On the Record: The job market on Bay Street is holding strong

Back in 2016, the job market on Bay Street looked bleak. The largest 15 law firms in Toronto had hired back 184 articling students as first-year associates. In the previous two years, that number sat at 197 and 196. The reason for the drop-off was clear: the largest firms were outsourcing an increasing amount of routine legal work, meaning they didn’t need to take on as many junior associates.

There was no cause for optimism at the time, but something surprising happened. In 2017, those same firms hired back 208 articling students. And at the conclusion of the 2017–18 articling term, they hired back 197, according to exclusive numbers that PrecedentJD collects each year on the Hireback Watch. The market had somehow regained its footing.

But how? To be sure, the strength of the overall economy has played a key role. But two new industries have also buoyed the job market: cannabis and blockchain.

new money alina skyson webThis October, weed will become legal across Canada. In anticipation of that moment, the country’s licensed cannabis producers — there are now 113 of them — have turned to Bay Street with an endless list of legal questions. “It’s generating a lot of regulatory work,” says Adam Lepofsky, president and founder of the legal recruiting firm RainMaker Group. “At first, the profession shied away from this industry. But in the past two years, almost every major firm has launched a cannabis team.”

In that same timespan, we’ve seen the rise of blockchain. The technology — which, in essence, is an ultra-secure ledger that tracks digital information — powers most of the world’s cryptocurrencies. But the technology has also spawned a raft of companies that hope to revolutionize other industries, from retail to medicine. And these companies need legal help with, well, everything. If they want to go public, they need to hire a capital-markets lawyer; as they build up a staff, they need employment counsel. On top of that, it’s not always clear how current technology legislation applies to blockchain. The end result: companies need a lot of advice from experienced lawyers. “The growth of blockchain will directly increase the need for legal advice,” says Usman Sheikh, the national head of Gowling WLG’s blockchain group. “Because of that, more and more lawyers will need to get themselves up to speed.”

The firm’s Toronto office has a team of about 20 lawyers — who work in a range of practice areas, from litigation to securities — that regularly advise clients in the blockchain sphere. In the past three months, the firm added two new associates to its capital-markets group to help meet the ever-increasing demand in blockchain, cannabis and other emerging markets.

Over at Osler, Hoskin & Harcourt LLP, the blockchain revolution is also on full display. One year ago, several lawyers at the firm dedicated a small amount of their practice to blockchain-related files. “Today, more than 10 people spend a considerable amount of time on these issues,” says Blair Wiley, a partner in the corporate group, who leads the firm’s blockchain practice. “It’s an exciting time. For young lawyers who are ready to embrace the world of new technology, the sky is the limit.”

This story is from our Fall 2018 Issue.

Illustration by Alina Skyson

sponsored content: Hitting the books is good for business

Paula Trattner OPD web

Paula Trattner
Partner at Osler, Hoskin & Harcourt LLP
Osgoode LLM: Health law, 2014
Year of call: 1999

In 2012, Paula Trattner signed up for the Osgoode Professional LLM — a two-year graduate program that working lawyers can complete part-time — hoping to fine-tune her expertise so she could better serve clients. And, without a doubt, that happened. But the program also connected her to a new set of industry contacts and helped her land business.

Trattner, a partner at Osler, Hoskin & Harcourt LLP, completed the program’s health-law specialization in order to bolster her practice, which focusses on the health-care industry. In class, she studied alongside doctors, nurses and health-care administrators. “I really connected with some of my classmates,” she says. “These were people with the ability to hire legal counsel and they got to see me in action first-hand throughout the course. I actually gained clients.”

Having an LLM on her resumé has also strengthened her reputation. “When clients introduce me, they always mention it so I know it impresses them,” says Trattner. “It’s a confirmation that I’ve kept current. Clients appreciate that.”

Other professionals who took the program have also become lasting connections. “We still reach out to each other for advice on work-related questions more than three years later.”


Fast facts about the Osgoode Professional LLM

1. Flexible: The program is designed for professionals. Evening and weekend classes let you earn a degree while working.

2. Specialized: Dive deep into one of 14 areas of specialization, including tax, securities, constitutional, criminal, labour, and dispute resolution.

3. Rigorous: Throughout the program, you’ll complete detailed papers on a complex area of law, honing your legal writing and analytical skills.

Osgoode’s Professional LLM is designed with the working lawyer in mind. To learn more, visit the program’s website or call (416) 673-4670.

Spring 2018 cover webThis story is from our Spring 2018 Issue.

The Referral: The book that will help you (finally) clear your inbox

Mara Nickerson

Recommended by: Mara Nickerson, Osler, Hoskin and Harcourt LLP

The backstory: “These days, one of the biggest challenges lawyers face is the avalanche of emails going back and forth,” says Mara Nickerson, a lawyer and the chief knowledge officer at Osler. “It consumes your day.” The facts bear this out: business email users process more than 120 emails every day. But since Nickerson didn’t study email management in law school, she turned to a new book, The Email Warrior, for help.

Making the case: Nickerson heard about the book because she knows the author, Ann Gomez, the founder of Clear Concept — a company that offers workshops to make busy professionals more productive. Nickerson latched onto the book’s practical tips. One of her favourites is the well-known one-touch principle, which has just one rule: act on emails the first time you read them, in order to keep your inbox empty. That might mean sending a quick reply, adding a task to your to-do list or delegating the email to the right person. “It’s so easy to put off emails until later,” says Nickerson. “The one-touch principle forces you to deal with them.”
But keep in mind: this works best if you turn off email notifications and tackle your inbox at set times throughout the workday.

Bonus points: It may be a book about email, but it’s truly a good read. “It’s a breeze and it’s very readable,” she says. “I read the whole thing over a couple of subway rides.”

Where to find it: You can order the book online at clearconceptinc.ca/emailwarrior.

How much you’ll pay: $24.95.

Precedent Summer 2017 IssueThis story is from our Summer 2017 issue.




Illustration by Alina Skyson

Lawyerly Love: Geoffrey Hunnisett & Brandon Kerstens

After Osler associate Geoffrey Hunnisett finished speaking at the 2012 Out on Bay Street conference, he went over to the bar. That’s when Brandon Kerstens, a second-year law student, approached him to say hello. “Geoff brushed me aside,” he recalls. But Brandon wasn’t thinking of romance. “I saw him as a useful connection,” he says with a laugh.

Around that time, Brandon was going through OCIs. He landed an interview at Osler — and Geoffrey was on the team that interviewed him. “Geoff made me an offer on behalf of the firm,” says Brandon. “This time I turned him down.” Instead, Brandon went to Heenan Blaikie.

Geoffrey Hunnisett & Brandon Kerstens

Geoffrey Hunnisett
Age: 36
Osler, Hoskin & Harcourt LLP
Brandon Kerstens
Age: 29
Osler, Hoskin & Harcourt LLP


When Brandon started his summer job, in 2013, Heenan was 10 months away from its stunning collapse. Brandon saw partners fleeing to other firms. “It didn’t seem like a place I could grow,” he says. He got in touch with Osler and asked if he could article there the next year. The firm interviewed him again, and agreed. So at least one good thing came out of Heenan’s downfall: Brandon would be reunited with Geoffrey.

Near the end of Brandon’s articling term, Geoffrey took him for coffee. “It’s common to check in with new hires,” says Geoffrey. “It was purely business.” Once Brandon finished articling, they got dinner at SpeakEasy 21. “We flipped into dating mode pretty quickly,” says Geoffrey.

Dating a colleague has its advantages. Last year, when Geoffrey finished a lengthy arbitration, Brandon left a bottle of champagne on his desk.

They moved in together a few months after they started dating. It didn’t take long for the “L” word to drop. “We looked at each other,” says Brandon, “and said, ‘There’s no way we should be able to say it this early, but we absolutely, undoubtedly do.’”

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

Making It Work: Unfiltered advice from lawyers with kids

Can you be a killer lawyer, a great parent and a well-adjusted non-zombie-like human despite the sleep deprivation that parenthood entails? Yes. Is it easy? Well, no. But these working moms and dads have a few tricks for making the process less painful. We’ve got advice, war stories and real talk from Toronto lawyers who’ve had kids, excelled in their careers and lived to tell the tale.

Katherine Hensel

Katherine Hensel

Founding partner of Hensel Barristers
First Nations litigation

Age: 44
Mom of three: ages 18, five and one

She knows when her kids need her most. It’s not just the early years that you have to make time for — it’s also the teen years. “It’s a short time when they’re this young,” she says of her little ones. “They need you again at adolescence. It’s the most difficult time in their lives. They’re struggling to form an identity.”

planeShe tries to limit travel to day trips. Even if she travels as far as Saskatchewan, Hensel will fly home that night. “Psychologically it’s much better for everyone than me sleeping away.”

She relies on lots of domestic help. “It’s real work running a house, raising kids and caring for two dogs. It’s time-consuming,” says the single mother. So she’s hired a cleaner, a live-out caregiver and a backup babysitter. “If you’re going to be a professional and a parent, somebody has to be doing the housework.”

Cynthia Kuehl

Cynthia Kuehl

Partner, Lerners LLP
Commercial litigation

Age: 41
Mom of two: ages 10 and four

She’s made peace with her wacky schedule. The only way she can get home for dinner and make the occasional parent council meeting is to leave the office at 5:30 or 6 p.m. “I go home, hang out, we do what we do. I put the kids to bed at nine,” she says. A few times a week, she heads back to the office for 9:30, where she works until 12 or 1 a.m. A full-time nanny, even though the kids are in full-day school, helps things run smoothly for her and her husband, an assistant Crown attorney.

She makes fitness a priority. In 2008, a senior lawyer said to her, “You need to start working out,” when she looked run-down and tired. Instead of being defensive, Kuehl took the advice to heart. Now she sees a trainer twice a week and unapologetically carves the hours out of her workday.

She makes time for herself. She takes a few weeks off each summer. She goes on an annual ski vacation. She even has a board game night with co-workers. “If you don’t have fun for yourself, this profession is tough. It can be demanding, overwhelming and stressful. You have to balance that.”

Rohit Parekh

Rohit Parekh

Legal counsel and director of innovation, Conduit Law; Founder, Grapplelaw.ca
Intellectual property law and civil litigator

Age: 43
Dad of three: ages 11, nine and six

gavelHe became the parent-on-call. He left Gowlings in 2004 at the end of his wife’s first maternity leave (she’s a criminal defence lawyer). “Something had to give, because it would be daycare and a nanny,” he said of the away-from-home hours both were working. Big-firm culture was not for him, anyway.

He clumps his kids’ extracurriculars together. “The deal I made with my wife is the kids will do activities at the same place at the same time,” he says. “Turns out two of them figure skate and one swims in the same facility. We’re there every Saturday from 9:20 to 2:30.”

The Crock-Pot is the weekday dinner hero. On Sunday, Parekh throws simple ingredients into the slow-cooker to make, say, a huge batch of tomato sauce that he’ll use as the base for pasta dishes all week.

Jake Sadikman

Jake Sadikman

Partner, Osler, Hoskin & Harcourt LLP
Energy and infrastructure

Age: 38
Dad of three: ages seven, six and three

He sacrifices weeknights at home. “I generally work later hours during the week, so my weekends are as clear as possible,” he says. “We’re Jewish, so Friday night Sabbath dinner is an important tradition I try not to miss.”

His wife is a stay-at-home mom. “She’s the secret to making it all work,” he admits. “There’s no way I would be able to devote so much attention to work without her keeping everything together at home.”fork & knife

Saturdays are Family Date Night. “We go out to dinner. It does a lot of cool things: it bonds us, and it teaches the kids about eating out, about manners and about trying different types of foods.”

Jason Woycheshyn

Jason Woycheshyn

Partner, Bennett Jones LLP
Commercial litigation

Age: 37
Dad of two: ages three, two and a baby due in May

He used to wake up at 4 a.m. to get in a workout, catch the train from Oakville and hit Starbucks at 5:30 a.m. before getting to his desk. Obviously that’s crazy, so nowadays he catches the 6:55 a.m. train. “I also make a strong effort to get home by 6:15 to have dinner with the kids.”

As a senior associate, he brought his baby to a meeting. “My wife said, ‘I’m exhausted, I need some me time.’” So she dropped off the baby at his office. “An emergency strategy session came up and I was holding my daughter. Then she starts crying, and I’m rocking her.” As he remembers, one of the firm’s partners was not impressed. “I thought, ‘Well, this is the right thing to do for my family. If that’s the difference between staying here or not, that’s how it goes.’” Everything blew over the next day.

He would have had his kids when he was younger. “If I could do it again, I probably would have started a couple years earlier.”

Sudevi Mukherjee Gothi

Sudevi Mukherjee-Gothi

Partner, Torkin Manes LLP
Civil litigation

Age: 40
Mom of three: ages three (twins) and one

Her husband used to work in Quebec City as a lieutenant commander in the navy. After their twins were born he could only come home some weekends. “It didn’t work for our family,” she says. He requested a transfer. Now he works near Barrie, a long drive to their Oakville home, but he starts early so he can be back by 5 p.m.

6 p.m. onward is firmly family time. “I leave my phone in my purse and I don’t usually feel the urge to check it.”

diamondsShe takes cat-naps on the GO train. “Sleep has become a premium,” she says. “If somebody were to ask me if I wanted two hours of uninterrupted sleep or a diamond necklace, I’d choose sleep. And I love jewellery.”

Brian Calalang

Brian Calalang

Partner, Hansell LLP
Corporate and security

Age: 41
Dad of two: ages 10 and eight

His home, his office and his ex-wife’s house are all on the Yonge subway line. “You have to think about these things,” he says. “Being close to them is a high priority.” He and his ex share custody. Calalang usually spends time with his kids on the weekends and on one weekday.

He sometimes takes work calls while driving to coach his son’s hockey practice. “Technology today makes it easier to be available to your clients and spend time with your family — you can step away from the office.” He spends a lot of time outside with his kids, going on weekend getaways to the Niagara region and spending a week at the cottage. “Being present goes a long way.”

He’s on-call 24/7. Hansell LLP is a new firm that takes on “mission-critical” cases. But his kids have accepted it. “They’ve come to appreciate that they enjoy a life that a lot of kids don’t.” Technology and the support of his firm allow him to attend to both work and family without sacrificing either.

Maxine EthierMaxine Ethier

Associate, Baker & McKenzie LLP
Energy and infrastructure

Age: 34
Mom of two: ages three, two and another baby on the way in April

She cabs home to save time. “We live near Trinity Bellwoods. The decision to live central allows more time at work.”

The transitions between home and work are stressful. “When you’re trying to get the kids out the door, and when 6 p.m. starts to near and I want to get home for dinner — that’s the struggle. Otherwise, I’m generally fine.”

To succeed in law, you need a partner that supports you. “I know I wouldn’t be able to do it if my husband wasn’t there.” He sells dental equipment, so his time is more flexible.

Starting over isn’t easy. At Heenan Blaikie, where she worked for nine years, “There were a lot of parents with young kids. That was a luxury.” At Heenan, her team had the same motivation to get home for dinner. “Here, the group’s age ranges. A lot of them are single, or they are senior partners with older kids. When I take a call at home and there are small voices in the background on my end of the line, I don’t feel as comfortable because they may not have the same understanding. It was nice to have the certainty.”

Jake Sadikman and family

Jake Sadikman and his family at the cottage in Muskoka.

Cynthia Kuehl and co. on the slopes in Vermont.

Cynthia Kuehl and co. on the slopes in Vermont.









This story is part of The Precedent guide to getting it all done, from our Spring 2015 issue.



Illustrations by Naila Medjidova

Going in house: Lia Bruschetta’s view from the top

The cheese guy knows me by name,” says Lia Bruschetta of her frequent trips to St. Lawrence Market, just down the street from the condo she rents near King and Sherbourne. There’s a lot she loves about living on King East (she can walk to work! she’s across the street from Betty’s pub!) but being able to slip down to the market for fresh ingredients is probably the biggest perk for the young litigator, who likes to cook and host friends once a week. Next up, the associate at Osler, Hoskin & Harcourt LLP, now going into her fourth year, is throwing a get-together for the people she articled with.


Lia Bruschetta's dining room

Wood you? Bruschetta’s dining room is the focal point of her apartment, a space warmed by bright artwork and old teak furniture. She keeps the wood looking fresh with “a three-step process that involves turpentine, two coats of oil and a whole bunch of really fine steel wool.”

Lia Bruschetta's photo collage

Stuck on you Bruschetta used sticky9.com to turn her Instagram photos into magnets ($16 for nine, shipping included), adding a personal touch to her kitchen.

View down King Street

Room with a view Bruschetta fell in love with the cityscape outside her living room window on the first day she moved in. “I had no furniture, just sitting in that little nook, with a bottle of wine, in awe of the view all the way down King Street.”

Lia Bruschetta's bar cart

Called to the bar Bruschetta turned this old medical cabinet into a bar cart, where she stocks her bourbon collection and glassware from the Drake General Store.

Lia Bruschetta - Maya Hayuk print

Colour theory Bruschetta bought this print by Maya Hayuk as “a great way to get a piece of art from an artist that I love without spending a couple thousand or more.”

Plinko game

Game on When Bruschetta picked up this 1922 plinko game from the Queen West Antique Centre, she “fell in love with it, despite the fact that it was covered in rusty nails.” She goes vintage shopping every few weeks, but scours her favourite shops’ blogs in between visits to watch for good finds.













































Lia Bruschetta

“What do I love most? The bones of the place: the concrete walls, the concrete ceiling and the ductwork. It gives it a raw look that makes it fun to play with the space.”


The lowdown: Lia Bruschetta

Firm: Osler, Hoskin & Harcourt LLP
Area of practice: Litigation
Year of call: 2011
Neighbourhood: King East Design District, Toronto
Home profile: Two-bedroom, 830-square-foot condo rented since March 2013












Photography by Nancy Tong

Best practices: Strong Enough

If we were to analyze the components that make an excellent litigator, Sarah Armstrong would be the ideal model. This is someone whose major promotions — most recently, equity partner at Canada’s third-largest firm — happened during and right after maternity leaves. She’s Fasken Martineau DuMoulin LLP’s vice-chair of litigation, and one of the firm’s most dedicated mentors. “I suppose my edge is that I work hard and I’m focused.”

“Sarah is so modest,” says Laura Cooper, a partner who’s observed Armstrong’s ascent since she arrived as a summer student in 2001. “She’s the complete package. She’s smart, strategic, assiduous and really cares about the client. But she’s also a team player and dedicated to volunteer work.”

Trace back Armstrong’s communityminded generosity to growing up in the tiny town of Haileybury, north of North Bay. But her determination can probably be attributed to her youth spent standing up to her three brothers and competing as an ice skater. She studied political science at McMaster University and interned at a law firm near home to see if she liked the profession. She did, and applied to law school at the University of Toronto.

Armstrong started in the litigation department at Faskens as a first-year associate and right away found mentors who pushed her. “I was quite junior when, an hour before an arbitration hearing, the senior lawyer told me that I would be examining an important witness that day,” she recalls. Her champions kept offering her opportunities that built up her confidence and made her hungry for more.

When there’s no challenge afoot, she finds it. In 2006, she took a leave of absence to join her husband Jeff Murray in New York City when his firm, Osler, Hoskin & Harcourt LLP, seconded him there. But when she could have been skating at Rockefeller Center and hanging out at museums, she instead took on two major cases, working remotely from NYC and flying back to Ontario for hearings.

Armstrong has tackled commercial and contractual disputes, class actions, arbitrations and administrative cases. She acted as lead counsel for a successful claimant in a commercial arbitration over a post-purchase price adjustment. She was also co-counsel in a lengthy wrongful dismissal claim, and co-counsel in a multimillion-dollar commercial dispute between large international corporations.

Meanwhile, Armstrong twice took the top spot in the firm’s annual mentoring awards, based on the number of hours lawyers dedicate to coaching junior staff. She’s one of two partners responsible for the internal legal education program for litigation associates and the business development training program for all associates. She says she’s just doing what senior partners did for her years ago, making herself an “accessible person.”

That accessibility extends to her work with clients, particularly her decade-long pro bono relationship with the Child Advocacy Project. Through the organization, she represented a grade 9 student undergoing kidney dialysis who had been denied funding to be taught in-hospital while remaining enrolled at his school. She also defended a 15-year-old with severe autism who had been excluded from school for over six months.

While litigating, mentoring and volunteering seem to come easily to Armstrong, it’s adding parenthood to the mix that’s proven to be her greatest challenge: she says she juggles work and life with sons Wilson, 4, and Andrew, 10 months, “with great difficulty.” It’s an honest answer, and that kind of honesty is an essential component of a truly great model. 

Faskens litigator Sarah Armstrong corporate securities

The lowdown
Year of call:
Current position: Partner, Fasken Martineau DuMoulin LLP
Favourite legal character: Alicia Florrick of The Good Wife
If I weren’t a lawyer, I’d be: A doctor
Pet peeve: Incomplete Lego sets
Greatest extravagance: A personal trainer
Most treasured possession: My Knebli ice skates 

Photography by Stacey Croucher