Street will continue to decline. “Firms everywhere are coming to the belated realization that they, not their clients, have to pay for student training.”

But the shrinking articling pool is only half the story: the proportion of articling students hired back is on the rise. This year, those 16 offices hired back 78 percent of students, up from 73 percent a year ago. In fact, the total number of students hired back remains steady, with 200 making the cut this year, compared to 204 in 2013.

A consistent influx of junior associates “means that firms are still looking to identify and invest in young talent,” says Adam Lepofsky, president and founder of the legal recruiting firm RainMaker Group. Despite the fall of Heenan Blaikie, stable hireback numbers indicate that firms “are optimistic about the next few years.”

Beyond hireback numbers, Lepofsky hopes recent growth in the American legal market — New York and California, in particular — will spill over into Canada within a year. “I’m getting demands from clients in the States that I haven’t gotten in a long time,” he says. “And generally our economy will follow the U.S. economy, especially in the business of law.”

The demand for legal work is hardly drying up, says Furlong. But that demand is not for junior lawyers — it’s for seasoned partners. As firms cut articling jobs, he says they’ll hire fewer first-years. The hireback rate could stay high, but Furlong expects the number of new lawyers on Bay Street to decline. “Firms are still overlawyered.” 

Bay Street looks bearish

In 2009, Blakes, Davies, McCarthys, Osler and Stikemans took on the most articling students at their Toronto offices. Since then, they’ve shed a combined 47 jobs, but the hireback rate at those firms has jumped up by 10 percent.

Toronto Articling Jobs










The biggest players, then and now

Toronto offices with the most students in 2009
Osler — 33
Stikemans — 33
Blakes — 29
McCarthys — 28
Davies — 22

Toronto offices with the most students in 2014
Blakes — 29
Torys — 25
Stikemans, Norton Rose — 20
BLG, McCarthys, Cassels — 19 

For a detailed rundown of all the numbers, check out our Hireback Watch 2014 chart.

Editor’s Note: A sharper image

While it may not look like it, a lot of fuss went into that picture of me up there on the left. I hadn’t changed up my editor’s photo in three years. After some gentle nudging by my colleagues, I agreed it was time for something new.

While I’m a bit embarrassed to admit it, I went shopping the night before for the perfect outfit that gave just the right image of former-lawyer-turned-magazine-editor-and-entrepreneur. On the day of the photo shoot, I fussed over my hair, my nail polish and how much makeup was too much makeup. I wanted looking good to appear effortless. But it’s actually quite a lot of work.

As you will read in the pages of this special style issue of Precedent, it’s not like one bad outfit ever ruined a career, but looking consistently polished and put-together can help advance it. I’ve heard of someone who was passed up for partnership, partly because they were sort of dishevelled-looking. This rumour came up when four lawyers joined me for breakfast in January to talk about style trends on Bay Street (“Review the expert testimony”).

Not every guy has to wear a three-piece suit (like Peter Sullivan from Cassels did) or every woman four-inch heels (like Leila Rafi of McCarthys did), but it’s worth it to put effort into looking good. Even when the results appear effortless.

To help you achieve a look that works for you, we wanted to let you in on some style secrets. The best-kept secret in town, we think, is Peter Feeney. Our gorgeous front cover features the tools and components that he uses to make custom shoes. Feeney trained as a cordwainer in Italy for four years before bringing his skills back to Toronto. I visited him at his studio and was blown away by the precision and passion that go into every pair he makes. I’m thrilled to feature this local designer in our pages. Other secrets we’ll share include places to shop off the beaten path and the fine distinction between being fashionable and having your own style. But style doesn’t stop at the clothes we wear, so we also went to criminal lawyer Daniel Brown’s house for tips on creating the perfect home office and curated a list of gorgeous items you’ll want at work.

As for me and my photo? I wore something I’d had in my closet all along.

More from our Spring issue:

The Precedent Guide to Looking PolishedSarah Armstrong FaskensCriminal Lawyer Daniel Brown Home OfficePaul Banwatt Secret Life

Best Practices: Great Expectations

Founding a brand new law firm in your mid-thirties when you have two young kids is a huge risk. With a mortgage and only his wife’s modest teacher’s salary to fall back on, Andrew Faith simply couldn’t afford for his new litigation firm to go wrong. But he wanted more than for it to simply not go wrong. He wanted to build “an institution,” as he puts it; “the next Lax O’Sullivan or Lenczner Slaght.” For a lawyer barely at the mid-point of his career, these were ambitious goals. “It was like jumping off a cliff and not knowing whether the parachute would unfurl.”

The Toronto native started out with plans to go into business, as was the tradition in his family. But after finishing a BCom at McGill, he decided on a whim to take the LSAT. When he aced the test, law school seemed like the right next move.

After graduating from the UBC’s Faculty of Law, Faith took a job at Shearman & Sterling LLP in London, U.K., but a year later — with their first child on the way — Faith and his wife Laurie returned to Canada to be closer to family. Back in Toronto in 2004, he joined McCarthy Tétrault LLP’s litigation department.

Early on, Faith was eager to get into court as much as possible. After two years, he took a secondment to work as a criminal prosecutor at the Crown Attorney’s office. “You’re like a true barrister, you’re in court every day,” Faith says of the job, which took him far from Bay Street to a modest office on Finch Avenue West. “I did well over 100 trials. I was on four homicide prosecutions. I really got on my feet for the first time.”

When he was offered a second contract, he decided to leave McCarthys for good.

Faith knew his friend at McCarthys, Mark Polley, also wanted to get more trial experience, and convinced him to join the Crown too. Polley always said he wanted to open his own firm as soon as he got the courtroom experience — and kept trying to convince Faith to join him. “He always imagined that we could build something and be at the top of the game doing it,” says Faith. “Up under the power lines at Highway 400 and Finch, battling it out with defence lawyers and trials, it was hard to see. Now looking back, it was a really good training ground for the kind of work we’re doing.”

Eventually, in 2010, Polley’s vision won out and the two quit their stable — and rewarding — jobs and rented an office.

Now, seated behind a large rosewood desk in his ninth-floor Bay Street office, Faith reminisces about those early days of Polley Faith LLP. “We did our first conference call on the carpet in this room, no furniture at all,” he says.

Less than three years later, Polley and Faith are packing up to move to a larger office nearby to accommodate their impressive roster of new hires — five more lawyers and three additional staff members.

Although the firm takes on a broad range of litigation work, Faith says that commercial litigation is its “bread and butter.” The firm also does fraud, securities work and libel.

Right now, Faith is most proud of his work representing the Critical Care Society on a precedent-setting end-of-life case, Hassan Rasouli v. Sunnybrook Health Sciences, which was heard by the Supreme Court of Canada in December. “It’s the biggest case of my career.”

Expect to keep seeing Faith’s name in the news — he and Polley set no limits on their ambitions for their firm. “We want
to be seen as a team of the best litigators in the city.” 

The Lowdown

Year of call: 2003
Current job: Partner, Polley Faith LLP
Favourite legal character: Atticus Finch
If i weren’t a lawyer i’d be… A journalist
Pet peeve: Blind faith in anything
Favourite item in closet: My old ball glove
Greatest extravagance: Week-long trip to Toyko for sushi
Most treasured possession: My iPhone 

Photography by Margaret Mulligan